The first since…

(WC) Sabine Lisicki def. [9] Marion Bartoli – 6/4, 6/7, 6/1

 

– Lisicki is the first German since Steffi Graf, a dozen years ago (Wimbledon ’99) to reach a Grand Slam semifinal; Graf won that title.

– For the first time since 2008 (Zheng Jie) a WC reaches Wimbledon semifinals; Overall, last to do so was Kimmie, ’09 US Open. She won the title, invited and rank-less.

– For the second consecutive year, the WTA #62 makes it to the final four at SW19. Last year, it was Kvitova.

– Lisicki claims her 11th consecutive win – she won Birmingham, her last event prior to Wimbledon. That’s the biggest winning streak of her career. Sabine also sealed her way back to the top-30, could tie or set a new career best if she beats Shara.

– The lowest ranked semifinalist this year, Sabine Lisicki proves she is FOR REAL. Game and grit. Amusing to watch. And I could beat a fair amount of money she’s no fluke.

[5] Maria Sharapova def. [24] Dominika Cibulkova – 6/1, 6/1

 

"Excuse me, I have a semifinal to get ready for, no time for interviews now, aye?"

– Sharapova reaches consecutive Major finals for the first time since the ’06 Wimbledon-’07 Roland Garros span; Maria is now 4-0 in Wimbledon quarterfinals. In fact, her Slam campaigns were only halted in the quarterfinals at the French Open.

– Maria has more titles (23) than the other three semifinalists combined (7 + 4 + 2); She is also the older of them (24) and the only remaining player to have already won a Grand Slam.

– Last time she won a Major – ’08 Australian Open – Maria was also the 5th seed; If she wins the title, she will become number three in next rankings.

– Maria Sharapova also shows the world she is back. The fighting spirit – and more than that, maybe, her game – is back. She is in theory the most favored player to prevail on Saturday, and is already in the top of the table. Caro, Kim, watch out.

[4] Victoria Azarenka def. Tamira Paszek – 6/3, 6/1

 

"Wow, that's me? I look even better in the semifinals!" - AZARENKA, Vika.

– Highest ranked and seed still alive in the draw, Victoria Azarenka goes one step further than last year: she reaches a Grand Slam final four for the first time in her career, after four QF losses – including at this year’s Roland Garros.

– Azarenka is the first player from Belarus to reach a GS SF since Natasha Zvereva, at ’98 Wimbledon; Zvereva also reached a singles final, ’88 Roland Garros, but lost to Graf in the fastest major final ever: a 35-minute double-bagel.

– She could rise to a new career high of #3, depending on whether Sharapova and her win their respective matches.

– A hard-hitter by nature, Azarenka always had the game to inflict damage on grass. I’m glad she is finally living up the potential – despite abandoning the White Dress.

[8] Petra Kvitova def. [32] Tsvetana Pironkova – 6/3, 6/7, 6/2

 

Barking and sledge-hammering her way to the late stages of wimbledon. So far, so good.

– Petra Kvitova is the first player not called Williams to reach consecutive Wimbledon semifinals since the lovely and awesome Elena Dementieva, in 2008 and 2009.

– Kvitova, the youngest player left, at the age of 21 (b. 1990), tries to put the Czech flag in Wimbledon final for the second consecutive year – Tomas Berdych was the runner-up last year; Last Czech to win a Grand Slam is Jana Novotna, at the very same Wimbledon, in 1998. Novotna is also the last Czech player to reach a Grand Slam final.

– Kvits attended the same school as Vika. Today I saw a commie calling her the female version of Juan Martin Del Potro. I still haven’t decided if I agree with that or not, but her left-handed forehand is massive – and wreaks havoc on all surfaces. This is one girl who could be a perennial favorite real soon.

Bonus stat:

 

– This Wimbledon is the first Grand Slam to feature a finalist under-25 years since ’09 US Open. Wozniacki then had only 19 when she lost the final to Clijsters. Last woman to win a Grand Slam before her 25th birthday, though, is Svetlana Kuznetsova, who was one month away from celebrating 24 years, at the ’09 French Open. When you put in perspective, it took so long – not so many years back, WTA was full of teenage wonders. And the older woman alive now – Sharapova – was the youngest last month, in Paris.

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Magic Monday

Must admit that when I first started talking about how magic grass is, I did not know Wimbledon had it officially, all written with a cute letterhead and stuff. This day, after the famous Middle Sunday is known as the Magic Monday. Or Manic Monday. Whatever. Will call it Magic Monday.

