lunes, 30 de junio de 2014


The No.13 seed edged the first set and then reeled off the last four games of the match to take it 7-6(5), 7-5 for a place in her third Grand Slam quarter-final of the year; moreover, she has yet to lose a set. 

 “We were really battling and we had a tough tie-break. I’m proud that I stayed in it. Even though I was playing catch-up, I always felt right there, trying to put pressure on all the time. “When I was down in the second set I had full belief and confidence in myself that I wasn’t out. It wasn’t over. I stepped up on the important moments. That’s definitely the most physical match I’ve played this tournament. I really fought to the end. “I’ve learned a lot this year since Australia,” she said. “The main thing is the confidence I’ve added since the beginning of the year. I believe in myself and I’ve proved to myself I can play on the big stage. I’ve played on centre courts, most of the Slams, big moments, big matches. I’m proud of the way I can handle it.” The match began in warm and cloudy conditions but was suspended for 35 minutes after a cloudburst on serve at 3-2. Once the Centre Court roof had done its work (“I follow the roof on Twitter – I hope he’s proud of how I played,” said Bouchard), the first set was nip and tuck with neither giving crucial ground before the tie-break. But the Frenchwoman will wish she had done more with the three break point chances she held, especially as she delivered far fewer errors than her opponent – a natural consequence of Bouchard’s attacking game. The 20-year-old, four years the younger but steely and assured, clinched the breaker with an ace for set point followed by a power return which Cornet put in the net. Yet it was Cornet – the French No.1 since the retirement last summer of reigning Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli – who appeared the more confident at the start of the second, breaking for 4-2. But mistakes crept into her game, and her repeated failed challenges only lent her a flailing air. She deserved better after her wonderful victory over Williams, which feels like such an important landmark in her rise back up the rankings – having reached No.11 in February 2009, she lost so many matches in the next two years that she repeatedly thought about quitting altogether as her ranking plummeted below 100.


For her part, Kvitova, beaming with confidence following her third-round win against five-time champion Venus Williams, wants to play down the comparisons with 2011 and her current run. “I can’t really compare them,” she said. 

 “My game, my personality on court is different now.” The results, however, are the same – and that is surely no bad thing for the No.6 seed. Kvitova is one of three Czech women through to the Ladies’ Singles quarter-finals, a first at The Championships. One is guaranteed to reach the semi-finals – Kvitova set up a showdown with Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, while Lucie Safarova is also in the bottom half of the draw after beating compatriot Tereza Smitkova earlier on Monday. No nation was better represented in either singles draw at the start of the second week. Kvitova can be the best kind of bully on court – hard-hitting, unrelenting and capable of firing back a smart answer when put in an awkward spot. So fierce was her return game that at times Peng found the ball back at her feet before she had recovered her ground. The Chinese 28-year-old cannot generate as much power as Kvitova but she was able to rechannel it, and her quick hands and double-fisted drives from both wings regularly wrong-footed the 2011 champion to keep her in touch in the first set. After saving three early break points, Peng might have stolen a lead at 3-3 when Kvitova overcooked a forehand to trail 30-40, but the Czech fired her wey out of trouble with some more huge hitting from her leftie forehand. With that, Kvitova raised her game, bringing up break point at 3-4 with a smash, and powering another sterling return at Peng’s feet before holding to love to claim the set. Another ripped forehand return at 1-1 in the second paved the way for an earlier break in the second, and with that Peng’s challenge faded. The Czech gave up just one unforced error in the second set and finished the match with 25 winners. In this kind of form, she will take some stopping.


Barbora Zahlavova Strycova is one of the more interesting people to watch play tennis.

