LONDON – Five thoughts from women’s quarterfinal day at Wimbledon 2016.
• The oldest player in the women’s singles draw, Venus Williams, is into her first major semifinal in six years. Playing with her usual grass court nous, Venus Williams reaches her first Grand Slam semifinal since 2010, beating Yaroslava Shvedova in straight sets. It’s starting to look a lot like Williams-Williams.
• Serena did her part, playing a capable—if not flawless—match against former Patrick Mouratoglou charge Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, winning 6-4, 6-4. Serena didn't dazzle as she did yesterday. She didn’t flail as she did her first two matches. Just a solid, businesslike effort that sets her up to do what’s failed to do at the last three finish. Close like a champ.
• Angie Kerber won the Australian Open and then retreated, culminating with her first round loss at the French Open. Like that, she’s back. The likely No. 2-ranked player when the next rankings come out on Monday, Kerber played another savvy offense-first/defense-second match, beating Simona Halep 7-5, 7-6. There are weaknesses to Kerber’s game, starting with her second serve. But talk about a player who knows how to win and she’s up there. The German team in Euro 2016 aren’t the only Teutonic athletes with a big semifinal on Thursday.
• Dominika Cibulkova played a match yesterday that ended 9-7 in the third set. So did her opponent, Elena Vesnina who then had to play doubles. Still Vesnina was the fresher player, beating a languid Cibulkova 6-2, 6-2 to advance to her first Grand Slam semifinal where she’ll meet Serena.
• As I write this, the top seeded team (and defending champs) in the women’s doubles, Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza, are still around. So is the team of Williams-Williams. As long as we’re getting greedy in giddy anticipation of a Williams-Williams singles final, how cool would it be if—in 2016; with the principles closer to age 50 than age 20—we had a final involving Serena, Venus and Martina H.? That leads us to….
Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him @jon_wertheim.
How about writing more on doubles (all) than the over exposed singles players?
• This is the old chicken-and-egg conundrum. It’s hard to devote too much coverage to doubles when it generates so much less attention among fans (and networks) than singles does. The obvious response: it would generate more attention, if the coverage were stronger. So it goes. As I write this, the men’s draw is still full of chalk, especially compared to the “seed’s battlefield” that was the French Open draw. The top seeds, Nicolas Mahut and Pierre Hughes Herbert remain. (The two faced off in singles as well). The Bryans, the second seed, remain as well. As so the 2014 champs, Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil. On the women’s side, Hingis and Mirza look like a good bet to repeat.
Nobody seems to mention that three of the four majors were played on grass in Laver's heyday. That kind of put a premium on grass court style tennis. There were not as many clay court "specialists" in that time period since you were not rewarded for being a ground stroke expert. How many Grand Slams would Sampras or Federer have won under those circumstances? We will never know.
—Matt Goralka, Chicago
• We will not. But it’s a good point. In conjunction with the Laver Cup, expect to hear Roger Federer talk more about this. I know Federer feels that Laver hasn’t his gotten essentially saying (and I paraphrase): "Imagine if someone took away 20 of your Slams while you were off earning money and then said you weren’t the greatest."
I was surprised that you didn't include Christina McHale in your midterm grades. I have to admit I was never a big fan of hers. Didn't think she had the power or shot selection to compete with the big guns. But I have to say I'm a fan after her Serena match. Her play was unlike anything I've ever seen from her before. Just think if she'd been able to close out that match. If both the men's and women's No. 1 had gone out it would have been bedlam! Here's hoping she and Sam can keep it up. Sam just beat Mahut so hat's off to him. I'm hoping to see the new and improved Christina during the hard court season.
—Kris, Norwalk, Conn.
• Absolutely. A belated strong grade to Christina who has played Serena tough in all three of their recent matches. But “just think if she'd been able to close out that match” is the money phrase. You have to be able to close.
Can you give us your take on David Goffin? Talk about a guy punching above his weight. He seems to be a fixture deep into the draws for much of this season and really reminds me of his countryman Olivier Rochus.
—Clint Swett, Sacramento, Calif.
• He has a lot more game (and height) than Rochus and can force the action a bit more. A very crisp and clean player. But the big question will be: can he figure out a way to accentuate his movement and crisp striking and overcome his absence of stick.
When did tennis players start doing the modified soul shake at end of matches instead of the classic handshake?
• I’d can the soul shake. What makes for excruciating viewing: indecision. Do I extend my hand or go for the Euro-kiss? If so, single or double? Firm and earnest, Golden Sachs handshake? Or bros at the club shake? Can this all be agreed-upon in advance?
• Today’s reader rant, from Ken Green in Carlisle, Pa.: Hi Jon. My interest in tennis harks back to the 1960s when I had the great good fortune to see the great Aussies play in the U.S. Pro Championship at Longwood Cricket Club. Even back then, with wood racquets and gut strings, there were big servers (think Colin Dibley), but opponents were almost always able to work their way into a match because they could find a way to play through/around that big weapon. Most of all, they were able to get their racquet on the ball. This leads me to my gripe with today's tennis. I watched the Isner-Tsonga’s match with alternating excitement and disappointment. Today's game allows for a single big shot (e.g. serve) to carry a player far into tournament draws despite the player having a limited skill set. The Isner-Tsonga match was a microcosm of why my interest in tennis has waned over the past 20 years. I watched the fifth set drag on and on because neither player could touch the other's serve. Where's the skill and strategy in that type of play? Blam! Point over. Blam! Next point over. It was a war of attrition that, in its own way, reminded me of how Guillermo Vilas would stand back on the baseline and just grind until the other player missed a shot, or Ivan Lendl would just blast ground strokes from the baseline until he hit it past the other player. It was boring tennis then, and it is boring tennis now. I find it amusing that players have more recently discovered the net may be a place to get to win points. That requires working the point and using strategy. It is much more interesting to watch. I know today's tennis is what it is, but it has largely lost me as a fan. Thanks for listening (reading) my rant.