Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wimbledon Highs and Lows: Day Three

By Steve Pearce at Wimbledon

Posted June 23, 2011 10:21:00
Updated June 23, 2011 10:25:00

Venus Williams has had some highs and lows in her career. She's a five-time winner of this very tournament and around the turn of the century, she was the most dominant player in the game. It was a time when she also added a couple of United States Open crowns.

Now 31 and on her way back after six months out of the game with injury, she's through to play Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm on Centre Court.

As is normal for Wimbledon this year, it's raining of course, but these days, that doesn't stop anything on the main arena.

Nobody gave the 40-year-old much of a chance against Venus, but those are the best times for an upset are they not? And Kimiko clearly agrees.

She races away to a big lead in the first set, it's 3-0, then 5-1, and the tennis from the veteran is outstanding. Date-Krumm blows her first chance for the set with a pair of double-faults, Williams won't give in and she fights and blasts her way back to 5-4. The stage is set. She has a third set point, but Williams finds the angles to take the point, and it's back to deuce. Now a break-point for 5-5....and a netted volley gets us back on serve.

It's high-level tennis and Williams is sensing blood... she forces a set point of her own at 30-40 on the Date-Krumm serve. Can she complete the comeback? Not yet. A point for the breaker. 54 minutes in and nothing can separate them. But this will.

D-K (I have to shorten this!) has the early advantage at 3-0. Now it's 4-1. Then a stunning winner from D-K gives her four set points. Make that three. And now two. A backhand wide and we're back to one. A big serve and it's time to change ends again. D-K then somehow grabs an eigth set point with a forehand that just catches the line, by coincidentally an eighth of an inch. Then finally a backhand error into the net and D-K takes the first set. Outstanding.

Let's get a bit of background. D-K made the semi-finals here in 1996, losing to Steffi Graf. Yes, 1996. She reached number four in the world a lifetime ago. She took 12 years off, and then came back in May 2008. She won a WTA singles title in 2009, the day before her 39th birthday, and made another final last year in Osaka. It's a great story. Right, now we're all up to speed, let's press on as this is good.

Williams goes a break of serve up early in the second set and despite some rocky moments, she holds onto it until setting up a set point at 30-40 and 3-5 on the D-K serve. Williams is largely in control now with her forehand dictating the play, she misses the first set point with a smash into the net, but grabs her second chance and we're level.

Williams knows a thing or two about grass and she takes the early break in the decider. But almost astonishingly D-K has a break point at 0-2 and Williams double-faults. Two hours and 11 minutes in D-K serves her first ace on break point down. It's been that sort of match. Now it's a fifth break point at 1-2... but it too slips by for Williams. Six saved. Nine minutes in this game and it's back to deuce. And after 10 minutes and six break points it's 2-2.

At 5-5, the level of the tennis is back to where we were in the first set, although maybe the tiredness is beginning to set in as both players make a couple of mistakes. But this has been a physically draining match. And it's 5-6 and D-K must serve to stay alive again. She does but the problem with serving second is that unless you break serve you are always up against it. Just ask Nicolas Mahut... if you dare.

6-7, 0-15, then a forehand long and 0-30, the pressure builds, 15-30 as Williams goes long... then a mishit forehand five minutes short of three hours, it's two match points for Williams and she grabs her chance as D-K goes wide with the pass. 6-7, 6-3, 8-6. Best match so far this year... two hours and 56 minutes.

Andy Murray is really giving German Tobias Kamke the run-around on court one. It's just one of those mismatches, not of seismic proportions, but enough to be very comfortable for Murray.

Midway through the third (and final) set, Kamke ends up on his backside as Murray strolls back to win another point. There is no upside in this for the German. Enough said and Murray takes the match, albeit with a bit of a wobble at the end.

It's time to take a wander down to the outside courts to consider the fortunes of the two Aussies playing today. Both weren't Australian two years ago, but in the parochial nature of international sport, that is hardly relevant. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, etc.

Jarmila Gajdosova (more recently Groth until her split with Sam) wasn't in the mood to hang around against a decidedly thin and unwell looking Alona Bondarenko. She did though find herself a break down in the first set at 4-5, and in a degree of trouble. But Jarka (as she's known) is a fighter, and she takes the next three games and the set. Bondarenko is consistent in a sort of Davydenko-type of way, but much as Bernie was always the winner yesterday, so Jarka was today. It was just a matter of time, and not much of that elapsed before she was through on a blustery court 10 7-5, 6-3.

Things are looking up for Gajdosova, but not so for the other former East European to join our ranks Anastasia Rodionova. She was thumped 6-1, 6-2 by Andrea Hlavackova, who'll now meet Jarka in the second round.

So one from two, and overall three from seven. Neither good nor bad really. We shall see how they all fare from here.

On the way back, one of the bright up-and-coming stars of the women's game, German Julia Georges, thrashes her opponent to move into the second round. That's what the outside courts offer you really... a chance to see three matches in the space of an hour or so. Well sort of.

But the day belongs to Venus and Kimiko. Great match. Full of drama and plenty of highs and lows. What else could anyone want? Oh, and Rafa got through too.

Tags: sport, tennis

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