All the stars were aligned for Marion Bartoli to upset Serena Williams at Wimbledon 2011. Marion was playing very well coming in, having won Eastbourne and reaching the semis of Roland Garros, while Serena had a nearly one year layoff and was not at her best. But having an opportunity and capitalizing on an opportunity are two different things. Marion capitalized by playing aggressively, knocking out the defending champion 6-3 7-6 (6). Nobody stands inside the baseline as far as Marion did to return Serena’s serve, even her second serve. But she took the ball early and was ripping the ball from sideline to sideline, not letting Serena dictate. It’s funny to hear all the pundits talk about how it was unrealistic to expect Serena to win after such a long layoff. Interesting, because many of them were the same ones picking Serena a week ago. I stand by the fact that I never picked her nor Venus. The power and athleticism of women’s tennis these days is not to be underestimated. Particularly on grass, it’s difficult to adjust with little match play. Maybe on a hardcourt it’s more realistic, like when Kim Clijsters played two comeback tournaments before winning the 2009 U.S. Open.
At least Serena gave Marion a match, forcing her to outplay her and having a shot at winning the second set. Venus, on the other hand, was incredibly sloppy in losing to Tsvetana Pironkova 6-2 6-3. Credit must go to Pironkova, who has beaten Venus two years in a row (by the same score) at Wimbledon and has won 3 out of 4 meetings. Sometimes there is just a player outside of the top stars that gives a highly ranked player fits. Maybe Pironkova is that player for Venus. Still, Venus was running through a lot of shots and spraying them long and/or wide. It wasn’t even close. It front of newlyweds Prince William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Venus took a royal drubbing in exiting this year’s Wimbledon fortnight.
But while Venus took the most lopsided upset of the day, the worst loss was Caroline Wozniacki, who will continue to answer questions about her lack of a Major title despite her many weeks at #1. Caroline’s loss, 1-6 7-6 (5) 7-5 to Dominika Cibulkova, is worse for a couple of reasons. First, she let a player much smaller than her push her around the court and dictate points after blitzing her the first set. There is no reason 5′ 3″ Cibulkova should, for the second time this year, have Caroline on the defensive so much. Caroline must show and play with much more aggression. On top of that, Cibulkova double faulted 10 times and committed 31 unforced errors. Yes, she hit a lot of winners, but with 41 free points there is no excuse for Caroline to have lost this match. I guarantee you that if Marion Bartoli had given 41 free points to Serena Williams, there would not have been an upset. Caroline was snippy after the match about her lack of a Major. Well, if she continues to be ranked #1 without a Major, she will continue to face the same question over and over and over.
The most impressive display of the day was by Petra Kvitova, who torched Yanina Wickmayer 6-0 6-2. It’s not a surprise that Petra won. Many have picked her to win the title, including Martina Navratilova and Patrick McEnroe. But 0 and 2 over a very good player like Wickmayer is sure to raise eyebrows among the other players. Kvitova was a semifinalist last year and has a big lefty game that plays very well on grass. The match that many want to see on her side of the draw is Kvitova against fellow rising star Victoria Azarenka. They both have work to do before that could become a reality in the semis, but if each wins their quarters, that semi could be a preview of life after the Williams sisters and Kim Clijsters. I think Kim, Venus and Serena could have Majors still in them, particularly Serena and Kim at the US Open this year. But as they make way for a new generation of players, the next wave could be led by Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka. Of course, there is a young lady named Maria Sharapova who is only 24 and not ready to forfeit the stage to upstarts anytime soon.
Singles – Fourth Round
(24) Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) d. (1) Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) 16 76(5) 75
(4) Victoria Azarenka (BLR) d. Nadia Petrova (RUS) 62 62
(5) Maria Sharapova (RUS) d. (20) Peng Shuai (CHN) 64 62
(9) Marion Bartoli (FRA) d. (7) Serena Williams (USA) 63 76(6)
(8) Petra Kvitova (CZE) d. (19) Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) 60 62
(32) Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) d. (23) Venus Williams (USA) 62 63
Tamira Paszek (AUT) d. Ksenia Pervak (RUS) 62 26 63
(WC) Sabine Lisicki (GER) d. Petra Cetkovska (CZE) 76(3) 61