Thursday, 23 June 2011

Wimblemund 2011, day 4

Angry time coming up. Do indulge me.

Serena Williams bt. Simone Halep 3-6, 6-2, 6-1
The Williams sisters' bold attempt to win Wimbledon but at a slower pace than usual continued out on (shock!) Court 2. Today's fresh meat was Romanian teenager Simone Halep, the only remaining player in the draw whose name sounded like a distressed Penelope Pitstop.

Halep did well to win the first set - every player who has encountered Serena since her comeback has managed to take at least a set - but then hit a wall familiar to newcomers and seasoned top-10 players alike when they encounter a Williams. Put simply, it looks like no-one believes that they can win, and even getting 50% of the way there on the scoreboard does nothing to change their perception. Serena prowled about like a caged lion at the back of the court, waiting to dismissively wallop every ball back to an increasingly cowed Halep, who even from a set ahead never looked like she had a chance. The length of the match, however, did allow me to develop a theory that I will be able to test once Laura Robson's match with Maria Sharapova begins on Court 1 - women who play tennis against each other for a sufficient amount of time have their grunts synchronise.

The impressive manner of her victory - Serena looks to be battling against herself and her physical limitations more than she is any opponent - was somewhat tarnished, however, by her stroppy outburst about how unfair it is that she and her sister's so often get pushed out into the sticks. Court 2? That's the one with the broken bottles and dog turds on it, right? The one that's downhill? The one with the lines marked out wonky? Landmines?

Come a long way since Compton, haven't we Serena? Growing up surrounded with poverty, violent gang culture, racial tension and drug dealers one day, complaining about playing on Court 2 at The All England Club the next. She's certainly achieved much in her career, and her and her sister's continued presence in the ladies' game really does so much to legitimise it. It's probably fair to say she is, by a distance, the greatest player of her generation.

A bit of humility doesn't always follow from such things, of course, but it would be nice. Considering that she herself has already said that she has been on her death bed in the past few months with a pulmonary embolism, one could also hope for a bit more wisdom or perspective. But I have personal experience of surviving a life-threatening situation and I found the old clich├ęs to be largely incorrect. No external thing can really change the person you are. Such a thing has to come from within. This is a real shame in instances where you happen to be an ingrate.

Robin Soderling bt. Lleyton Hewitt 6-7(5), 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-4
The fifth seed found his top form in the nick of time against perennial challenger Lleyton Hewitt under the roof on Centre. It was so nearly an early defeat. Hewitt is now a massive THIRTY years old and as such clearly completely past it, but he will still punish you if you ease up for more than a second at a time. Soderling showed his class, but most of all he showed a fighting spirit which could serve him well later in the tournament. In many ways, he out-Hewitted Hewitt.

This made me happy, as Lleyton Hewitt has always annoyed me. There's no great reason for this, he just sets me on edge. Every year I feel I should make a scrapbook of the people who knock him out of Grand Slams, with hearts and flowers drawn all around them. So, well done Robin.

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