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Posts Tagged ‘championships’

I may be biased because I’ve actually been at Wimbledon but in my eyes this is the best women’s grand slam there has been in a long time. What with the return of the Williams sisters, the break-out of several stars who have been bubbling under for a long time and the come back of the injury stricken it has had a very diverse cast. There have been upsets (anyone remember Stosur falling in the first round?), extremely close matches and some absolutely spectacular play; all of which has combined to reawake my interest in women’s tennis.

I watched today’s semis from Henman Hill accompanied by a large picnic and a friend who was visiting The Championships for the first time (she loved it). Whilst the crowd was fairly split for Azarenka v Kvitova (I was cheering on the Czech) they were fully behind Lisicki in the second match. People do like Sharapova but I would challenge anyone not to fall in love with Lisicki, she has to be one of the cutest sports professionals out there! I caught some of her doubles earlier in the week and she did the sweetest slap of her thighs when a ball went out. Whilst watching her singles The Hill collectively cheered every Lisicki winner, groaned each time a hawkeye challenge didn’t go her way and went crazy when she had break points. Unfortunately Sharapova was just too strong, she is yet to drop a set and so far she has only dropped a maximum of nine games in a match (against Robson which puts the young Brit’s achievement into perspective). Lisicki can certainly be proud of herself though considering that a year ago she was learning to walk and even just three weeks ago it was doubtful whether the AELTC would be able to give her a wildcard. As I write this she’s still in the women’s doubles with Stosur and has made her first ever grand slam singles semi-final, an achievement not to be sniffed at. It is great to see her back and hopefully this time it will be for good.

After tipping Kvitova for the last three grand slams I’m very relieved and pleased that she’s made the final. Whilst her match versus Azarenka was a typical see-sawing affair she demonstrated the strength and accuracy that has served her well throughout the tournament. Although the Belarusian showed flashes of brilliance she lacked the consistency of her Czech counterpart and could not do enough on the key points. I’m confident that, health withstanding, Azarenka will snaffle her first grand slam final (and potentially the title) at the US Open.

I find it difficult to predict which woman will take the title because whilst my head says Sharapova my heart says Kvitova. All of the stats add up to suggest that it is the Russian who will win as she has been so dominant throughout the tournament, she has grand slam final experience and has won Wimbledon before. My fear for Sharapova is that on several occasions she has started slowly and conceded breaks as a result. Against lesser opponents this has not been too much of a problem but versus Kvitova I think she’d struggle to break back because the first-time finalist plays such a very good defensive game. I do not question that Kvitova has the game to win Wimbledon but I do have concerns over whether she has the mental strength. The Czech can be stony cool in her demeanour but I suspect that when faced with Championship points she may waver and I think it will be the psychological element, rather than the physical, control that will decide the match. I don’t want to predict Kvitova to lose but I think she will in three sets after having Championship points in the second set.

One quick final point. Yesterday I watched British junior Liam Broady move through to the quarter finals in the singles (he’s now progressed to the semis) and today I saw him reach the quarter finals in the doubles and both performances reaffirmed my belief that we do have some good British talent coming up. I know that Britain has been widely criticised in terms of investment versus returns but it does feel like there is about to be a tipping point. Robson and Watson both showed in their senior singles campaigns that they have the potential to go far and Broady is not alone in having an impact in the Juniors with Golding in the quarters of the Boys’ Doubles along with Hutt and Ward-Hibbert, and George Morgan. I know these achievements don’t justify the amount of money that has been invested by the LTA, especially as Broady works outside the LTA structure, but it seems we’re moving in the right direction.

Anyway, I need to be up early to queue for a ground pass for what should be a stunning Men’s Semis day so I’ll sign off now but let me know who you think will be lifting each of the trophies this weekend.

