Saturday, July 15, 2017

Wimbledon SF - The WTA Plays Its Joker

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

The grand slam is sacred to us here at BACKSPIN. Todd and I get to pass comment on the other, if we so desire. Mine usually start with 'congratulations to Serena Williams' or 'Serena has been upset by blah blah.' But today it is different. Ever since the second round I have known Garbine Muguruza would win. I have watched all of her matches and I have known that her awesome smile would ring out around Centre. I knew she would get past Williams today. But I had not wanted to jinx it. And when she dismissed Sveta I wasn't sad. Because I had made myself ready. In fact, I was happy that the Russian had done so well. That is twice now Muguruza has eased past her on the way to a title.

Muguruza is...

She is the WTA player who's game I would like the most. Right now if I had to have any WTA player play for my life it would be her. Even before the tournament I would have picked her. Forget Pliskova, Kvitova or even Azarenka. Serena, Sharapova and the Belarussian all have huge question marks over them now. The Spaniard is the complete player on tour. Today her forehand wasn't working for the first ten games. She managed to right it and then took control with it. She survived several break points early on, at 2-3. She and Venus had several chances to break. But at 15-40 two long points both went her way. Well, one of them was long. And when she held there and then broke Venus the match swung towards her.

The telling blow game when she broke in deuce in the next set. You could see her begin to rise. Venus didn't play awfully, she just slowly went away, overpowered totally in the last set. The Tennis Gods have decided that the Spanish girl is to be their joker, their top trump. Every now and then they play her and BANG! She'll just win that tournament. I think she could well never be world number one and yet always be the best player in the world. She already has a better Hall of Fame claim than Caroline Wozniacki.

And now we come onto the complaint. 121 weeks. That is the total of weeks, which is about two and a half years, we have had a world number one with no slams. Wozniacki has not even been to a semi-final at two of the slams. Jelena Jankovic is not much better. Dinara Safina was pretty tragic from start to finish and never felt like the world's best. She never even felt like a top five player for much of her tenure. Who could forget her infamous match against Venus in 2009 at Wimbledon? She got a game. She served a double fault match point down in the final of Roland Garros. Now we have Pliskova. She 'won' the top ranking by blowing a lead to a player coming back from multiple surgeries in the second round of our greatest tournament. She has been to one semi-final and one final. She has a dreadful record at Wimbledon. It is why women's tennis is, undeservedly, a joke.

The best players are never ranked number one. Two of the top five have won a slam. Four of the top ten have, but Venus and Kuznetsova haven't won one in years. On the men's side, every one of the top six has won a slam. Evonne Goolagong Cawley won seven slams and went to 18 finals. And she only got given two weeks at number one. It's so stupid. So I propose a new rule. You cannot be ranked number one until you have won a slam. Pliskova is going to win one eventually. But that rule should be in place. I would rather have in place a top player who has won but is not playing so well than one who has no clue how to win one.

Muguruza is the darling of the women's game with a backhand that is effective as any shot out there. Even her forehand isn't really a weakness. And you just know she will have a terrible summer in the U.S.. The WTA is better than this. It is better than the world number one meaning nothing. And hopefully the bigger players win a slam soon. Simona Halep right now is a total choke artist. She can't get out of her own way. This modern crop of players are incapable of winning the biggest titles and being consistent. Doing both at the same time is too hard.

Before we move on, a word on Venus Williams. She is a force of nature and she may yet win a slam. Nobody else this year has made two slam finals. She is a top ten player and her backhand still has real zip to it. Finally, Jelena Ostapenko is something else. She will always have a good summer.

We have our mixed final and it is a doozy. As expected, Martina Hingis is through to final with partner Jamie Murray, and she will be trying to win the title for the second time. She also won it in 2015 with Leander Paes. She did not drop a set in 2015. She has won every slam except the ladies singles in Roland Garros.

And, to be honest, it is totally her fault she doesn't have that. Well, I suppose the French crowd had a little to do with it.

Defending champions Henri Kontinen and Heather Watson won through in dramatic fashion. They defeated second seeds Soares/Vesnina 6-4, 6-7[6], 6-3. They could not convert on that match point in the second set breaker, but managed to edge it in the third. They broke twice, never lost serve, and hit 23 winners to six. It was an excellent performance. Vesnina has had disappointment in the singles and now in the mixed, but she woin the Wimbledon title in the ladies doubles (love & love!!), so she has that, at least.

Now let's dive into the singles and we'll see if we can get through some of the duller ones more quickly.

It always felt as if Sam Querrey, with three consecutive five-setters under his belt, was going to be found wanting. Indeed, he ran out of puff in the end. The first set featured no break points. Against the run of play, Querrey took the first in a breaker. He had looked a little shakier at points, but both men were pretty solid. In the breaker, Cilic was interrupted at 6-6 by a spectator fainting in the crowd. He had lost it. It was the American's chance. He took the breaker 8-6. He had to capitalise on the opportunity. But he couldn't. He let Cilic find himself in the second set. Had he broken he might have won rather quickly. Instead the Croat found a way and then held on. He broke to 15 in the 7th game and rolled through the rest of the set. It was now 6-7[6], 6-4. At 1-1 in the third, Cilic broke but could not consolidate. They served out the rest of the set until there was another breaker. At 3-4, Querrey hit two bad errors, one on each wing, and that was all she wrote. In the fourth, he looked spent. Cilic was in the ascendancy. But there was another twist in the tale. From 2-4 Cilic won three games on the trot as he finally found his forehand. Querrey clung on at 4-5 but he could not do it at 5-6. With a roar, Cilic became the first player seeded 7th to make the finals at Wimbledon. Querrey has had the result of his career. If I were the American I would go to Rhode Island and ride this form to another title. He'll be tired, but it would be worth his while. As for Cilic, well, he will have to go all out against Roger Federer. Error count doesn't matter. Just go for it. Attack everything. Do not get into rallies. Serve and volley, mix up the points and serve in different places. And go to the backhand side of Federer.
For Tomas Berdych it must have felt like a walk to the gallows. He held on for as long as possible, played some lovely tennis and impressed the crowd. But even the Czech playing at a very high level could only push the GOAT so far. In the first set Roger broke early and then got a tad arrogant. It was a mistake. He was a little too casual and Berdman broke back a couple of games later. But in the breaker Federer just went into 17th gear and won it 7-4. Against anyone else in the world Berdie might well have taken a set. In the second he again gamely held on. The pressure on his serve throughout was immense, but he refused to back down. So focused was he on holding onto his own games he failed to take several good opportunities to break. It was 7-4 in the breaker again and suddenly it was an even longer road back. The last time Tomas came back from two sets down was in 2005. He wouldn't do it this time, either. Roger's constant pressure eventually told in the third and he closed it out 6-4 to claim victory. Fedex blasted 53 winners and won 36 per cent of return points on his way to a memorable victory. Berdych stays in the top 20 with this rather excellent result. He will be a top 16 seed next year, too, if not more. Federer will move on to the final. There he has to move Cilic around, he has to use low slices and make his opponent move. If he can return decently, too, he will win. He needs to block back a lot of the bigger serves.

Now, a prediction. Your first time in a Wimbledon rarely goes well. Rafa Nadal lost the first set in a bagel. Monica Seles was humiliated. Andy Murray struggled with the pressure. It is not easy. Cilic will come out firing and take the first set 6-3. It will be 4-4 in the second where Federer slowly takes charge. The Swiss is going to figure out the Croat and win 3-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-3. Or thereabouts. Federer wants this and he has not dropped a set at Halle or Wimbledon. He has looked awesome and he will know exactly how to beat Cilic.

I leave you only with this:

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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