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Posts Tagged ‘Li Na’

Apologies for not having blogged sooner but I’ve been stuck in a terrible vortex of decorating where every spare waking moment has been spent decorating my spare room – thank God for Radio Wimbledon and BBC Tennis’s online coverage, it’s been the only thing keeping me sane! Anyway, here are a few thoughts on the first four days of play:

– The Men’s draw is still looking like a four horse race but I’ll happily settle for the predictable. There has been a lot of talk around which guy is most likely to infiltrate the top four and spoil the MuRaFeDjoko party. The main names being bandied around have been Soderling, Roddick and Del Potro but none of them have done anything to indicate that they could break the main quartet’s stranglehold. Soderling stayed in by the skin of his teeth against Hewitt today, Roddick has been serving well but other aspects of his game are lacking and Del Potro is in uncharted territory as this is the first time he’s got passed the second round at Wimbledon. To compound matters whilst the pack have floundered the top four have thrived. It took 34 minutes and over a set of tennis before Federer lost a point on his serve today, Murray reeled off 15 straight games in his match against Gimeno-Traver and both Djokovic and Nadal are strolling through with ease. It’s looking more and more like the French Open semi-final line-up will be repeated.

– The Women’s on the other hand is still wide open with no one player stamping her mark on the tournament. Both of the Williams sisters have dropped sets (Serena’s dropped two), Stosur and Li are out and Zvonareva has wobbled. Wozniacki is looking OK but with her dislike for grass I question whether she’ll make the last 16. Most of the pundits are tipping Sharapova for the title but I have niggling doubts over whether she can maintain her consistency for the whole fortnight. The players who have looked the most comfortable in my opinion have been Kvitova, Bartoli (although she’s only played one match so far) and much to my joy Ivanovic who has only dropped four games. I’m also feeling very excited about Lisicki in the wake of her extremely close victory over Li. I can’t see her being a Goran-esque wildcard Champion but I hope she can at least make the quarter-finals, she deserves it after today’s match. Lisicki and Ivanovic could well meet in the last 16 which would be a brilliant match between two very likeable players.

– Hoorah for the Golden Oldies and the Comeback kids. My top three matches of the tournament so far without a shadow of a doubt have been V. Williams v Kimiko Date-Krumm (combined age of 71 and at times they played like it was 1971 with KDK offering up some wonderfully nostalgic chip and charges), Hewitt very nearly defeating Soderling in five sets despite having been in plaster just eight weeks ago, and the dramatic match between Lisicki (back after her career plummeted due to injury) and Li (aged 29). In the space of two days we’ve had three brilliant battles and that’s the best thing about the first week of a grand slam, the unlikely match-ups that spark phenomenal passion and play.

– I have mixed feelings about the roof. On the one hand it means that play can go on so there is always live tennis to watch (rather than Cliff Richard singing, thank God) but I also feel it gives some players an unfair advantage. The big names, who are often the competition favourites, get to play on Centre Court quite frequently so when you put the roof on they get two distinct advantages.
1.) Their match is not interrupted by rain, stays on schedule and they get home and have a rest day whilst their lower ranked, lesser known next round opponent has to hang around hoping the rain stops and may well not get on court until the next day therefore losing their rest day which impacts on their chances in the next round.
2.) Those who play on Centre Court often have the chance to get used to the different playing conditions it creates which again gives them an advantage when they play under the roof against someone who has not had that experience.
Now I know that tennis players should be able to recover from matches quickly and adapt to the conditions etc but I do feel it puts any underdogs at a disadvantage. Maybe I’ll feel differently next week if it rains when I have a Centre Court ticket!

– The scheduling this year seems very odd. I don’t understand why matches are being cancelled at 6.30pm when the weather is fine and there is the prospect of rain the next day; surely it’s best to get as much of a match played as possible. Laura Robson has had both her first and second round match cancelled late in the day which cannot be ideal, especially when you have the prospect of facing Sharapova looming over you! Also, why was Isner / Mahut stuck on Court 3 in the evening? By all accounts there was very little atmosphere becauce a lot of the ticketed seats were empty due to people leaving early and not returning their tickets. In my opinion it should have been on a free-for-all court like 18 or on Court One.

– Roll on next week. In exactly seven days time I will no doubt be lying awake too excited to sleep because of the prospect of seeing the Men’s semi-finals live, I will have already attended at least three days of the tournament and I’ll have a Men’s Final ticket in my possession. I have been so envious of all the people who have crowded into the AELTC over the last four days and my only comfort has been knowing that I’ll be there very soon too – watch out SW19, I’m on my way!

P.S. Following on from last Friday’s discussion around the odds of Isner / Mahut here’s an excellent Kevin Mitchell article from the Guardian that’s worth a read.

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I’ll  admit that as we stand on the bring of the French Open semi-finals I feel like a bit of an idiot, for all my talk of the field being wide open we have ended up with the top four seeds being the last men standing. You know what though, I’m happy to feel like an idiot if it means that we’re treated to three exhilarating tennis matches between the world’s greatest. Friday will see Federer try to break Djokovic’s streak whilst Murray will attempt to dethrone Nadal – what a mouthwatering prospect.

