Day 1 has come and gone. I was home all day yesterday so I got an opportunity to see first to last ball. It was glorious. I loved every ground stroke, every volley, every serve and every argument about whether a ball was in or out. I loved hearing the umpire saying ready … play. As you can no doubt imagine, The Championships, Wimbledon is my absolute favourite tennis tournament.
However, there was one dark mark on Day One and it concerned Venus Williams. I have seen Venus cry before, but they were happy tears. It was 2005 and she had won Wimbledon that year. She was at the Essence Awards where she was being awarded the Woman in Courage Award. In her acceptance speech she broke down in tears when she talked about losing all the time. She was laughing through her tears but you could feel that this moment and that award meant so much to her. From time to time I will go back and watch that video on YouTube and renew once again my love for this absolutely extraordinary woman.
A few days before the start of Wimbledon, I happened upon a TMZ article which mentioned that Venus had been involved in a motor vehicle accident. I shared it with a friend hoping that the news was mere rumour (as in someone driving Venus’ car), rather than Venus herself being involved. Turns out the article was true. I was devastated for not only Venus, but also the family who had lost a loved one in the accident. I do not know who was at fault. That is something for a court hearing arguments from both sides are yet to determine. Suffice it to say that there will be no winners whatever the outcome.
After her hard fought first round win against a very game Elise Mertens, Venus broke down in her press conference. It was heartbreaking to watch this wonderful woman break down at the thought that she was involved, through inadvertence or otherwise, through the taking of a life. I don’t believe that Venus was crying for herself. I believe more than anything her emotional breakdown had more to do with the fact that someone had lost their life.
There were many folks on Twitter, myself included, who felt that journalists who covered the sport should possibly have not asked that question. I disagree. Journalists are there to do their jobs. As we know they don’t always do that, but in this case, they did have a responsibility to at least ask the question. I suspect no one realised that Venus’ reaction would have been so emotional. Here’s hoping that as the Championships continue, Venus will be able to regain her composure and try in some way shape or form to put this whole incident, not behind her, but to not keep it at the forefront of her thoughts.
My thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time.
Day One Recap
Maria Sharapova is not absent due to injury. She is absent because she is not qualified to play in the Championships. It is not as if she was eligible to play in the first place.
I love Jelena Ostapenko’s game. I love her fight and I love that all aspects of her emotion is on display for all to see. After taking the first set 6-0 in her opening round match, her game went off the boil in the second set, but she recovered and took the match in 3. Tennis has a way of selling everything via narratives. During Ostapenko’s match yesterday, Chris Evert kept telling everyone that after winning the French Open, all the players will now be doing the same thing that Ostapenko did. That is the same false narrative that was being touted when Muguruza won the French, and when Kerber won the Australian and US Open, when Vinci beat Serena at the US Open and when Pennetta won the US Open. It is a false narrative. Each player on the WTA Tour makes their own destiny. There is no Muguruza, Ostapenko or Kerber effect.
Victoria Azarenka had an incredibly tough opening round match against young up and comer, Cici Bellis. It took her 3 sets to see off the young American, but boy was it good to see her back. She struggled in the first set but once she had found her game, it was like seeing the Azarenka of old. I have zero expectations for her at this tournament, but a round one victory is a great victory.
Simona Halep and Madison Keys made quick work of their opponents, taking them out in straight sets. Eugenie Bouchard did not. Carla Suarez-Navarro has never been a grass court player, but she has been playing very well on the surface this season. Bouchard, a finalist at Wimbledon a few years ago, started strong, but seemed to either run out of gas, or run out of ideas down the stretch. There is no doubt that there is either a mental or physical reset on the cards for Bouchard. Surely, she can’t keep blaming the US Open fall for her dismal results?
Better writers than myself have written about Kvitova’s return. I will not. I will however say that I am glad that she has recovered from the injuries that she suffered as a result of the invasion of her home. However, tennis needs to stop with folks wearing t-shirts promoting courage and fight etc. It is demeaning to what Kvitova went through. Not every moment deserves a social media hashtag or a t-shirt emblazoned with someone’s face on it or words of inspiration. The fact that Kvitova is able to once again play tennis and not live in constant fear is a victory in and of itself.
Day Two Preview
Sloane Stephens makes her return to tennis today. She plays Alison Riske. This is a tough match for both women. Stephens is a former semifinalist here and Riske has been having some really good results. It is a bummer of a draw.
Also playing today is Garbine Muguruza going up against Alexandrova. Also playing today is Angelique Kerber, Aga Radwanska who has a tough first round against Jelena Jankovic. That match is no doubt going to be my match of the day. Also playing today is Karolina Pliskova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Kristina Mladenovic and Kiki Bertens (who has already lost to Sorana Cirstea).