Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Tandon's Wimbledon live blog -- Day 8
By Kamakshi Tandon
Special to ESPN.com
Need the inside scoop on all the latest news, results and gossip during the 2009 Wimbledon Championships? Our fearless blogger Kamakshi Tandon is on hand to fill you in on all the happenings every day. Don't hesitate to ask your questions.
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 7
11:12 a.m. ET: Go figure: Serena is making her debut on Centre Court at this year's event, while Azarenka played her third-round match here last week.
Apparently, the scheduling committee recently admitted that "good looks" are a factor in deciding who plays on Centre. (What's stupider -- doing it or admitting you do it?)
Anyway, both Serena and Azarenka are on Centre now -- expect a rip-roaring, power-hitting, high-shrieking contest between these two, who have split their two injury-afflicted matches this year.
Enjoy, and see you tomorrow at 8 a.m. ET for the men's quarterfinals.
10:58 a.m. ET: While all the drama was going on on Centre, Elena Dementieva moved quickly past Francesca Schiavone 6-2, 6-2. Dementieva has cruised through the tournament so far and said she was focused on being aggressive and keeping it quick today because of the heat.
Tough to see Dementieva beating Serena in the semis, but if Azarenka pulls off the upset today, you never know.
10:50 a.m. ET: And Safina is through, quite easily in the end -- 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-1.
Some interesting comments from Safina on her troubles -- she served 15 double-faults today, almost equal to the 16 she served in her previous four matches at this tournament.
After cracking, "I was Santa Claus out there today," Safina mentioned that her knee tendinitis might be the root cause. "I was having trouble with my knees and I lost a little bit of the rhythm today," she said, adding that she's serving fine in practice.
10:45 a.m. ET: Speaking of physical combat, the New York Post reports that Anna Kournikova got into a fight at a Las Vegas nightclub Saturday night after a woman allegedly threw a drink at her. In response, Kournikova allegedly began to scream at the woman and shove her. The woman reportedly was kicked out, but not before leaving Kournikova "with some vicious scratch marks on her neck," the Post reports.
It's just like the good old days when she and Martina Hingis would throw flowers and vases at each other in the locker room.
When are those two coming back as doubles players? Aside from the glamor quotient, they were two of the best doubles players of any generation.
10:38 a.m. ET: There was a bit of controversy involving Lisicki Monday, as well -- she and Caroline Wozniacki had a bump on one of the changeovers, with Lisicki seemingly more the "bumper" and Wozniacki the "bumpee."
Lisicki's version: "We've been changing the sides all the time, you know, the whole match. I was always passing on the left side and she was passing on the right side. So, I don't know. She all of a sudden went to the side I was passing all the time, and we just bumped each other."
10:32 a.m. ET: Lisicki has just called the trainer for treatment on her right calf. She's down 4-1 in the third. Let the gamesmanship discussions begin, though it must be said it's VERY hot out there and the match has been going on for 2 hours, 15 minutes.
10:28 a.m. ET: TV figures just in: Andy Murray's match against Stanislas Wawrinka was watched by 12 million people Monday night -- a 54 percent share. That's well above the 10 million who watched Murray's classic against Richard Gasquet last year.
10:21 a.m. ET: E-mail comment from allgrlband:
I really wish the U.S. commentators would make more of an effort to pronounce Safina's name correctly. Please remind them that the first "a" is pronounced with a long "a" sound, as in apple. -- allgrlband
The media guide says "SAFF-ee-nuh," which is also what we've all called her for years. But since the French Open, the commentators' instructions have been to call her "SAFF-in-nah," apparently at Dinara's own request.
A phonetically correct pronunciation is important to some players, while others are happy to settle for an Anglicized version that's easier to pronounce. Personally, I don't mind what players go with as long as they pick one and pick one early. After a certain point, recognition trumps correctness.
I know from whence I speak -- just take a look at the byline on the top of this blog!
10:12 a.m. ET: And after a crazy, marathon game, Lisicki has broken back to level the third set at 1-1.
I'll just describe the last three points to you -- a beautiful drop shot from Lisicki, a double-fault from Safina and a let-cord winner for Lisicki.
