Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wimbledon Day 8 Results: Venus and Clijsters Crumble; Serena and Kvitova Reaches Semis

Both Petra Kvitova and Kaia Kanepi entered their Wimbledon quarterfinal match as newcomers to the latter stages of Grand Slams. While the young Kvitova's career is on the rise, Kanepi has been around for quite a while, and after reaching a career high of no. 18 a few years ago, the Estonian had a streak of 11 consecutive first-round losses in 2009. It didn't take long for Kvitova's nerves to creep in, as the Czech dropped the first set 6-4. She saved 3 match points in the 2nd set tie-break to force a third set, where, again, she got off to a slow start. Kanepi dominated to take a 4-0 lead before Kvitova showed her mental toughness in coming back to win 8-6, saving a total of 5 match points.

Kvitova was honest and blunt in her press conference afterwards, getting laughs when she was asked if she believes she can be the 2010 Wimbledon champion, and answering, "No, I don't think so. I don't think so, no."

Stranger things have happened.

Unlucky for the 66th ranked Kvitova, her semifinal opponent will be Serena Williams (don't blame her for undermining her chances when she's playing the world number 1). Serena avoided joining the day's group of shock casualties by turning in yet another excellent serving performance in her 7-5, 6-3 win over 9th seed Li Na. The 12-time Major champ served 11 aces and was able to fend off Na, who was on pace to take the opener before dropping a 40-0 service game. The victory puts Serena in her 5th semi in the last 7 majors.

The stunner of the day was Tsvetana Pironkova. The 82nd ranked Bulgarian sent shock waves around the All-England Club and the tennis world, eliminating Venus Williams, a 5-time Wimbledon champion and world number 2, 6-2, 6-3. Venus lost 5 straight games from 2-2 in the first, ending the match with 29 errors, just 3 aces, and 5 double faults. Pironkova hit with power but was much steadier than Williams, who erratically lost her chance at gaining her 6th Venus Rosewater Dish. Pironkova, 22, showed her variety with her slice forehand and called the upset victory "like a dream."

Despite the devastating loss, Venus was very composed in her press conference adamantly reminding tennis fans that she's not going anywhere when asked if losses like this one make her want to pursue other things. "Well, why wouldn’t I want to pursue this? I’m pretty good at it most days. Today I didn’t seem to be the best tennis player, but for the most part, I rock and roll this game. I’ll give it up when I’m just terrible. It would take more than just a few bad days in a year to make me quit tennis. So that’s not even in the equation."

The second surprise upset of the day was at the hands of the usually emotionally-shaky Vera Zvonareva. The 21st seed lost the first set 6-4 of her match with Kim Clijsters but kept her focus, forcing a deciding set after taking the second 6-4. Clijsters than collapsed in the 3rd, hitting wandering forehands and showing vulnerability in her serve. Zvonareva took the final set easily 6-2 to reach her second career GS semifinal, the first being at the 2009 Australian Open. The Russian also converted 4 of her 13 break point opportunities, while Clijsters blew many of hers with unforced errors that totaled 36 by the conclusion of the match.

Zvonareva and Serena will both be heavy favorite to advance to the finals.

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