Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Bartoli wins "best match of her life" with three 4th round upsets
Bartoli, 26, came into this fortnight on a roll, having won her first career title on grass at Eastbourne and reached her first ever semi-final at Roland Garros. At No.9 her ranking is already equal to its career best, and will improve further next Monday. So whether this result truly amounted an upset is perhaps a moot point.
It is certainly a great result for Bartoli, who had not taken a set off Williams in their previous two encounters. Moreover the only year the Frenchwoman has progressed beyond the last 16 here was 2007, when she was the eventual runner-up to Venus Williams in the final.
The statistics say that Serena had won 24 of her last 26 matches on grass before today. But the fact is Williams returned to action from a foot injury and a life-threatening pulmonary embolism only two weeks ago in Eastbourne, where she promptly lost in the second round. This was only her sixth match in 49 weeks.
At 2-1 in the first set loose play from Williams made it 15-40. Bartoli's return deserved the prize but the American somehow got it back. That effort went to waste when a wild forehand saw the ball arc way beyond the tramlines. Bartoli celebrated the break by going through her pre-point rituals with even more energy than usual. All that bouncing around and dancing and stroke practice and fist pumping must have used up valuable energy on a court which was, for once this fortnight, scorching hot.
But for all that mental preparation, Bartoli still required six set point chances before that maiden career set against Williams belonged to her.
But when she sent a backhand long for break point on 5-5, Bartoli screamed in excitement. The Frenchwoman stepped way inside the baseline to receive Williams' first serve, never mind her second, and in the ensuing rally Serena had the advantage but did not make it count. Bartoli brought up two match points with her eighth ace; on the first Bartoli sent the ball wastefully wide, and on the second the power of Serena's return had the ninth seed stumbling backwards in dismay. Bartoli forced a third, and in a superb battling rally Serena would not be defeated. A great return earned break point for 6-6, then after doing all the hard work and saving it, Bartoli then delivered her fifth double fault of the match for another break point. A killer backhand return took it into the tie-break.
Bartoli brought up her fourth match point after a battling rally where Serena somehow seemed to stop halfway through. But it was on Williams' service, and an ace took care of it. An unforced error brought up match point number five, and this time the American could find no reply to Bartoli's serve, sending the four-time champion out of the tournament.
Venus was also ousted, for the second year in a row, by Tsvetana Pironkava. The 32nd seed, who had achieved little of note since upsetting Williams in last year's Wimbledon quarter-finals, suffering a catalogue of first-round exits, was still perceived as an underdog against the resurgent Williams, who had impressed in her first three matches here.
But there were signs of a repeat performance from Pironkova almost from the off, when she broke Williams to move ahead 4-2 in the first set. Holding serve to move into a 5-2 lead, the Bulgarian soon had two set points on the Williams serve. Williams saved the first with a thunderous volley, but sent a backhand deep in the net to hand over the first set 6-2.
One Williams sister departing in the fourth round of Wimbledon may be unusual, two is almost unheard of. But all credit to Pironkova, who proved that lightning really does strike twice.
And if that wasn't enough the "Monday Massacre" saw Caroline Wozniacki lose to Dominika Cubulkova. And against No. 24 Dominika Cibulkova on Monday, she faced a player with similar retrieving skills, but one who hits the ball harder despite being a good eight inches shorter and, on this day, just went for it.
The method is the tried and-true one against the Dane, who will never beat herself. But few have the willingness to take the risks required.
"Yeah, that's the way how you should play against Wozniacki because she's just great. She's the best in defencing. She's just waiting and waiting and then she takes her chance," Cibulkova said after the 1-6 7-6 7-5 victory.
"Today, I had to take all or nothing, you know? After first set, I realize I have to go for my shots 100 per cent or anyway I have no chance."
Today's quarter finals, same deal Bold indicates winner
Cibulkova vs Sharapova
Lisicki vs Bartoli
Paszek vs Azarenka
Kvitova vs Pironkova