And for more ATP puts on such an herculean effort to keep the adjective – whatever it is – out of the ‘Monday’ (only Mardy Fish dared to change the rules today; not sure Bernard Tomic’s triumph over Malisse can be considered such a huge example of transgression) we have WTA – ALWAYS – to make up for it.

The ladies opened five courts tomorrow. Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and Sabine Lisicki did not left any room for littluns Peng, Petrova (not so little) and Cet’who’vska to feel the minimum excitement. And really, one could not expect an upset or surprise from Paszek/Pervak.

Allez, Marion!

But the fifth element… is always the charm. Not sure you can call Bartoli’s win over Serena properly an upset – Marion is having a great year, while Serena is not having a season at all, but heck, her last name is Williams and she was the defending champion. Hence, props to Marion Bartoli for her 6/3, 7/6 (8) win. And props to Serena, for saving four match points and fighting to the end.

"Work hard, sun-to-sun and someday you will be as good as me" - Tsvetana Pironkova

One Williams losing = wow. What about two? In the same day? At Wimbledon. Must be Magic Monday. No, better, it’s Tsvetana PironGOATova – she beat Venus for the second consecutive year, 6/2, 6/3. Do I have to say anything else beside “I told you so”, re.: Pironkova? We all should know by now she’s too humble to keep her Wimbledon momentum during the rest of the season. Otherwise, it would be Steffi’s 1988 all over again.

For the second consecutive Slam, a Slovak spoiled Caro's dreams.

Last, but not least. Dominika Cibulkova 1/6, 7/6, 7/5 Caroline. I have this little theory people were not expecting her to win – not with Venus, Serena, Shara, etc, etc. in the draw. No, they wanted her to lose – so the hating wave could strike again. I’m not the biggest Caro enthusiast, but chill out, people. She doesn’t have to complete the Calendar Slam to deserve the #1. But about the winner: Domi heavily depends on her confidence. When she’s on, she’s on: winners minus unforceds = yeah. But when she’s off… unforceds minus winners. Playing Sharapova next, she’s better count with the first option. Otherwise…

The other match of the day was a blow out. Kvitova routinized Yanina, ugly ugly scoreline.

 

QF meetings: Pironkova vs. Kvitova, Azarenka vs. Paszek // Sharapova vs. Cibulkova, Bartoli vs. Lisicki

Thursday in Eastbourne

Any given (grass) Thursday…

THIS smile.

Daniela Hantuchova beat today Venus Williams for the first time in 11 meetings. Dani was helped by a poor serving day from Venus, but I believe the fact Williams is “coming back” is nullified when you put in perspective she has double digits wins against the Slovak. And was playing on grass. And her surname is Williams. Only good news from this one, anyway. Lovely to see such a skilled player as Dani finding her way back into top-level pro-tennis (last time she had made consecutive SFs was in 2007). Not any less amusing verify that Venus – despite turning 31 on Friday – is still a big fish and a top contender for the upcoming Wimbledon tournie. Final result: 6/2, 5/7, 6/2 Danka.

Could not find a pic from Eastbourne. This one is from RG.

– Said it before, will say it again: I’m glad I was wrong when predicted Bartoli would merely play a secondary role until the end of her career. The 26-year old, owner of an unique, very pleasant style, reaches her fifth consecutive Eastbourne semifinal, and the sixth overall this year, seeking her third YTD final and the first title since 2009 – quite a while; she’s already deserving one.

– On her flip side, Victoria Azarenka. She suffered her 10th loss in 2011, but the fourth by retiring. In the previous three – Indian Wells v. Caro, Stuttgart v. Goerges and Rome v. Sharapova – her opponent went on to win the title. And even though her Wimbledon participation is not endangered, retiring four times in six months and 12 tournaments is clearly not a good sign. In fact, this is becoming annoyingly common right now.

– Opposite feelings and outcomes for Samantha Stosur and Vera Zvonareva. The last two players to beat Serena (the former, at Roland Garros last year and the latter last round) squared off for a place in the semifinals, and Vera quickly jumped ahead for a one set, one break lead. And then boom. Just like that. Sam forced a tie-break, and albeit Zvonareva had a 4-2 lead, she couldn’t close it. In the third set, Stosur was the one to get the double-break. She lost three games in a row from 5/1, but finished at 6/4 anyways. Sam, whose least favorite surface is grass, goes on to reach her 2nd consecutive AEGON International semifinal. It seems like she’s finally being relevant this year!

We all wept, Vera.

– As for Vera, who barely survived Serena (Williams would have mercilessly crushed her if she wasn’t just returning from a one-year lay-off), it might not feel good losing a match this way. Even more when she’s only a few days away from starting the runner-up defense at Wimbledon.

