Tenaciously Tennis

Women’s Quarterfinals Produce Big Upsets; Serena Stays on Course

Quarterfinal action at Wimbledon yesterday produced striking upsets to leave a highly unlikely final four. The only easily recognizable name: Serena Williams. Here’s a breakdown of the drama:

1. Serena versus Na Li:

In a rematch of the Australian Open semifinals, Serena stormed through her match against Li with strong serving and big powerful shots. While a close first set showed signs of life for Li, the second simply got away from her as Serena honed in on the semifinals. With only six unforced errors, Serena won 7-5, 6-3. Serena’s side of the draw should be kind to her, which bring us to the second match.

2. Petra Kvitova versus Kaia Kanepi:

No one would ever have picked these two players to make it all the way to the quarterfinals, especially the qualifier Kanepi. Regardless, their match proved to be one of the most dramatic by score. After losing three match points in the tiebreaker in the second set, Kanepi was up 4-0 in the third set. That’s when all of the tennis from the past few weeks, she’s 12-1 on grass, got to her. At the same time, Kvitova, who hits a huge ball with flatness that cuts deftly through the court, turned her game up another level, embodying the game that won her matches against two top players: Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki. Kvitova saved five match points in all to win, 4-6, 7-6 (8), 8-6. I say her chances are slim against Serena, although I’ve become a Kvitova fan these past two weeks. Serena’s experience will prove to much, and she’ll win easily in two sets.

A word about Kanepi: she has had an amazing grass court season and should no doubt be applauded for her run. It’s great seeing a player find her game once again. Kanepi was ranked as high as 19th in the world, and if she keeps up her form will surely be back in the top 20.

3. Vera Zvonareva versus Kim Clijsters:

In a highly unlikely upset, Zvonareva took out Clijsters in three sets after the Belgian’s forehand faltered in the second and third sets. Clijsters looked sharp to beat compatriot Justine Henin in the fourth round. Her game, however, took a turn for the worse just as Zvonareva played the biggest match of her life. She controlled her emotions, known to get the best of her in the past, and advanced 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

4. Venus Williams versus Tsvetana Pironkova:

With beautiful execution, the finest finesse I’ve seen on court in awhile, tricky forehand slices, and tactics rarely seen in women’s tennis, Pironkova of Bulgaria stunned Venus in their quarterfinal match. Reminiscent of her first round win over Venus years ago, Pironkova played her counter-punching baseline game, which is packed with variety, to keep the number two player in the world off balance and without a rhythm.  Currently ranked 82 and without a WTA tour title to her name, Pironkova played the match of her life, winning easily: 6-2, 6-3. At the same time, Venus never looked comfortable from the beginning, making too many unforced errors and not producing enough winners to ever be a threat. This marks her worst exit at Wimbledon since 2006 when she lost in the third round.

Pironkova next plays Zvonareva, who she leads the head-to-head against 1-0. I see another upset in her future if she can continue her fine form and mix up the spins and pace. If she plays like she did against Venus, Pironkova will get under Zvonareva’s skin, forcing the Russian to let her emotions take hold for the worse. The Bulgarian, the first to make it to the semifinals of a major since Manuela Maleeva at the 1993 US Open, will win in three sets.

5. End Note

And so, it’s been decided: Serena will play Kvitova and Zvonareva will try to fend off Pironkova. What a compelling Wimbledon in every sense of the word. I see Serena easily advancing, while Pironkova overcomes Zvonareva mentally to reach the finals.

There’s it’s Serena’s match to win. Can she fight through the pressure? Yes.


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