 She is a bundle of aggressive energy, one who seems to put every exclamation and anguished expression into her shots themselves. She slices, spins, changes things up, seemingly on the whim of her emotions. Sometimes, it works spectacularly. Sometimes, not so. But last week, she was fist-pumping with gusto rather than grim defeat as she caused the first major upset of Wimbledon 2014, playing one of the matches of her career to defeat an off-key Li Na. 
It was her first victory over a top 10 player. This week, her first appearance in the second week of Wimbledon, she produced another. Defeating Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 7-5, to reach her first Grand Slam quarter-final, the 28-year-old raised her head to the heavens and yelled. “It's been unbelievable,” she said. “I can't believe it, like I said already. I put a lot of work into it, and I knew always that I can play good on grass. Now the results shows off and I am glad about it.” Zahlavova Strycova, one of the record-breaking three Czech women to reach the quarter-finals here at Wimbledon and finalist in Birmingham two weeks ago, came racing out of the Court 12 stands, afforded an earlier start after the withdrawal of Madison Keys from the previous match. She wheeled through the first set in 35 minutes, firing 13 winners to Wozniacki’s three, despite hitting six more unforced errors. “I think, you know, for me it's the hardest to play against her on grass. On clay and on hard court, you know, the ball bounces up a little bit more,” Wozniacki said. “But she obviously tries to mix up the pace. She makes a lot of drop shots, a lot of slice returns that doesn't bounce up. Kind of gets you out of your rhythm a little bit.” In the second, the Czech’s first serve percentage dropped considerably, from 73 percent to below 50, as Woznacki’s fabled defence came into action. The Dane was in line for the best Wimbledon of her career, having made the fourth round on four occasions, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2014, but never finding her way further. Her unforced errors were contained, producing just three for the match, but she was in the end undone by Zahlavova Strycova’s ability to open up the court and find the gap. Saving five match points before succumbing, it was ultimately not Wozniacki’s day. But it has been a better time on the court for her than others.


Sabine Lisicki’s love affair with the grass courts of Wimbledon continues apace. Her 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic in a match much delayed by adverse weather conditions puts her into the last 16 of the Ladies’ Singles, an event where, in her last four appearances, she has finished runner-up, a semi-finalist and twice a quarter-finalist. 

 She had already taken the opening set on Saturday evening when darkness put an end to the proceedings. Rain caused another delay on today’s resumption with Ivanovic leading 5-2 in the second set and when, after an hour and 20 minutes, they restarted the Serb promptly levelled the match, only for the German to run away with the third set in just 27 minutes, finishing off with successive aces. “It’s so much fun to play out there,” said Lisicki of the Wimbledon surface. It certainly appeared that way in the third set when she pulled away impressively. Lisicki was second only to Serena Williams last year as the WTA Tour’s ace queen with 297 in 52 matches, with 45 of them coming at the 2013 Championships. There have been 102 aces so far this year, including 16 in three rounds here. “The crowd knows my story here,” she said. “I came here as a young girl and I came back from injury. It’s a big story with Wimbledon. So I love the support I’m getting here. It’s so much more enjoyable” The two women had managed only 57 minutes on Saturday evening, and though the sun greeted their appearance on No. 1 Court after a two-day absence the clouds began to build up as Ivanovic, who was briefly world No.1 after winning the French Open six years ago and describes herself as “strong willed and extremely competitive”, lived up to that description by twice breaking the Lisicki serve before the match was again disrupted for an hour and 20 minutes. On the resumption Ivanovic, who has shown a welcome return to her form of 2008 this year by winning three titles (her first for three years), wrapped up the second set in 38 minutes of actual playing time with a love game, although benefitting from a net cord winner on set point. “In the third set my serve went down a little bit,” Ivanovic admitted. “And she served unbelievable in that third set. She played really, really good.” So well, in fact, that the 24-year-old Florida-based German rushed into a 3-0 lead, hustling Ivanovic out of her stride and breaking again for a 5-1 lead.

sábado, 28 de junio de 2014



The blockbuster third round match between 2013 finalist Sabine Lisicki and No.11 seed Ana Ivanovic has been suspended with Lisicki leading by a set on No.1 Court. 

 The big-hitting German imposed her powerful style on the match, smacking 20 winners to eight to take the first set, before play was suspended with games on serve at 1-1 in the second set. It was Lisicki taking the initiative early, moving ahead 2-1 with a break of serve and pumping her fist as she jogged to the chair. Ivanovic, who has enjoyed a solid 2014 season, broke back immediately to level, only for Lisicki to score another break in the fifth game, one highlighted by several entertaining points that had the No.1 Court crowd applauding in appreciation. In the pivotal eighth game, Ivanovic had chances to level the set at 4-4, but Lisicki’s serve proved too powerful. She eventually hit her way out of trouble with a forehand winner to hold for 5-3. 

 Ivanovic had chances again on Lisicki’s serve, this time in the 10th game. Yet down 15-30, the German won a lengthy point with a wrong-footing backhand winner, and at deuce, Ivanovic became furious with herself after dumping a second serve return into the net, handing her opponent the advantage. Lisicki followed up with a big serve to clinch the set, and two games later, the decision was made to hold the match over to Monday.


