Venus shows flashes of vintage form
Who saw this one coming?
Venus Williams beat younger sister Serena, the No. 1-ranked player, in the Montreal semifinals this past weekend. Cynics might suspect it was a reward for Venus' remarkable restraint during Serena's doubles meltdown at Wimbledon. In any case, Venus -- at the venerable age of 34 -- is rising once again.
Quickly now, to our latest tennis trending list: This week's Up or Down after a chaotic week at the Rogers Cup.
No. 1 Serena Williams: There were three stout straight-set victories over formidable opponents -- Sam Stosur, Lucie Safarova and Caroline Wozniacki, but ... that loss to Venus merely underlines the fragility that has crept into Serena's game. You have to wonder if she's going to have to wait until next year to join Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert with that 18th Grand Slam singles title.
No. 4 Petra Kvitova: A disappointing performance for the Wimbledon champion, losing to Ekaterina Makarova in her second match in Montreal. The No. 2 seed (and defending champion) lost control of her serve in a contest that was interrupted twice by rain.
No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska: Give her credit -- Radwanska usually wins the matches she's supposed to. The 25-year-old Pole beat recovering Victoria Azarenka in the Montreal quarters and eventually won the title over Venus in the final.
No. 6 Maria Sharapova: Likewise, the reigning French Open champion did not fare well in a rainy third-round loss to Carla Suarez Navarro. Sharapova had a tough time in her first match, a three-set win over another Spaniard, ascendant Garbine Muguruza. Sharapova said she struggled to find her rhythm early in the match; she has two weeks to find it before the US Open begins.
No. 8 Eugenie Bouchard: The 20-year-old Canadian struggled with the pressure that comes with playing as a home favorite. She fell in three sets to American qualifier Shelby Rogers, losing both sets by 6-0 scores. Perhaps playing in this week's Cincinnati venue will bring lower expectations -- and more freedom to swing big -- for Bouchard.
No. 10 Victoria Azarenka: Ordinarily, a two-time Grand Slam champion needs more than a pair of wins over unseeded players at a Premier 5 event to avoid a thumbs-down, but there are extenuating circumstances here. Azarenka came in with a 1-5 record since suffering a foot injury Down Under in January. In Montreal, she beat Serena slayer Alize Cornet and qualifier Heather Watson before falling to an in-form Radwanska.
No. 12 Caroline Wozniacki: The former world No. 1 got to the Montreal quarterfinals and showed a more aggressive game in a three-set loss to Serena Williams. Wozniacki has pulled herself together nicely after breaking up with golfer Rory McIlroy, winning eight of her past nine matches, including the title at Istanbul.
No. 20 Venus Williams: After losing in the second round at Roland Garros and the third at Wimbledon, it looked like she was no longer a threat to go deep at important tournaments. But Venus reached the quarters at Stanford, then put together an impressive run in Montreal, beating Angelique Kerber in the third round and Suarez Navarro in the quarters. Venus, who jumped six spots in the rankings this week, has now won $30 million-plus in her career.