– In the other match of the day, Petra Kvitova beat AggieRad, 1/6, 6/2, 7/6. The Czech reaches her 2nd consecutive grass semifinal – the other being ’10 Wimbledon. Hmm…

Semifinals to be played tomorrow – Dani vs. Kvits first, followed by Marion vs. Sam. P.K. leads D.H. 1-0 and S.S leads M.B. 2-1. None of the four matches were played on grass.

Lame? Think twice!

Nine days, four rounds later and here we are. Eight brave women – coming from France, Russia, Italy, Russia, Germany, Russia, China and Belarus – still standing and fighting for the big prize.

NOT among then, surprise-but-not-so-much (if you’re an ATP fan you will find it extremely odd and lame),the top-seed and still “slam-less” Caroline Wozniacki, 2nd seed but still sucking at tennis sometimes Kim Clijsters and third seed Vera Zvonareva. That being said, Victoria Azarenka is the highest seed still alive, and has a real shot at the trophy.

Other seeds alive: 5, 6, 7, 11, 13, 14 and 15. All seeded players, all outstanding pros, no big underdogs. Lame? AWESOMENESS. We’re currently experiencing in WTA something we didn’t see in ages in ATP: a broad range of players with a real shot at winning the big events. If you can’t find it awesome…

But ‘bery’ well. The diversity of styles and players only adds more spicy sauce to the already delicious sandwich of the quarterfinals. I shall talk about the matchups now.

Bartolinda fist-pumped and Allezed her way to the quarterfinals. #Allez

Marion Bartoli vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova – You know when you root so bad for a specific meeting… and it happens? *That FUCKYEAH feeling*. Exactly. Love these both players – Sveta K is perennial top-10 material, but oh well, it’s been exactly one year since she left it. Awesome to see her back, really. I just hope this is not a glimpse and she will indeed come back to claim what’s hers.

As for Bartoli, I have a special place for her in my heart since Indian Wells. Her exotic playing style, unconventional serve and the sheer personality captured me. The second prettiest player to wear Nike these days (after Vika…) defied all odds to reach the Final 8 (what’s the name NCAA has for it?) in front of her home crowd for the first time – after reaching the finals of Strasbourg last week. Seems o.k. to me, for a player who never did very well on clay . #AllezMarion.

Prediction: Do I have to????

Nastia thinks you are a very naught ball.

Francesca Schiavone vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – Stop the presses, the machines, hold your breath. This is ANASTASIA PAVLYUCHENKOVA – the cutest, sweetest, funniest – player out there in the quarterfinals of a Slam. You just can’t imagine how happy I am. In my most optimistic dreams, I could see her getting this far, after beating Zvonareva. Awake, watching the tournament, too – Vera was stumbling upon her opponents, but she’s still the #3 and this is Pavs, goddamit. I’m glad she made it, really 🙂

As for Schiavone, she’s a gem in today’s tennis: one-handed backhand, net approaches, all-around tennis, not an underwear model, not uncommon to see her gritting out her way to the late stages of the tournaments. In other words: How could you possible not like her? Okay, it’s possible. But she’s that awesome. And, oh, have I mentioned she’s the defending champion? Cool, huh?

Kalt?

Maria Sharapova vs. Andrea Petkovic – This is getting too long, so I’ll cut it short to talk about the lower half of the draw (and I’m not paying that much attention on it). Very well, there’s nothing new I can say about Maria… she’s playing great tennis, despite some shaky moments, but she’s keeping it together when it matters most, overpowering her opponents, just like she did with Aggie today (who then failed to serve for the 2nd set and imploded). She’s a serious contender for the title – I seriously believe the only player who can spoil her Career Slam is Victoria Azarenka.

Not that Petko will be crushed or something – I believe it will be a good match, even more if Andy P. can keep it together, both physically and mentally (though it’s the toughest task) in the match. Sharapova keeps showing she can lose, yes, but for that to happen, the other player MUST win the match. Remember that “They refuse to die!” post I wrote? That’s something like it.

Behold the Purple Dress in all Its magnificency

Victoria Azarenka vs. Li Na – She’s not wearing the White Dress, but her Purple Cousin seems to be working just as fine. Nike created a monster, more like an armor with superpowers than a regular outfit. And Azarenka is making the sweetest cake out of it. Her first career Grand Slam semifinal will be the extra layer of topping. The title, the cherry, bright red. As for Li Na, one single thought for her: She plays better when you are NOT expecting her to do so, huh?

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand that’s it! This is Pete saying goodbye and rooting for Bartolichenkova, Petkorenka semifinals.

Who are you rooting for?