Maria Sharapova has advanced to the fourth round of the ladies’ singles after bulldozing her way past Alison Riske in one hour and nine minutes on a day beset by bad weather. 

 Earlier in the week, the No.5 seed had suggested the 23-year-old, whom she had beaten in their only previous meeting on grass, in Birmingham four years ago, would be a tricky opponent. "She stays down really low, hits really flat from both sides and has had steady results on the surface. It's going to be a challenge,” the Russian had warned. Although Sharapova suffered an initial minor hiccup - she was broken in the opening game of the first set – she never faced a break point again and promptly rattled off 11 games on the trot to triumph 6-3, 6-0 in little over an hour. 
The second set lasted just 27 minutes. Fortunately for the spectators, there were plenty of other things to keep them occupied during the whitewash. Although the Centre Court roof had been closed during Rafael Nadal's match, the fans still pointed, took pictures and commented on the sound of the rain lashing down. The presence of a certain chap called David Beckham in the Royal Box also prompted fervent finger-pointing and camera clicking. 
 The footballer’s attendance did not go unnoticed by the five-time Grand Slam title holder who has met him a couple of times. “He's a great guy,” Sharapova said. “I mean, besides being an incredible football player, he has so much that he's done in his career, having a family, maintaining so many things off the court. Really nice person to chat to.


Alize Cornet has staged the biggest upset of Wimbledon 2014 with a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over world No. 1 and five-time champion Serena Williams. 

 The No.24 ranked Frenchwoman, who also defeated Williams in their last meeting in Dubai earlier this year, showed tremendous courage in the third round match of dramatic momentum shifts. Beginning with each player dropping serve in the first two games, the match was suspended for four hours as rain fell at the All England Club. It looked to be an easy progression for Williams when she returned to quickly win every remaining game of that first set. But it was Cornet who would win the next five games with her clever combination of power and touch, Serena only gaining an edge when she recovered a break of serve in the seventh game. It was a short-lived revival, with 29 unforced errors and seven double faults not helping Serena as the more accurate Cornet gained breaks of serve in the fifth and seventh games to emerge the surprise winner after just over two hours of playing time. 
 She now meets Eugenie Bouchard, a straight sets winner over Andrea Petkovic.

viernes, 27 de junio de 2014



After letting match point slip in her third-round battle with eventual champion Li Na in Melbourne to start the year, the blonde Czech lefty managed to shake the disappointment, arriving at Roland Garros with a darker do before going on to make her first fourth-round showing at a major since 2007. 

 Making her ninth Wimbledon appearance, the 27-year-old saw off Slovakian No.10 seed Dominka Cibulkova 6-4, 6-2 overcoming a losing head-to-head record to lead a barrage of Czech players into the fourth round, with her countrywomen Petra Kvitova, Tereza Smitkova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova later winning through. “It’s after seven years actually. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the fourth round and obviously I’m excited and happy about it especially against Dominika, as I had never beaten her, so it’s the more exciting for me,” Safarova said. Could the brown locks be the change she needed? “Maybe,” she laughed. “Some change. Well no, since the beginning of the year I’ve had a good season. I’ve had a couple of tight matches, tough losses against top-10 players and I’ve always been really close but not as far into the tournament. But my tennis was good and I’m happy that finally I’ve transferred it into a great result.” Cibulkova, who advanced to her first Grand Slam final in Melbourne to start the year – with wins over Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska en route – was looking to rebound from a disappointing French Open where she fell to Sam Stosur in the third round. Her best run on the grass at Wimbledon came in 2011 where she upended the then No.1 Caroline Wozniacki on her way to the quarter-finals.


 This strength-sapping encounter saw neither player ever allowed to establish meaningful momentum. Williams, seeded No.30 this year, was just two points from a straight sets victory but the Czech eventually came through 5-7, 7-6(2), 7-5 in two hours and 30 minutes. 