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I never imagined that my Wimbledon would start with me sitting in a disability tent almost in tears each time I breathed in but that was my entry into the Championships yesterday. You know how I joked about my bag being overpacked? Well that overpacked bag led to me straining my back and then when I bent sharply to pitch my tent that strain turned into a suspected muscle tear. But, like the queuing version of Andy Murray at the French Open, I’m battling on and forever the optimist I’m going to focus on the bonuses this misfortune brought:

– Two American men packed away my tent for me.
– A steward carried my massive bag to the lost luggage.
– I got treated like a celeb as I was ferried from the queue to the AELTC in a buggy and was allowed to rest in the shade whilst the rest of the queue caught up with us.
– Whilst in the shade I met a sweet woman and her kind husband who happened to work for the BBC. Her husband not only gave me lots of media guides for free but also offered to show me around the media centre which was brilliant. In the hour long tour I discovered so many technical tricks of the trade which when combined create the world leading coverage that the Beeb produce; it’s phenomenal how much goes on behind the scenes. Whilst in the press room I also spotted two of my journalistic idols, David Law and Neil Harman which was exciting!

Anyway, on to the important stuff, the tennis. I had a truly wonderful day, I doubt there can be any ticket in sport that offers better value for money than a ground pass to Wimbledon on second Monday. The sheer quality of the players on show was phenomenal, for just £20 I was able to watch Lisicki win convincingly, Kvitova crush Wickmayer, Hutchins/Fleming stage an impressive comeback, Ivanovic/Petkovic lose a close fought three-setter and drop in on some junior matches, plus there was so much more I could have seen. I also completed the obligatory act of sitting on Murray Mount and watching the Centre Court action – something which I think any sports loving Brit should have on their bucket list. Whilst I was fortunate enough to have access to a Court 1 ticket, I could have easily filled my day twice over with the great level of action on the outside courts. It seemed that every time I looked at the multiple scoreboards there was a new comeback or shock emerging on one court or another. I think the best part of the day was the fact that this year’s tournament remains extremely competitive, for both the men and the women; doubles and singles; juniors and seniors. I cannot call it either way.

Some general observations:

– Both Kvitova and Bartoli continue to look exceptionally convincingly; the strength and depth of their shots prevent any of their opponents playing their own game.

– The WTA really need to take a leaf out of the ATP’s book when it comes to marketing their players. Men’s tennis has always attracted more spectators than women’s but it still staggers me how few people could name more than two of the top 10. There were some of female tennis’ biggest stars playing yesterday but the majority of people still do not know them from Eve and therefore struggle to get behind them. Now would be the ideal time to promote the up and coming players because, as yesterday’s performances illustrated, life must go on without the Williams sisters.

– Doubles offers a brilliant opportunity to see some thrilling tennis up close and personal. I watched most of Ivanovic/Petkovic and a little bit of Fleming/Hutchins and I was so close to the court that I was almost in their laps on the changeovers!

– Despite our stiff upper-lip reputation, Brits love nothing more than coming together, having a drink and shouting at a fellow national as if our lives depended on it. The mood on Murray Mount was very jovial and whilst the patriotism dial wasn’t quite at full notch I imagine it will be on Wednesday.

– The match of the day for me had to be Federer v Youzhny. Both of the players dished up some sublime shots and in the second and third sets it could have truly swung either way. Youzhny could have won if it were not for a few key points going against him and Federer’s frequent ‘Come ons’ indicated that he knew he was under pressure. I really felt for the Russian on several occasions when net cords went against him or shots were out by a matter of millimetres. The six time Champion’s artistry showed through in the end though with his grace and unshakeable shot selection making the difference. The World Number 3 also played one of his infamous tweeners which made me very happy too!

Due to my back injury I’m not queuing today (slightly relieved due to all the rain) but fortunately I have managed to get a Centre Court ticket for tomorrow where I’ll get to watch Federer v Tsonga and Murray v Lopez – I’m predicting Federer and Murray will come through but I think both could face stern tests. I’ll report back on all that happens tomorrow evening.

Until then, I hope you are enjoying Wimbledon as much I am.

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