Only Serena Survives

2010 Wimbledon Championships
By Hiland Doolittle, June 30th, 2010

Even armed with a crystal ball and some of Merlin’s magic, no forecaster could have predicted three of the four victors in the most surprising day of women’s tennis ever played. Rightfully, much of this year’s talk involves the never-to-be-repeated Isner-Mahut three day, 11 hour spectacle but today’s ladies quarterfinals perfectly illustrates why the ladies tie on their sneakers and play out every match.

This was a day that will never be forgotten. This is a Wimbledon that will never be forgotten. This year’s championship winners will be footnotes in a remarkable tournament that has left fans feeling they have seen, felt and heard it all.

Wimbledon 2010 is real! It is sport at its best. It is competition at its best and Wimbledon 2010 is what professional tennis is all about; brilliant, inspiring, courageous and unexpected. Throw the seeding away and get ready for another day of underdog-mania in the men’s quarters tomorrow!

Tsvetana Pironkova Demolishes Venus Williams

Tsvetana Pironkova Demolishes Venus Williams

Tsvetana Pironkova Demolishes Venus Williams

All you have to do is take one look at the striking Tsvetana Pironkova and you will feel a little tug at your heart. Where the heck has the WTA been hiding this hauntingly beautiful 22-year old Bulgarian dark-eyed 5’11” beauty? Wherever she has been, it is all over now. This well shaped 143 pound black haired photo shoot waiting to happen will soon be gracing every tennis and fashion magazine known to man. Her gentle, quiet demeanor will soon be blessing Jay Leno and David Letterman, as well she should.

Tsvetana Pironkova took Centre Court and played in the moment in the match of her life against the five time Wimbledon Champion and number two seed, Venus Williams, who had won eight consecutive quarterfinal matches here. Striking just 6 unforced errors, Pironkova, who had one career win against Williams, made Venus chase down countless extra shots on the way to the stunning 6-2, 6-3, 1 hour 25 minute match.

Williams was a 150-1 bookmaker favorite, but she played tired, tentative tennis. It seems that at 30-years old Venus has difficulty recovering in one day. The elegant Ms. Williams recorded just 3 aces, as did Pironkova, but Venus struck 5 double faults along with 29 unforced errors.

Venus is having one of her most successful years. She has trailed in many big matches this year. Her tenacious, competitive spirit usually lifts her to victory. This time, she ran into an opponent who believed she could win and who refused to blink under pressure.

Tsvetana had opportunities to crumble as so many young opponents have done against the living legend, who commands an intimidating fan base at Wimbledon. But, the first Bulgarian, male or female, to ever reach a semifinal at a Grand Slam event stayed focused at every turn and relied on her great foot speed and reliable two handed backhand to orchestrate the upset.

Pironkova certainly did not overpower Venus. She simply outplayed the former champion. When in trouble, she resorted to soft retrieves and even lobs to keep Venus hitting ball after ball. Williams had just three break point opportunities. She was able to convert on just one.

The Bulgarian won 64 total points to Venus’ 51. Remarkably she continuously challenged the vaunted Williams serve, breaking on 4 of 12 opportunities. Pironkova hit just 12 outright winners while Williams hit 22. Rather than win points outright, the game Bulgarian let Venus self-destruct. And, self-destruct Venus did! The gracious American was clearly disappointed but could not raise her game when she needed it most.

Pironkova is coached by her father, Kiril Enchev, a former Bulgarian canoe champion. Tsvetana began playing at the age of four with her mother, Radosveta Nikolova, a one-time swimming champion.

Prior to this year’s tournament, Tsvetana has never advanced past the second round of a major tournament. Combining that fact with the fact that there are no grass courts in her homeland, this was the unlikeliest of all possible outcomes.

Zvonareva Comes Back Against Clijsters

Zvonareva Comes Back Against Clijsters

Zvonareva Comes Back Against Clijsters

Belgian Kim Clijsters probably thought she had earned her way to the semifinal with her come-from-behind win over long-time rival Justine Henin yesterday. Number 21 seed Vera Zvonareva did not see it that way. With straight set wins over young Belgian star Yanina Wickmayer and 4th seeded Jalena Jankovic, Zvonareva figured Clijsters was fair game.

