The right way

I had to reissue this post in the middle of the writing process. All because Venus Williams’ unspecified illness turned out to be Sjogren’s Syndrome, autoimmune disease that causes fatigue and joint pain. I really have no words to describe how saddened I am, so I only leave here a wish for a speedy recovery.

Now the happy part of this post. I’m back to writing about the ladies! It’s been a good while, really. I can’t even remember – but I suspect the last time I had aired a post with WTA as main subject was back in Wimbledon. So let’s talk McHale, shall we?

I once wrote a post about the situation of the American tennis – talking about this ‘between harvests’ (I think I used this very same term) period, when the Williams sisters weren’t around, and the US women’s tennis was left in the hands of girls like Mattek-Sands and King. I also mentioned about the up and coming teenagers.

Among them, Christina McHale.

She is decent at tennis.

Well, she is here. Not here like, ‘hey, look at me Caro, I’m coming for your ranking’. It’s more like ‘hey, look at me Caro, I might be coming for your ranking someday really soon’. All normal, as predicted – we are beyond the point 15-yos could win Slams.

I got to watch her for the first time today. And, well, I was really impressed. I follow her since the start of the year, I think, when she would either have WCs or qualify. First time I took a closer look, she was taking Sveta out of Indian Wells. Back from the digression. Today, playing Bartoli – who, in other news, is not quite the same since Wimbledon – she felt no fear. She totally went for it – just like Marion, in fact; the French showed some A-display of tennis, hitting hard and even making some cash at the net, breaking Chris twice and serving for the set at 5/4.

But then McHale broke her, and I have no idea how, because my stream just puff, died, and the whole match changed after. Bartoli even had a confident hold at 5/6, yes, but that was it. Her gameplan totally failed in the tie-break, and Christina had it in the bag, 7-2. In the second set – which I barely watched – the young American broke her twice in the first three games, lost one of the breaks, but re-broke and ended up sealing her way to the 3rd round with a 7/6, 6/2 win over seed #8.

How she used this forehand pretty much impressed me today

Darn good, highlighted by her backhand – some killer winners she hit – her conscience – she craftily moved Bartoli around to hit winners into the open court – and total and complete absence of fear. And the results of course: In her last three events, the Jersey native took out world #1 Caroline Wozniacki (Cincy), two-time Grand Slam champion Sveta (Dallas) and now Bartoli.

Of course, she’s not ready yet – and I (who am I to say something?) didn’t even have to tell you this – one who’s aware of her post-upset results will understand and concur. The consistency – against everybody, and through a week – is not there, just like big, important results outside the USA.

But for a 19-year old, who has just broke through the top-60 and is almost in the second week of the US Open, I dare to say she is in the right way.

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.