 The meeting that promised so much on paper delivered right from the off. A rejuvenated Venus – who played much better than her sister Serena when the siblings won through to the second round of the doubles on Wednesday evening – served and moved quite beautifully here. Having fended off break point in the first game of the match, she did not face another one until the joust was at its death. Kvitova played with her right thigh heavily strapped, as a result of the injury which prompted her withdrawal from Eastbourne last week at the quarter-final stage. Arguably Venus has had the better year, winning the title in Dubai while Kvitova has none. In the first set the Pole made more errors than winners, and it cost her. But in the second, concentration was etched on her face as the two went toe-to-toe. Her game can be unpredictable, but as the second set reached the tie-break an acutely angled crosscourt forehand saw her establish impetus, and a tired forehand from Venus gave Kvitova four set points. Disastrously the veteran – giving 10 years to her opponent – double faulted.


She is safely through to the third round at the All England Club after her 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine on Friday and now she has Belinda Bencic, the bright young hope from Switzerland, standing between her and a place in the second week. 

The transition is going very well indeed. It was only three weeks ago that she was pictured sobbing her heart out at Roland Garros. Well, what would you do? You have just played your heart out for three-and-a-half hours against one of the best players of the past 10 years and for one of the biggest prizes in the sport. 
You have come so close to winning you can see you own reflection in the trophy. And then you lose. So you stick your head under a towel and howl. That was Halep’s initial reaction to losing the French Open final to Maria Sharapova but she is a smart lass and within a couple of minutes she had regrouped. She had almost won her first Grand Slam final, she had pushed Sharapova harder than any other player had ever done in a major final and now she was the world No.3. 
Hang on a minute, this was a good thing. These Grand Slam tournaments are winnable. With that thought implanted in her brain, she marched on SW19 and pitched camp in the third round. This was a first: in four previous attempts, she had never got beyond the second round here which, in itself, was a strange stat. Halep’s seven career titles – six of which were won last year – have been collected on every surface, both indoor and out. As the 's-Hertogenbosch champion of 2013, she knows what it feels like to win on a grass court. Then again, until now, the draw has hardly been kind to her at Wimbledon (she bumped into Li Na in the second round last year and Serena Williams two years before that). 
 Coming here this year as one of the top seeds, Halep’s path through the early rounds had been cleared of random Grand slam winners but, even so, Tsurenko was never going g to be a pushover. Her ranking lists her as a journeyman – she sits at No.170 in the pecking order – but it is deceptive. Last year she was up to No.60 and while she could not maintain that position, she clearly has talent and weapons. This was not going to be easy for our French Open finalist.


Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark celebrates after winning her Ladies' Singles third round match against Ana Konjuh of Croatia.
Day five, the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
June 27, 2014. London, England.

 Caroline Wozniacki is pushed hard by 16-year-old Croatian Ana Konjuh before emerging with 6-3, 6-0 victory on No.3 Court.


Q. In your first tournament on grass you won your first two matches easily. How much does it mean for you in terms of confidence? 
 MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, because it's so quick from one to another, the first couple of matches are really crucial in just working on so many things as a grass court player, just trying to make that transition and trying to do it as quick as possible. The grass is quite different to the practice courts. Once you get out there, you try to just maybe focus a little bit more on executing better and not letting your focus go. That's been important in the last couple of matches. 
 Q. How have you found the court conditions this year compared to last year? 
 MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, good. Like I just said, the courts at Aorangi and the main courts are quite different. It's such a different feeling after a day of practice coming on to the main court. I think in a few days' time, they won't be the same. They'll be a bit more similar. I think the first couple of days are always the most dangerous in terms of the difference between the two and the footing. I wasn't very successful at that transition last year, but I feel quite well this year. 
 Q. It seems like the field has been a pretty good transition as well. Haven't seen a lot of upsets this week where last year we had a lot of upsets, like in Paris this year. 
 MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think after last year, everyone is maybe a little bit more cautious. You can't just forget about it overnight. It's always in the back of your mind a little bit. I'm sure happy to get through an extra round than I did last year. 
 Q. What are your thoughts about playing Alison? 
 MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, we haven't played each other in a while. I believe the last time was in Birmingham. Yeah, I feel like her game matches up with grass extremely well. She stays down really low, hits really flat from both sides, has had steady results on the surface. It's going to be a challenge. Yeah, I look forward to playing her. 
 Q. Before the tournament started, many people were pointing to the possibility of a matchup between you and Serena. Of course you don't think about it until you're in that position. What have been your observations of the way Serena has played recently and what are the biggest challenges when you see her on her game? 
 MARIA SHARAPOVA: I haven't had a chance to watch too many of her matches. But it doesn't really matter. I mean, she's been here. She's done it many, many times. If we do get to the stage of playing against each other, first of all, I'll be happy to be in that stage, in the quarterfinal stage, facing against her on one of the courts. You know, we played each other many times. I haven't had the best results against her. I always look forward to that opportunity and the challenge to play against the best, try something a little bit different to try to get a win out there.

jueves, 26 de junio de 2014


On the surface she loves, Sabine Lisicki eases past Karolina Pliskova, one of the best servers in the ladies' game. The smell of grass, the feel of grass and the sheer joy of playing on that surface seem to do wonders for Sabine Lisicki. 

