Google Down the Line!: 2014-06-15

Friday, June 20, 2014

WIMBLEDON: Centre Court is calling, ladies

The Wimbledon draws are out for the gentlemen and the ladies. Here are the lady ballers I’ll be keeping an eye on over this fortnight. I’ll post about the boys this weekend.

Maria Sharapova. The newly reminted French Open champ dug deep in her last four matches on the slippery stuff and willed her way to the title. We’re used to seeing her tenacity and determination in the face of adversity, but this time it was even more impressive. Her fitness is clearly at a ridic level, too. While the clay did favors for one of her biggest weaknesses, the serve, the grass won’t be as forgiving. The Russian’s serve, when it’s off, is much more of a liability on the grass. I don’t think the 5-time Grand Slammer will get away with hitting 12 double faults in any match as she did in the RG final. She can play a bit of defense and find a way back into points on the clay, but on grass it’s much harder when the points are quicker. Her best chance is to be on the offense – at ALL times. After completing the Career Slam in Paris in 2012, she made it to the fourth round at the All England Club. It wouldn’t surprise me if she maxed out there again.

Serena Williams. We’ve seen this one before. ReRe loses in the first round of the 2012 French Open and then goes on an absolute, historic tear on the WTA Tour. She hates to lose, nevermind losing at a Slam to an up-and-comer (see Wimbledon 2004), and early at that. Aside from crashing weddings and posing with Usain Bolt, I’m sure the 17-time Grand Slammer has been practicing her legendary serve since she openly berated it during that second round loss to Garbine Muguruza. ReRe will need it if she’s to match Chris Evert’s and Martina Navratilova’s 18 major titles. It’s not clear whether the loss in Australia (sure, she had a back issue) combined with the defeat to the young Spaniard in Paris were anomalies, or a sign of real demise in the legend’s power game. Wimbledon will give us all a better idea, including ReRe herself.

Simona Halep. What a story Simona continues to write. She wasn’t even ranked inside the Top 50 during last year’s French Open, but seven titles later she reached her first Grand Slam final. Can she make it consecutive major final appearances at Wimbledon? You’d be a fool to bet against her at this stage. The Romanian has made steady progress for the last year, culminating in her inspiring play against the bigger hitting Sharapova. It wasn’t quite enough that day, but she’s on the cusp. The big question is how will she recover from being that close to raising the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen? Will she see the positives in her play, or will she feel a mental, and maybe physical, hangover from the Paris fortnight? Here’s how the last four runner-ups did at Wimbledon a few weeks after their runs: Maria Sharapova (2013) – 2nd round; Sara Errani (2012) – 1st round; Francesca Schiavone (2011) – 3rd round; and Sam Stosur (2010) – 1st round. Hope she’s not a history buff.

Eugenie Bouchard. Genie sure does impress. Making consecutive final four appearances at a major is pretty huge, as evidenced by the fact that she’s the only lady baller on the tour to have achieved the feat so far this year. The 20-year old Canadian is gritty, aggressive, and wants it BADLY. And, she’s not afraid to say so even if it adds pressure, which she seems to thrive on. Like Simona, she played lights out tennis against Sharapova in their semifinal for a long stretch. But, like Simona, she couldn’t sustain it and buckled under the unrelenting power of the Russian’s game. Wimbledon 2013 is where I first realized the size of Genie’s talent. When she easily upended Ana Ivanovic in the second round, I took notice and thought she was beginning to come into her own. But she’s moved faster than even I expected (she doesn’t seem surprised by any of this…at all). Genie’s low stance and early, flat hitting will serve her well in a few weeks. If she breaks through to her first Grand Slam final, watch out.

Li Na. I’m never sure what to make of Li Na (and I venture to guess I’m not alone). The 2-time Grand Slammer is an enigma of the highest degree. She can confidently and methodically play a match, gracefully gliding across the court, and hitting winners with a sniper’s precision. Then, without warning, she can become harried and desperate, frantically spraying errors like a water hose gone wild. It seemingly comes down to her belief that, unlike ReRe or Sharapova, isn’t inborn and made of tough stuff. It’s learned, which means it could unravel when the conditions aren’t just right. We saw it happen in her opening round loss at Roland Garros, her semifinal against ReRe at last year’s U.S. Open, etc. Unfortunately, the slick stuff at Wimbledon isn’t where she feels the most comfortable – she’s never been past the quarterfinals in seven tries.

