The round of 16 Ladies Singles draw at Wimbledon 2015 features (at least for me) a quarter of the participants being from the United States. It’s a mix of established multiple Major winners and rising stars of the next generation. Before I get to the final four, let me give an honorable mention to Sloane Stephens. She had been playing as well, if not better, than the other rising American stars coming into Wimbledon. But sometimes it’s all in the draw. She drew #6 seed Lucie Safarova, whose been playing great tennis of late. Sloane gave her a decent match, but ultimately fell. With that said, let me get to the final four Americans.
I mentioned how drawing Safarova hurt Sloane Stephens. The opposite happened for my favorite player, Madison Keys. 12th seed Eugenie Bouchard falling in the first round meant Maddie would not face her in a potential third round match. 8th seed Ekaterina Makarova losing in the second round meant Keys would avoid facing a seeded player until the quarterfinals, if she makes it that far. The way Genie has been playing, I don’t know that Maddie wouldn’t have beaten her anyway. That said, with a potential quarter against the Agnieszka Radwanska vs Jelena Jankovic winner, Maddie cannot let herself look past Olga Govortsova. Olga took out 25th seed Alize Cornet, who beat Serena Williams here last year, and up and coming Ana Konjuh. Maddie won their only head to head but that was in Miami qualifying back in 2012. That means nothing now. If Keys plays the way she is capable of playing, with that aces leading serve (for the women’s singles draw) and big forehand while minimizing unforced errors, she has the game to beat Govortsova. If Maddie goes out thinking she’ll handle Olga just by showing up…well, that’s not going to work.
Sloane Stephens came up short trying to stop Lucie Safarova’s streak of good play. Next up to give it a try will be Coco Vandeweghe. Coco has been a revelation so far. Not only is she beating seeded players like #11 Karolina Pliskova and #22 Samantha Stosur, the way she completely blew Stosur off the court 2 and love gave a glimpse of the power game that many hardcore tennis aficionados imaged she possessed. And she’s been making waves in New York off the court. Vandeweghe, the niece of former NBA player and GM Kiki Vandeweghe and granddaughter of former New York Knicks guard Ernie Vandeweghe, was asked about the state of her favorite NBA team. Part of her answer included Coco calling the Knicks’ star player, Carmelo Anthony, soft.
Don’t look now, but Venus Williams is playing like she might still have a Wimbledon run in her. The 5-time Ladies Singles champion has looked to be in good form through her first three matches. Let’s not forget that last year, as Petra Kvitova was rolling to her second Wimbledon title, that it was Venus who by far gave Kvitova her sternest test. In my opinion, it was not only the highest quality women’s match of 2015, it was one of the highest quality matches I’ve seen in many years. I don’t know if Venus has another day like that in her. She will need to have it. Up next is her sister, Serena. Venus beat Serena last year on hard court in Montreal. That was then, we’ll see about now.
Of the four remaining Americans in the Ladies Singles draw, surprisingly the one who came closest to not being there is Serena Williams. Heather Watson had the 5-time Wimbledon singles champion down 0-3 in the final set. But we saw as recently as Roland Garros 2015 that getting Serena down is one thing. Keeping her down is quite another. Against Watson, she showed what she has throughout her entire illustrious career; that she has one of the greatest champion’s hearts in the history of all women’s sports. When she is determined to get the job done, it’s rare that she comes up short. That said, she will need to up her game if she is to get by her sister, Venus. A lot is on the line. The calendar year Grand Slam. Another Serena Slam. A chance for her 21st Major title is singles, 1 shy of Steffi Graf. Serena’s main opponent long ago ceased being her contemporaries. She is competing with history.