The Florida-based German, runner-up here 12 months ago, was in frolicking form on No.3 Court as she moved impressively into the last 32 of the ladies’ singles by defeating Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-5 in one hour 19 minutes. Lisicki had beaten the same opponent with rather more difficulty in three sets on the clay of Madrid earlier this year, when she was still making her way back to full match fitness following a shoulder injury, so she was especially happy that her game was approaching its more formidable level on the surface she enjoys best. “In Madrid I still had problems with my injury so I was struggling a little bit there,” Lisicki explained. “But I’m feeling much better here. I was ready for it. I know she can hit very good serves, so I needed to be ready.” This contest had been billed as The Big Bash, since Pliskova came into this match as the leading server of aces in the ladies’ game this year with 233 – better even than Serena Williams – while Lisicki’s 297 aces in the 2013 season was second only to Serena, and 45 of those aces were struck at the 2013 Championships. On the day Lisicki ran out a clear winner in this department, with seven aces to Pliskova’s two, though she also led the Czech in the less desirable area of double-faults by five to two.


Her bid would unfurl in just the third round that year. Her conqueror, Jie Zheng, would go on to become the first Chinese player and the first wild-card to reach a Grand Slam semi-final. 

 On Thursday, the Serb finally had her chance to exact revenge, swinging with authority on her way to a 6-4, 6-0 triumph in just over an hour. Coming off her first grasscourt title in Birmingham, Ivanovic was a different player to the 20-year-old who crumbled against Zheng bearing the weight of expectations in 2008. “It's been so long ago I don't even remember. Definitely it's been a slow, slow climb back,” Ivanovic said of her return to form in 2014. “I felt like I been playing a lot of matches and a lot of good victories this year I had, and rankings didn't really resemble that, which was little bit hard to take because you put so much hard work and then yet you're dropping in the ranking list.” Zheng, languishing at No.66 in the rankings from a career-high of No.15 five years ago, was bringing her own run of form on the green turf to Wimbledon having reached the final in ’s-Hertogenbosch last week. She started the stronger of the two; her early break of serve setting off a succession of breaks between two of the players with the heaviest return of serves in the women’s game. With Ivanovic serving for the set at 5-3, China’s No.4-ranked player struck two heavy forehand winners to break for 4-5. If holding serve wasn't proving difficult enough, Zheng wasn’t helping her cause. 
She opened with a double fault, before Ivanovic turned a brilliant defensive point around to thump a forehand pass ricocheting off her opponent’s racket. She would need three set points to get it done but a second double fault from Zheng handed it to her 6-4.


Serena Williams blitzed her way into the third round with a display that combined discipline and bravura in equal measure. She saw off the South African journeywoman Chanelle Scheepers 6-1, 6-1 in 49 minutes.

 Those who took the result as a done deal before the match began, take note: nothing is a given, and Williams has been on the receiving end of the proof. At last month’s French Open she was the white hot favourite for the title and was dumped out by the largely unheralded Garbine Muguruza in the second round – that just 12 months after her all-time worst Grand Slam performance on the same territory, where for the first time in her long career she was defeated in the first round of a Grand Slam, by Virginie Razzano.