Whilst Djokovic and Federer have sailed effortlessly through their half of the draw (they’ve only dropped one set between them), the Murray / Nadal match-up was seriously in doubt up until 5.30pm today. Whether it was the Spaniard almost being dumped out in the first round by Isner or the sight of Murray screaming in agony after twisting his ankle it would be fair to say their paths to the semis have been a lot more complex. But however different their routes to the penultimate round have been, the world’s top four are all in the semis and the title could easily go to any of them.

Djokovic remains the obvious favourite to take the title, with every match his confidence seems to balloon and his game grows stronger. The only minor bump in an otherwise seamless passage to the semis was the loss of a set to Juan Martin Del Potro but, when you consider what a terrific player JDMP is, to only lose one set against him is impressive. There’s no question that Djokovic is the freshest of the semi-finalists having only played 12 and a half sets due to Fognini  withdrawing from their quarter-final and Hanescu retiring injured in their second round match but I suspect he’d rather have five solid wins under his belt, when you’re on a streak as good as his you do not want to pause. Federer will be by far the greatest challenge that the Serb will have faced at Roland Garros this year and whilst I expect it to be a very close match I think Djokovic will prevail and gain the World Number 1 ranking in the process. If each player maintains their current level of play I am fairly certain that Djokovic will be the Champion on Sunday but I sense that Nadal will raise his game, I’m just not sure whether he will raise it enough.

Federer’s progress to the semi-finals has been utterly odd, not because of the way he has played – his game has been sublime at times – but because there has been so little hype or attention on him. For the most successful grand slam player of all time to only just start being widely acknowledged as a favourite half way through the tournament is surreal. I’ll admit that I had written him off a little bit because his clay court season had been fairly mediocre by his standards and some of the fire in his belly seemed to have been extinguished, but between Rome and Roland Garros he has polished the rough edges and now looks exquisite at times. In his quarter final against Monfils, a match that should have been close, Federer made the Frenchman look completely under-prepared and ill-equipped which sent a message to the remaining competitors that he is taking no prisoners. However well Federer is playing, I do think Djokovic will get the better of him on Friday because his clay game has greater depth and variation than Federer’s and, as a result, he’ll have more answers.

Nadal has done little to convince tennis spectators that he will be biting into the Coupe des Mousquetaires for a sixth time on Sunday. From the moment he stepped onto Philippe Chatrier last Tuesday the top seed has looked uncomfortable and out of sorts; a  world away from his usual clay court demeanour. After his unspectacular victory against Ljubicic in the 4th round he admitted himself that he was not playing well enough to win the title and on that point I don’t think there were many who would disagree. But, in typical Nadal style, he today demonstrated why you can never write him off, especially on clay. A lot of tennis followers (myself included) thought that Soderling could be the Spaniard’s undoing but Nadal overwhelmed the Swede with an onslaught of his trademark stinging ground-strokes and determination. If he can play in a similar manner in the semi-finals, which fall on his birthday, there’s a distinct possibility he will celebrate his 25th by securing a spot in the final. I do question his ability to beat Djokovic or Federer on Sunday though, both of them have been unwaveringly consistent and will punish even the slightest error by the Spaniard. As I keep saying though, you can never write off Nadal.

How Andy Murray is in the semi-final is beyond me; it is testament to his vastly underrated grit, variety and strength that he made it through his third round match let alone to the semis. I have never been Murray’s greatest fan but I’ve always admired him and will argue to the bitter end with anyone who writes him off, and his performance over the last week has reasserted to me why I do so. A tear to a tendon is an awful injury but when it happens mid-match and you have a game that is built around movement most people would call it a day; not Murray though. The Scot not only battled on to win his match against Berrer but he then survived a five-setter against the very handy Troicki and went on to defeat Chela in straight sets. Admittedly Murray has made really hard work of his last few matches, twice falling behind as soon as he steps on court, but he has got through them and looks stronger and more determined as a result.  Having never reached the semis of the French Open before (4th round was his previous best showing) Murray is the underdog of the final four but I can’t help but think he will pull this one out of the bag. If Nadal plays as he has for most of the tournament (poorly by his standards) I really think Murray can defeat him. Over the course of his five victories the Scot has shown some phenomenal passages of play which would put any opponent on the back foot, if he can consolidate these and play consistently like that for three sets I think he could be unstoppable. My real gut feeling is that he will make the final but lose to Djokovic in four sets – a result that he could be extremely proud of. (In my head he will then avenge the defeat in a dramatic five set thriller in the Wimbledon final but that may be slightly skewed by my own personal preferences!)

The women’s competition on the other hand really has thrown up a mixed bag of semi-finalists in Schiavone, Sharapova, Li Na and Bartoli. With an average age of 27 it is one of the oldest final fours there has been in a grand slam and offers some brilliant storylines – defence of a shock title, career Grand Slam, first Asian grand slam winner or the hometown heroine. Whilst they are not the semis I hoped to see (I wanted breakthroughs from the likes of Kvitova and Goerges), I have to admit they are all great ambassadors for the game and have created a lot of drama over the fortnight. I’m erring towards Li Na v Schiavone in the final with Na as the champion, she has been extremely consistent and has the ability to dig deep when she really needs to.

It’s been a really topsy turvy tournament with potential champions being points away from defeat at times (Sharapova, I’m looking at you), new players making a name for themselves and some thrilling comebacks but I think the best is yet to come. So, over to you – who do you think will reign supreme this weekend and has this been one of the most unpredictable French Opens in memory? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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