Ana Ivanovic. After being favored to go deep in Paris, the Serb was dumped out early by her left-handed nemesis, Lucie Safarova. But Ana has bounced back nicely, winning her first grass-court title at Birmingham. Although she made the semifinals at Wimbledon back in 2007, it’s a surface she has clearly needed time to work out. The former top lady baller should have a game tailor made for the slick stuff – big serve and return, and massive forehand - but it hasn’t quite worked out that way until last week. Ana will certainly be walking onto the pristine grass of the All England Club with the most confidence she has had since her breakthrough year in 2008.

Agnieszka Radwanska. Going from her least favorite surface to what’s been her best surface in the last two years should make Aga happy. On the clay, big hitters can easily overpower her and hit through her ingenious defenses, as we saw when she fell to young Croat Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round of Paris. But the grass really takes to her slice-and-dice game, giving her shots a bit more oomph and pushing her to a finals appearance in 2012 (taking ReRe to 3 sets) and a semifinal spot last season (losing to Sabine Lisicki). What’s been worrisome to see is her inability to seize the opportunities presented to her, including winnable matches in that semifinal match at Wimby last year and at the same stage in Melbourne this year against Dominika Cibulkova. She’s come out flat and uninspired. Hopefully if Aga gets ANOTHER chance to prove her mettle when it matters, she’ll make good.

Others to eyeball:

Andrea Petkovic. There’s a reason why Petko’s highest winning percentage is on clay (73%) and the lowest is grass (50%): her serve. It’s a glaring weakness because the rest of her game is solid. But who knows? The ladies’ Wimby draw was decimated early last year – and we saw in Paris what the German can do when she’s healthy and confident, and when the draw opens up for her.

Victoria Azarenka. After missing three months with a lingering foot injury, the Belarussian finally made her return to the court at Eastbourne, losing in her first match back to Camila Giorgi. While she’s made the semifinals at Wimbledon, her best efforts have come on hard courts where she enjoys more firm footing. While we shouldn't expect much from her until the North American hard-court season, she's still a two-time major champ and former world number one.

Madison Keys. As I write this post, Maddy has just reached her first WTA final at Eastbourne. The American has massive weapons that could be deadly on the lawns of the All England Club. If she keeps her head on straight and plays with controlled aggression, the 19-year old could do serious damage. Could she be the one hoisting the Venus Rosewater Dish? Sure, why not. And it would be fitting on the 10th anniversary of the last teenager to accomplish the feat - Sharapova.

[Photo(s) credit: Getty Images]

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sweet Relief: Sharapova launches Sugarpova pop-up shop

Maria Sharapova launched a pop-up shop for Sugarpova in Wimbledon Village at 89 High Street this week ahead of The Championships. The so-called "candy lounge" features a juice bar with drinks inspired by the Sugarpova flavors and a photo booth to commemorate your visit.

The Roland Garros champ even popped up inside the photo booth for some fun with British lady baller, Laura Robson. Is it me or is it weird to see her hanging out with another lady baller? Nope, it's WEIRD.

More shots from this week's launch below.

[Photo(s) credit: @mariasharapova]

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

VIDEO VAULT: It's a love match

Michaella Krajicek thought it was just another day on the tennis court when her boyfriend, ATP baller Martin Emmrich, appeared after she won her first round match at the Top Shelf Open. The pair had met a year ago at this tourney, which made it the perfect place for a nervous Martin to ask her to marry him.

But to do it in front of a crowd of hopeful onlookers without a guarantee of success - why it's just like playing a match! But Michaella said "yes" and all was well. PHEW.

Monday, June 16, 2014

FASHION FIX: Venus Williams reveals the Strisce Break Back Dress for Wimbledon

Venus Williams today revealed her EleVen byVenus look for this year's Wimbledon Championships where she has won five titles.

The Strisce Break Back Dress ($88) features "a scoop neck and back, stylish mesh inserts at shoulders for enhanced breathability, feminine cap-sleeves, single front pleat on hem and a printed metallic EleVen logo on upper back" according to her blog.

I was wondering what "strisce" meant so I looked it up. It could mean "striped" or "strips" in Italian based on the translations I could find online, which must mean it's spot on. Thanks Internets. I don't see how either one would apply to this dress though. Feel free to let me know otherwise.

It's pretty cool; nothing spectacular but there's really not much you can do with the Wimbledon rules against anything but white.

There's limited availability of the dress so get it while you can.

[Photo(s) credit: EleVen by Venus website]

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