We are nearing the end of the journey for 4 players today as the women’s quarter-final of The Championships, Wimbledon was played today. After Manic Monday, I always feel as if Ladies Tuesday is the calm after the storm. The story lines for me that always headline Ladies Day is which of the 8 players had the easiest match physically and who will be well prepared to play back to back matches, the only time in these Championships that anyone is required to do so (unless of course you are Novak Djokovic).
Today 8 women, the final 8 out of a 128 player draw took to the courts to vie for a spot in the final 4. Sounds like an episode of Survivor and frankly this is what these Championships are. It is tennis’ own version of Survivor. With the exception of the Timea/Garbine match, every single one of these matches went to 3 sets. The upstart of this final 8 was Coco Vandeweghe. Long considered a prodigy of the California tennis establishment, Coco has seen her game revived in leaps and bounds. 1 year removed from winning her first WTA Tour title, Coco finally made her way past the third round of a Major for the first time in her career. She did so by taking out seeded players along the way and pushed 2004 champion Maria Sharapova to 3 sets.
Not to be outdone, Madison Keys pushed her way to a third set against 2012 finalist, Aga Radwanska. Using her new found confidence, huge serves and even bigger groundstrokes, Keys did all she could to make her way into the final 4, but as with Coco it was not meant to be. All in all for me it was a great showing by 2 youngsters who were pitting their skills against veterans of this fantastic sport.
However, before play even commenced, Djokovic, current ATP NO. 1 and defender of this title took to the court to finish his round of 16 match. There were many in tennis land who felt that Djokovic’s one set would overshadow the women’s final 8 tournament. I don’t know which tournament they have been watching, but if one set of tennis is going to overshadow a block buster day of tennis, then the women need to pack their bags and cede their position.
By the end of the day’s events, no one remembered that Djokovic had played 1 set of tennis. No one remembered that men’s doubles were being played. What everyone will remember was the scintillating and dare I say exciting matches that were played by all 8 women who took to the court today.
Garbine Muguruza from Spain by way of Venezuela, made her way to the final 4 by hitting big and showing us that her mental game that she used to good effect against Angelique Kerber was still intact. She needed that and then some to take out Swiss Miss Timea Bascinszky in a thrilling straight set win.
Maria Sharapova served for the match at 5-4 in the second set. She would get broken and then lose a tight tiebreak to force a decider. She prevailed in 3 but it was not without drama as there were allegations of poor sportsmanship levelled against her by Vandeweghe. .
Over on Court 1, Aga Radwanska, a finalist here in 2012 had her hands full in trying to overcome Madison Keys. She prevailed in 3 tough sets. Her tears of joy after winning told you what this win meant for her.
Whitney Houston said it best. I am saving all my love for you. The WTA as it does so well at these events, saved the best for last. Serena Williams going up against Victoria Azarenka. Like true love, it is always important to wait for the right one to come along.
From the sound of the first ball leaving the racquet of Azarenka to the first winner of the match, hit by Serena Williams, we all knew that we would be on the ride of our lives. Crisp clean hitting, big serving, magnificent rallies. This match had it all and then some. There were emotions. Emotions of the highest order. In fact, it could not be a Vika//Serena match without a code violation for audible obscenity. These two women really do bring out the best and worst in each other.
When the stories of their lives are written and their tennis careers are over, the stories will be that Serena had a massive head to head over Azarenka. However, that will never tell the true story as this is really our generation’s Evert/Navratilova moment. It had everything because at the end of the day these are 2 of the fiercest competitors on the WTA but at the end, the hug at the net showed us how much love and respect these 2 women had for each other.
But, despite all of that, despite all of the great tennis that was played today, this is what the journalists in attendance at the press conferences chose to magnify and this is what happened on Twitter after 8 women showcased their talent for all the world to see:
And since this is Wimbledon, where would we be without the everlasting grunting ,shrieking, screaming debate. However, this time around, Azarenka was not having any of it and she let the press in the media center know her thoughts. It was great.
For all the success that she has had on the women’s tour, I find Martina’s comments about today’s game and today’s players quite intolerable. The women get a bad rap all the time and they have to fight against the sexism in how their chosen profession is covered, I mean seriously, most of the people who write about tennis for the major news outlets are white and male. It does not help that fans get fed this steady diet of the men’s game being far superior to the women’s game. Paulsen survey says that is a damn lie as for the last 3 or 4 Slams the women’s have outranked the men in terms of popularity. Why then must we continue to hear this negative press surrounding the women? Why, after a wonderful Ladies Day, when 8 women competed to the best of their ability to move one step further in a tournament beloved by all, should the narrative be about headphones and grunting?
Rob Koenig, no fan of the women’s game, came out in support of Martina’s comment about the wearing of headphones. Most fans out in Twitterland are of the view that this is a non-issue designed specifically to downplay the great tennis that was being played today. We had veterans finding a way to win a match, youngsters doing something that has not been done for their country in years and yet, former pros at the highest level can only talk about headphones and disrespecting fans.
Centre Court stood on its feet and gave a standing ovation 2 times this fortnight that I personally witnessed. They stood and applauded Heather Watson after her losing effort in the third round against Serena Williams and they stood and applauded Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams after their quarter final match today. They also stood and applauded Coco Vandeweghe when she asked them to rise up and appreciate the tennis.
I don’t think the fans on Centre Court felt that they were being disrespected. I think they believed they got their money’s worth and then some. Frankly, they are probably wondering when does this happen again.