Skill, nerves and pure dumb luck -- that's this match in a nutshell.
10:06 a.m. ET: A shaky game, but Safina holds to level at a set apiece, and then a good opportunistic game to break Lisicki in the first game of the third.
Ha, guess I did know what I was talking about re: the Safina mental strength topic ... no, wait, she's now double-faulted to go down break point on her own serve.
Sigh. You try to figure these gals out.
10 a.m. ET: Some injury news from today -- Rafael Nadal will miss Spain's Davis Cup tie against Germany next week. The knees/personal troubles saga continues, and it's not clear if Nadal will return for the start of the summer hard-court Masters events, either.
Anyone think this break may actually increase his chances at the U.S. Open, assuming he's recovered by then?
Also, Ana Ivanovic has a micro-tear in the left thigh, but it is "not expected to affect her playing schedule," according to her team.
9:51 a.m. ET: Lisicki has just double-faulted to give Safina a 4-3 lead in the second, so the battle of nerves continues on Centre Court. Francesca Schiavone and Elena Dementieva are just getting under way on Court 1.
The big match of the day is Serena Williams versus Victoria Azarenka, which is next up on Centre. Azarenka was leading Williams in the fourth round of the Australian Open before having to retire with illness, and defeated an injured Serena in the Miami final.
The second Tuesday of Wimbledon always features the four women's quarterfinals. Cruelly, it's sometimes called "garbage day" -- no, not a reference to the quality of the matches, but because the crowds tend to be relatively lighter and local residents get a little respite to sweep up their lawns, put out the garbage, etc.
But though women's tennis isn't at its height of popularity at the moment, there really has been an increase in depth, and a number of competitive matches now take place in the early stages of the tournament (even though the later rounds can be disappointing).
Before, a top player could afford to work her way into the tournament. Now, if she's not playing well from the get-go, she'll be bundled out very quickly. That's a real difference from 10 years ago.
9:29 a.m. ET: Let's swivel back to Court No. 1 for what looks like the end of the Venus-Radwanska match.
It's been two tennis big sisters out here -- Venus of course has Serena, while Agnieszka plays big sis to bubbly little Urszula. Just like Venus, Aggie seems like the more serious one -- coincidence, or a function of the greater responsibilities that older siblings usually face?
Well, there's no time to contemplate that any longer as Venus wraps up an easy victory 6-1, 6-2.
The five-time champ is looking formidable. What's going to stop her from taking a sixth title, except perhaps that heavily strapped knee or little sister Serena?
"I can't complain," said Venus about the knee as she walked off court, and apparently she's not worrying about facing Serena, either. On the possibility of an all-Williams final, Venus said, "That would be fantastic."
9:17 a.m. ET: Drama in the tiebreaker between Safina and Lisicki, which Lisicki takes 7-5.
The question was: Could Lisicki bounce back after losing serve?
"Ja," replied the German, clocking a return winner to go up two mini-breaks at 4-1 in the tiebreaker. But then came a double-fault, followed by a very short serve at 6-3 that Safina immediately pounced on. Then an attempted forehand winner sailed just wide.
But having got back on serve, Safina promptly double-faulted to hand Lisicki the set; Safina smashed her racket on the turf with enough force to impress even her brother Marat.
Now it's Safina who has to bounce back, while I reconsider the nonsense I was spouting earlier about Safina's acquired mental strength.
9:04 a.m. ET: They're heading into a tiebreaker on Centre Court, but let's take a quick look at what's been happening on Court No. 1.
Venus' serve really deserted her in her first service game of the second set -- just one first serve, one double-fault, a couple of errors at the end of long rallies, and Radwanska is up 2-0.
But Radwanska is going to have a constant problem holding her own serve, which makes it hard to see how she can really win this match. She did a great job mixing up the spin and placement in that last rally at 30-40, but Venus eventually was able to take charge and get the short put-away.
Radwanska is hanging in the rallies pretty well, but those 68 mph puff second serves are killing her.
9:01 a.m. ET: And it's two straight aces from Lisicki to put her one game away from the first set at 5-3. She's certainly playing well enough to win this match, but will her nerve hold up as she gets close to her first Grand Slam semifinal?
