“Because we are not named Serena or Venus Williams doesn’t mean we don’t know how to play tennis,” Marion Bartoli commented after losing a fascinating 4-6, 7-6 (4), 1-6 quarterfinal to wildcard Sabine Lisicki on Tuesday. “Women’s tennis just needs more matches like that so people will enjoy coming to watch us.” (via Wimbledon.com)
I know I enjoyed it, and I’ve also enjoyed the way that Bartoli has wormed her way into the hearts of fans and even ESPN commentators/tennis players like Brad Gilbert and Chris Evert this fortnight. Everyone is just amazed by her bizarre court presence – because all those ticks and grimaces and cringe-worthy practice cuts add up to some great tennis. She’s always been a bit of a side show curiosity – I think this Wimbledon has finally brought her under the Big Tent.
But while we’re on the subject of the Williams sisters, you have to check out this “melancholy” piece from Pete Bodo. Here’s the gist:
No era or dynasty ends on a specific day, although sometimes it may appear to. Who can forget the day the Berlin Wall came crashing down? Or that image of the last helicopter, taking off from the roof of the American embassy in Saigon with people hanging onto it? Yesterday, the day when Venus and Serena Williams both crashed out of Wimbledon within hours of each other, felt a little bit like one of those days.
Okay, that’s a bit of writerly hyperbole, but I think Pete captures a certain feeling that’s dominating both the ATP and WTA tour nowadays – at least it’s a feeling I share. The last generation of great – or even just good- champions, like Serena, Venus, Andy Roddick and yes, Roger Federer, is aging. And while we have some wonderful players waiting in the wings, there’s something sad, as Bodo points out, about witnessing the passing of time and the fading of an era from the courts to the history books. Enjoy every moment, folks.
Like this vintage press room comment from Serena on Monday:
Q. A lot of people would say if you come here after the best part of the year out of the game and walked away with the title, it wouldn’t necessarily have been a good thing for women’s tennis. Can you appreciate that? Does this result show it’s competitive still?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I’m super happy that I lost. Go, women’s tennis.
Now back to the young, bright things i.e. Maria Sharapova (she’s only 24, after all.) Maria made quite the statement with her 6-1, 6-1 win over Wozniacki-killer Dominika Cibulkova on Tuesday. There have been rumors going around that Masha and the Woz aren’t too friendly, but I’d say Maria owes the Backboard a girly cocktail or two for her role in serving up the tempestuous Dominika in the quarterfinals. Maria’s the official favorite for the title, but we’re all extremely excited to see how Sabine Lisicki plays her in the semifinals. I’m also psyched about another up and coming player, Petra Kviotova, who’s into her second straight Wimbledon semifinal after her three-set victory over Tsvetana Pironkova on Tuesday.
For the first time in a while, the Wimbledon women’s final is going to be a pick ’em.
Oh, I almost forgot about Victoria Azarenka, who has made it to her first Major semifinal with her straight sets victory over Tamira Paszek. Azarenka is the highest ranked player left in the women’s draw and for the past year or so, was a popular outside pick for Major titles. But she’s been flying under the radar this tournament due to flashy performances by fashionable dark horse picks like Lisicki and Kvitova. I’d say Vika probably has enjoyed less stress at this year’s Wimby than in recent Majors, and has marshaled her emotions well enough to be a bit fresher than her semifinal opponent, Petra Kvitova. I think Azarenka will become a first time Major finalist in a couple days. (Yeah, I’ll go out on a limb and predict a Lisicki vs. Azarenka final – don’t worry, Masha fans, I’m always wrong!)
Azarenka is also enjoying a renewed and revived love for the game. I thought these comments from Tuesday were fascinating (via The Sydney Morning Herald):
. . .Victoria Azarenka revealed a conversation with her grandmother prevented her from quitting the sport in March.
After losing the first round of a WTA event in Doha, Azarenka told her team that she no longer enjoyed playing tennis and wanted to study instead.
“After [the] Doha tournament I didn’t really want to play tennis, I just wanted to go home and rest … My mum asked me ‘Oh, what are you going to do?’ [and] I said ‘I’m going to study’. She laughed out loud,” said Azarenka.
The passionate Belarusian told her grandmother that she didn’t want to be doing something that she was not enjoying.
“She [said] ‘Then don’t do it, you have to be happy’,” relayed Azarenka, who compared her own situation to that of her grandmother, who was working three jobs at once.
“It was like, you just have to shut up and stop complaining because you have a pretty damn good life … just work out there,” she said smiling.
Playing your first Wimbledon semifinal? Sure beats a semester of Poly Sci 101.
The women’s Wimbledon semis have turned out to be a Big Blond Babe affair with Sharapova vs. Lisicki and Azarenka vs. Kvitova. I’m very much looking forward to these matches! Are you?