Living Up The Expectations

In a first thought, this piece may sound totally unnecessary. Comparing two players separated by such a few age difference (only two years), but a huge gap when it comes to titles and achievements. But since this blog is a space for my opinions, it worth the try.

 

Photo: Yaho! Images

In other words, I’m saying Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka – the finalists of this year’s Sony Ericsson Open – share more than the blonde hair, the clothing sponsor and the angelical ubercute faces.

They both share expectations, from fans (well, it doesn’t count much, since the fans always expect nothing but the best from their faves) and specialized media (which can be such a pain sometimes). And for the most different reasons.

 

Sharapova, who changed the cold Siberia for the warm Florida at such an age when most of girls still think only about dolls to try her luck as a pro, was already there. Three slams, 22 titles, lots of fans worldwide, lots of money from both on and off-court activities, a former world no.1. Taken down by her own body, in a history we all know. Backwards and blindfolded.

 

The strong forehand and the unique fighting spirit was kept apart from high level tennis for months, leading to a deep fall in the rankings, and soon the perennial top-10 found herself out of the top-100 and coming back from injury in a crucial place for the tennis game.

 

Hello, Maria // Photo: Yahoo! Images

But that would never keep Maria away from the victories. Not at all. And after an awesome QF run at Roland Garros and some other consistent results, she was back into the top-20 less than one year after her return – something HUGE if you consider injuries can, more than jeopardize your body, affect your confidence.

 

But at the same time, top-20 is too low for a player like Sharapova…

 

And then you have a player like Victoria Azarenka. She’s from the same generation as Wozniacki (maybe the better of then, but I’ll talk about it a next time), AggieRad (who’s yet to have her *real* breakthrough), Petra Kvitova (seems to be getting on track this year) and others. A generation that will replace the one of Clijsters, the Sisters, Dementieva, and will fight for titles with the one of Sveta, Ivanovic, Jankovic.

 

But anyway, from the players of this generation, I’ve always heard about Azarenka and how skilled she was but could never use her potential to become a true contender and perennial top-10, entering the Slams as a favorite.

 

And how they all expected her to finally mature after beating Serena and capturing her first – and most important title – Miami crown two years ago. But yeah, she improved, but not enough.

 

And even though she became a top-10, and even stayed there for a while, she could never get any further than the world no.6. Plus, she’s also to reach her 1st Grand Slam semifinal – it could have been at the Australian Open in 2010, but she amazingly blown a huge advantage vs. Serena – even though she’s already been to quarterfinals.

 

But the United States. And the first two Mandatory events of the year. And that impression Vika and Sharapova are finally living up the expectations.

 

Both had great runs in Indian Wells, until Wozniacki crushed their dreams. Well, in fact, Azarenka had to give up the fight, injured, and Sharapova imploded in the very next round. But let’s keep the drama and villanize Caro a bit, just because.

 

They kept it all for Miami. The nightlife, the sun (and the rain), and the 5th Grand Slam (or is it Indian Wells? I always thought it was Miami). Sharapova – returning to the top-10 for the first time in more than two years – crushed everyone until the quarterfinals, then played like crap vs. Dulgheru, out-experiencing her, while the cute Romanian out-choked Masha and then ended the hopes of salivating fans who wanted to see the last Petkodance in the finals to reach the last match in Key Biscayne for the third time.

 

Vika, on the other half of the draw, went to three in her first three matches. But a Kim Clijsters that was like ‘Meh, me’s not want it anymore. Home. Want’ and a Vera Zvonareva that played like ‘WTF. Anything but the world no.3’ were enough to pump little (or not, since she’s 1.80) Victoria. And, oh, the white dress (don’t blame me for loving the WTA), who played a pivotal role on this all.

 

The White Dress. I truly believe the dress is her luck charm. Photo: Yahoo! Images

Azarenka won. And if you like stats, you will like to know she joined the Sisters and Kim as the only active women with multiple titles in Miami. And that she joined Caro as the only women with more than one Mandatory trophy on her shelves.

 

But that’s not what really matters. Ok, it is. But let’s not be frivolous. On a greater plan, Sharapova showed the world she can still rock – even though what Wozniacki did to her two week ago was worrying. As for Vika, I’m not in Miami, but according to what I read, she seems to have matured and improved mentally. That’s a huge step.

 

Wait and see if they will keep the good form is what is left. The clay season is already there, and, without a clear favorite, I’m expecting nothing less than interesting events in Madrid, Rome and the best Slam of the year, maybe, in Paris (exactly what does not happen in ATP).

 

Vika and the trophy. Looking good. Them both. // Photo: Yahoo! Images