Ah -- sure enough, Lisicki tightens up a bit serving for the set at 5-4 and Safina is right there to take advantage.
It seems strange for those of us who remember her a couple of years ago, but Safina's mental strength has really become an asset for her over the past 14 months. Unless it's a Grand Slam final, Safina now steps up at the big moments like a true top player -- remember the fight-back from 5-2 down in the third set against Alize Cornet at the Australian Open?
Poor Cornet has not been the same since. And now it's Lisicki who must face serving to stay in the set at 5-6 after serving for it just a few minutes ago.
8:42 a.m. ET: And Venus has the first set 6-1, wrapping it up with two straight aces. She's lost just two points on serve so far.
Radwanska, meanwhile, is 12-for-27 -- ouch.
8:38 a.m. ET: Meanwhile, Venus has started strong and is overpowering Radwanska 5-0. It could have been 6-0 save for a few errors from Venus late in the sixth game to make it 5-1.
So Radwanska is on the board -- but can she make any impression on this match if Venus keeps playing well?
8:31 a.m. ET: Safina just double-faulted to put Lisicki up 2-1 in the first set. Despite all her recent success, it's a surprise to even see her getting this far at Wimbledon -- she talks about how "angry" she feels on the unpredictable grass and has been taking anti-inflammatories to keep her knee tendinitis under control.
Safina's single-minded mantra is "aggression," but she'll find it tough to be the aggressor in every single point because of Lisicki's power.
Lisicki, 19, has been fearless in her past couple of matches, and so far it looks like she's in the same frame of mind today. She's hitting out freely, and Safina is making errors.
The fourth game of the match has become a marathon and could set the tone for the rest of the set.
8:25 a.m. ET: Broadly speaking, what we have in the first two quarterfinals is two top players against two rising youngsters. But Radwanska and Lisicki are as different as can be.
Radwanska is a like a new version of Anastasia Myskina -- she's steady and fast and uses variety as much as power to win points. Her serve is a big weakness, and Venus is already pouncing on it. The defending champion is up 2-0 in the first set.
Lisicki, meanwhile, is a more typical power player and is known most for her big serve. Her forehand is also a strength -- as I mentioned yesterday, the German press has already combined big-serving Boris Becker's "Boom-Boom" nickname and Steffi Graf's "Fraulein Forehand" moniker and are calling Lisicki "Fraulein Boom-Boom."
That's some pressure, but she's already putting those weapons into use -- it's 1-1 against Safina and Lisicki is holding break point.
8:12 a.m. ET: "TWO DAY QUEUE FOR MURRAY" shout today's newspaper billboards to the mass of people marching down Church Road on their way to the All England Club.
The place is still buzzing from Andy Murray's late-night thriller against Stanislas Wawrinka under the roof. Commentators compared it to the Glastonbury music festival that is taking place elsewhere in the country, and there was certainly something different about Monday night -- the crowd's roars reverberating in the closed stadium and Centre Court glowing like a jewel in the dark. The whole evening schedule on BBC 1 was pre-empted for the match, which Murray let slip from his grasp a couple of times before finally running out three games in a row to finish the fifth set.
But that was yesterday, and today is women's quarterfinal day. Dinara Safina and Sabine Lisicki have just walked out on Centre Court, and Agnieszka Radwanska is finishing her warm-up up on Court 1 without her opponent Venus Williams. Venus has disappeared for a moment -- did she forget something, or is that the earliest bathroom break in history?
8 a.m. ET: Welcome to Day 8 of the Wimbledon Championships. It's women's quarterfinal day. Here's your lineup:
Dinara Safina (RUS)  vs. Sabine Lisicki (GER)
Victoria Azarenka (BLR)  vs. Serena Williams (USA) 
Venus Williams (USA) vs. Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 
Francesca Schiavone (ITA) vs. Elena Dementieva (RUS) 
Stop back at 8 a.m. for full coverage of the day's events.
Keep those e-mails (email@example.com) coming, as I also will be answering your questions and comments throughout the day.