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.