For the Generation

Yes, you actually made it.

 

It’s barely a month (or maybe not even that much) since I wrote my post for Roland Garros semifinals. The post is here, and I will summarize it: the French Open was a clear proof the ‘new generation’ (i.e.: Azarenka, AggieRad, Wozniacki, etc.) was not ready, and that experience was speaking louder. It even made sense. Until Wimbledon.

The common denominator – Maria Sharapova – gives us the picture. From the youngest lady in the last four of Paris to the older in London in a matter of weeks. Why? Heck, it’s beyond my comprehension of the game and not my main proposal here. What I know is: Kvitova became a trailblazer for the bunch of players born between 1989/90, even 91. She is like, the Hewitt of WTA right now: though there was a Safin to open the gates and put the new generation in the spotlight, Lleyton was the ‘best’ face of the ATP youngsters during the transition between the times of Sampras, Agassi and Rafter and the ones of Federer and Nadal (they pretty much overshadowed everyone else, though even so we had many many skilled players, who unfortunately couldn’t win a Grand Slam). Okay, it’s too early to state Kvitova will spend 80 weeks as #1, but the prospects are good. And you get the concept.

(That being said, I compare Wozniacki to Safin: still very young, they were the first of their respective generations to reach the top. But differently from Safin, Wozniacki maintained it for a longer period. On the other hand, Safin ascended after winning a Grand Slam – and despite hating this expression, I’ll have to use it: Marat had “more competition”).

How did Kvits make it? You know the word fear? Because Petra doesn’t – at least not on a tennis court. And what about “nerves”? Because they (along with the forehand) are one of Kvitova’s best friends. Owner of a very pleasant (in my opinion, of course) and delightful styles – read: hitting it as hard as you can – Kvitova had only one shaky moment in the entire match today, when, in the second set, alternated two or three breaks with Maria.

But hell, when she had to serve for it – as a spectator, I claim this to be the most ungrateful part of the sport – she didn’t drop a single point. No DFs, no UFEs. Love hold, crowned with an ace. 6/3, 6/4 and the Plate, for the 10th time, goes to a lefty Czech. It doesn’t get much better than that.

The Plate

Or does it when you consider she was playing Maria Sharapova in her first Major final? And is it me or somehow, Kvitova’s title resembles Sharapova’s own Wimbledon? I mean, both were still young (21 is the new 17; get used to the new WTA), playing former #1s, multi-champions, whose quality is beyond question. And winning. Needless to say what kind of career Maria went on to pursue after that.

Finishing, plain and simple: even though Wozniacki made the first move, becoming the first player born in the 1990s to become world #1, Petra Kvitova answered by winning Wimbledon – which some people (me included) consider an even bigger statement. It’s now up to the others show they can echo Petra’s Slam success – and prove the ‘new generation’ of women’s tennis is more than a bunch of brainless screamers, who can’t keep it together for more than four or five games without collapsing and going down in flames, double-faults and unforced errors.

Advertisements

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.

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

The deserved title

=)

I’m not a big fan of the “deserving” motto for sports. I believe sports are ruled by the heart, not by the brains – therefore, you want your favorites to win, whether they are kicking ass or playing a crappy match.

But Marion Bartoli deserved this Eastbourne title. And I’m not saying that just because I particularly like her (BartoGORGEOUS), nor that Kvits winning it all would be an indignity. No. The thing is, Marion deserved it more.

By the start of the year, Bartoli, despite still being a top-20, was coming off a final-less 2010, and her glorious 2007 – highlighted by Wimbledon final – was just distant past. Little ol’ myself gave nothing for her – sincerely, I thought she would wander around, reaching eventual semifinals here and there, but never capitalizing it in titles; she was faded to be a perennial top-25 until the end of her career.

I was wrong. Only a few times before I was so glad to admit that.

It wasn’t before Indian Wells – albeit having two semifinals already – Bartoli got back in the spotlight. Her final run, knocking players like Kim and Ana, reminded us she was still there. She showed some fight – as always – but ended up losing to Wozniacki, thus giving a heart-warming speech. This sealed her return to the top-10 for the first time in three years, though she didn’t stay for long; Sharapova’s final run the very next week in Key Biscayne got Marion out again.

Then the clay season – openly, her worst surface. Prior to Strasbourg, Marion had compiled a mediocre 3-5 record on the swing. But the tides changed. Without facing a player ranked higher than #44, Bartoli made it to the finals, but the 6th title was delayed again, by Petkovic and a thigh injury.

Any expectations for Roland Garros? Historically, no. But, well, she kept winning, beating en route to her first Grand Slam SF since Wimbledon/07, clay sensation Julia Goerges and 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. A dream week, capping her first Grand Slam on her worst surface and in front of the passionate French crowd? “No”, said Schiavone.

But Eastbourne, yes, Eastbourne. Grass that made her famous in 2007. A Safarova, Mary-Jo Martinez, Azarenka and Stosur later, there she was, in the final again.

Marion fought Kvitova – who imploded in the first set – and the wind to take the first, 6/1. In the second, the momentum changed. Kvitova started zoning, rallied from a break down and I once again doubted; thought it was all over when Petra prevailed 4/6. But well, she came through.

The exotic-styled, hyperactive, coached by her father Marion Bartoli came through, despite blowing an opportunity to serve it out at 5/4. She was given another chance, but this time, cashed in. Final: Bartoli def. Kvitova, 6/1, 4/6, 7/5, for her sixth career title, first on grass, first since Stanford/09.

Her YTD W-L record now stands at 36-15 – while she compiled a 34-21 record throughout 2010. So much deserved. Never change, Marion. Never stop hitting imaginary aces into the crowd or bouncing around the court during a match.

Allez!

 

PS: Vika continues 100% this year: after four retirements – Indian Wells, Stuttgart, Rome and Eastbourne – the players against whom she retired won the title.