Clijsters started fast making an early break stand in the first set. However, Vera grabbed a ninth game break in the second set and rallied for an impressive 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 win that will make her a heavy favorite in the semis.

Zvonareva is a hard hitter and she seemed to surprise Clijsters on several key occasions. For some reason, the Belgian kept working the Russian’s reliable forehand.

The Belgian had won 12 consecutive quarterfinal matches before today’s upset. Zvonareva had only reached one Grand Slam semifinal previously. Following her semifinal appearance in Melbourne in 2009, the Russian has been nursing a tender ankle that has dropped her in the rankings.

The Belgian struck an uncharacteristically high 36 unforced errors compared to just 19 by the Russian. Vera won 75 percent of her first serves and converted 4 of 13 break point chances.

In their only previous match, Tsvetana Pironkova defeated Vera. Could it be?

Serena Toughs One Out Against Li

Serena Toughs One Out Against Li

Serena Toughs One Out Against Li

Li Na must have watched Maria Sharapova challenge Serena Williams yesterday. From the start, this match was a no-holds barred knock down, let the last woman standing, win match.

Sharapova pushed Williams to the brink yesterday. Both players hit out and hit hard for the entire match. The eighth seeded Li, China’s top player, adopted the same strategy.

In a spectacular first set, Li held her own serve and pushed Serena, gaining two break point chances early in the set. The American showed why she is the favorite to repeat as champion at Wimbledon and claim her fourth title here by withstanding the pressure.

The key game in the match was the 11th game of the first set. Li jumped out to a 40/love lead but for some reason seemed dissatisfied with her play. The Chinese kept motioning displeasure to her husband who also seemed displeased.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

playing for a Grand Slam title and against a proven winner like Serena Williams, it is generally a bad idea to become distracted with the little things. Whatever was happening worked against Li, who promptly committed five unforced errors to award Serena Williams the all-important game.

Serena Williams gladly accepted the shift in momentum and raised her game. The American knows how to close opponents out and Li was no exception. Serena surged to a 5-2 second set lead before losing her serve for the first and last time in the match.

Li no quicker broke than Serena Williams was right in her face again. Williams blistered forehand winners to seal the match and secure her place in the semis. The top seed now has 73 aces in the tournament.

Who Is Kvitova?

Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon

Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon

Not so fast everybody! Yes, Petra Kvitova is the 62nd ranked player on the women’s tour. Yes, before Wimbledon 2010, she had never won a grass court tour-level match. She is now 5-4 on grass. Yes, Kaia Kanepi was experienced and once ranked 15th on the tour. And, yes, Serena bruised the 20-year old in their only meeting at Melbourne 6-2, 6-1.

But… The fetching 6’1” Czech came back in the second set against Kanepi and then came back from 0-4 in the third to miraculously win her quarterfinal match against a much more experienced player.

The win was no fluke. Just as her powerful 7-5, 6-0 win over 14th seed Victoria Azarenka and her 6-2, 6-0 dismantling over 3rd seeded Caroline Wozniacki were not fluke wins.

Petra Kvitova has heart. She senses this is her moment and she is not letting it slip away. She may get bashed by Serena Williams. Critics will wonder how it happened but this gal has enough heart for three opponents. She simply refuses to lose.

She saved three match points in the second set tiebreaker and she stayed two match points in the final set before agitating and frustrating Kanepi to a point of no return. At the end, Kanepi was awestruck by the endurance and tenacity of the Czech.

Kvitova’s first serve only reached 97 mph at its best. Her second serve was just 92 mph. But, she won 3 of 5 break chances. Kanepi was the more consistent player but the tall blonde with big blue eyes was the better player when the match was on the line.

At 0-4, Kanepi thought the match was over. Kvitova thought it was just beginning. Therein lies the difference and is why the gritty Petra is moving on, into the lion’s den.

Hey, kiddo, it’s not over yet. Play hard and throw enough stuff against the wall. You never, ever know… do you? Way to go Petra!


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