Very often the best quality match in a tennis tournament is not a final. The final might be more dramatic because of what’s at stake, but in terms of actual level of play the highest grade can come at any point in the event. So it was on day 5 of Wimbledon 2014 that two former champions, Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams, gave tennis fans the best women’s match of this tournament so far. When the dust settled, 6th seed Kvitova had outlasted 30th seed Williams, 5-7 7-6 (2) 7-5. It’s hard for me to imagine a better match from this point on. In fact, it’s difficult for me to think of a better women’s match in the last few years. More dramatic or important, yes. Longer or under more difficult weather conditions, yes. But higher quality, no. Consider every aspect of this match. Two players who hit extremely hard. When Petra is making solid contact, it sounds like no other women’s player, including Serena. It’s like an extremely loud gunshot. They didn’t hold back from start to finish, never letting up. Yet unlike most matches with two power hitters, both had a high number of winners (Petra-48, Venus-25), with fewer errors. Both served 110-plus mph, with Venus hitting 118 on the gun. Both had more aces than double faults (Petra-11 aces, Venus-6). And speaking of serves, most women’s matches feature a number of breaks. Over 36 service games in this match, there were only 2 breaks of serve, at the end of the first set when Venus broke Petra to take the first set and when Petra returned the favor in the last game to take the match. The only other break chance was in the first game of the match, but Venus fought it off to hold. It’s extremely rare, men or women, to have BOTH players hitting all out on groundstrokes and serves without at least one of them spraying shots or dropping serves with inopportune double faults or just simply running out of gas from the effort. That didn’t happen here. This was a tennis master class from two of Wimbledon’s shining champions.
Where do they go from here? For Venus, at 34 she showed that on a good day she’s still capable of gorgeous tennis. The issue is how many good days does she have in her. Her age is one factor. Nobody beats the clock. Her medical condition, Sjogren’s Syndrome, is also a factor. She says there’s another Major title in her. If she plays like she did against Kvitova on a consistent basis, that could turn out to be true. But the fact is, there will be days when her body won’t bounce back and be there for her, no matter her heart and will. I’m not counting her out of winning tournaments. After all, she won Dubai earlier this year. I’m just saying she’ll have to hit windows of time when her health is holding up to do so. For Petra, she moves on to the fourth round and a date with Peng Shuai. Kvitova is 4-0 against Peng. But as any Petra fan can tell you, she is fully capable of following a classic performance against Venus with an awful performance against Peng Shuai. Kvitova can win this tournament no matter who is across the net, if she’s playing at her best. She’s also capable of being run off the court in her next match. I hope we get the best of Petra going forward.
It was a tremendous day for women from the Czech Republic. Petra took out Venus. Tereza Smitkova ousted Bojana Jovanovski. Lucie Safarova upset Dominika Cibulkova. But the biggest shock of the day was Barbora Zahlavova Strycova knocking off the #2 seed Li Na, 7-6 (5) 7-6 (5). This match probably had more tension than the Petra-Venus match, if only because it looked like neither player wanted to take control as it stayed tight but sloppy throughout. Both Li Na and Barbora eclipsed 30 unforced errors in 2 sets. Li Na was at 37 unforced errors. That many errors in only 2 sets will usually get you beaten unless A) you hit even more winners, but Li Na didn’t or B) your opponent is making mistakes also, which was the case here. That said, I must tip my hat to Zahlavova Strycova for finally beating a top 10 player, something she had never previously accomplished. With the bottom half of the draw opened up now, Barbora has a chance to have a dream tournament.
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BARBORA ZAHLAVOVA STRYCOVA (won 7-6 (5) 7-6 (5) vs 2 Li Na)
3 SIMONA HALEP (won 6-3 4-6 6-4 vs Lesia Tsurenko)
4 AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA (won 6-2 6-0 vs Michelle Larcher de Brito)
6 PETRA KVITOVA (won 5-7 7-6 (2) 7-5 vs 30 Venus Williams)
23 LUCIE SAFAROVA (won 6-4 6-2 vs 10 Dominika Cibulkova)
16 CAROLINE WOZNIACKI (won 6-3 6-0 vs Ana Konjuh)