 “I’m always the favourite,” acknowledged Serena afterwards. “It’s been that way for the last three years and maybe years before that. So it can create pressure. But it’s ok – I’d rather it was that way.” Williams is 34 now, bidding for her sixth Wimbledon title and 18th Grand Slam singles title. But she is working overtime as she has entered the doubles too, with her sister Venus of course, with whom she has won 13 Grand Slam doubles titles including five on the lawns of SW19. 
On Tuesday night the two of them played until 9pm, beating Oksana Kalashnikova and Olga Savchuk to reach the second round, but Williams appeared to feel no after-effects of that late night. Her focus at Wimbledon 2014 looks laser-sharp


Q. In my opinion that was a good game today, classy game from a classy lady. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you describe it? 
 VENUS WILLIAMS: Yeah, you know, I think at the important points in the game I was able to lift my game a little. That's what you really want to do. Then also in the second set lift my game. I thought she played well. Yeah. 
 Q. At any point were you worried? 
 VENUS WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, walking out there I know that no one's going to give me a match. You don't get given a match, especially at the majors. I knew all points I would have to work for. 
 Q. What reason was it that you were late for the start of the match? 
 Q. Yes. 
 VENUS WILLIAMS: What is late? I wasn't watching the clock. I headed out and got to the match and we started. 
 Q. There was no reason, no delay?
 VENUS WILLIAMS: No. I don't think I was late. 
 Q. It was suggested there might have been a change of apparel. 
 VENUS WILLIAMS: I don't know. I mean, I guess she got there early. I don't know what time she got there. Typically the opponents walk out together is what I thought. That's usually what happens. I don't know. We got there at different times. That's pretty much the story. 
 Q. It wasn't a story of you having to change an item of your clothing because it was colored or anything? VENUS WILLIAMS: No. Who said that? 
 Q. It was a suggestion. 
 VENUS WILLIAMS: That's weird. 
 Q. Both you and Serena have talked about the upcoming Olympics in a couple years. Looking ahead, I'm wondering, when you come out to play here, having been here so many years, do you ever think, This might be my last singles match at Wimbledon or do you not think that way? 
 VENUS WILLIAMS: No, I definitely don't think that way. Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.


It’s hard to see any danger to the top three ladies’ seeds playing today – Serena Williams, Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova, but over on No.3 Court Ana Ivanovic, the No.11 seed, is at risk against Zheng Jie.

The former Wimbledon semi-finalist, who won the doubles title here in 2006 with Yan Zi, beat enough decent players at s’-Hertogenbosch last week to suggest that she has got her grass-court game working nicely. Many fans will be wanting Serena to beat the South African Chanelle Scheepers on No.1 Court to keep alive hopes of a fourth-round match-up against the exciting Eugenie Bouchard, if not a mouth-watering quarter-final against Sharapova. The Russian plays Timea Bacsinszky, of Switzerland, later on the same court. Heather Watson must hope that the Centre Court crowd can carry her into the second week of The Championships, which is her goal. It’s just a pity that she has had the misfortune to run into someone as good and as in-form as ninth seed Angelique Kerber, who is capable of replicating the achievement of her fellow countrywoman Sabine Lisicki last year by reaching the final.


miércoles, 25 de junio de 2014


Hingis, who will also be 34 this year, was ladies’ singles champion in 1997 and a doubles champion here too, with Helena Sukova in 1996 and Jana Novotna in 1998. 

Who can forget that brief but intense era when she was queen of the drop shot followed by the cannily placed lob? After that run of three trophy-winning years, Hingis had a hideous 1999 on the grass courts in London SW19 – shockingly humiliated in the first round by Jelena Dokic just weeks after a bizarre meltdown in the French Open final (when a set and a break up against Steffi Graf, she crossed the net to query a call, met with derision from the Parisian crowd and went into emotional freefall). After that, the Czech-born star – named after a certain other distinguished Martina – never reached another Grand Slam final. She has had several retirements and comebacks, due to injury and even a two-year drug ban, so let’s salute her first appearance in a Wimbledon main draw since 2007, when she lost to Laura Granville in the third round of the singles. Granted a wild card by the All England Club for the women's doubles, things could get nicely, er, theatrical, as well as technically appealing, as Hingis’s partner is the famously emotional Vera Zvonareva. 

 The pairing bodes well for entertainment – though they will have to beat No. 4 seeds Cara Black and Sania Mirza to thrill crowds beyond today. During her previous nine Wimbledon visits, Hingis provided many a cameo for tennis fans. She made her debut in 2005, a cute girl with a huge smile to match a precocious talent. Over the next few years, she and her coach/mother, Melanie Molitor, became photographers’ favourites as they warmed up on Courts 4, 5 or 6. With her metronomic, practically error-free two-handed backhand and clever tactical play, Hingis’s presence on court was often a catalyst for a mesmerising match at a time when the power game threatened to remove nuance and subtlety.


It would seem that the reports of Williams’s demise have been exaggerated. At the age of 33 and suffering from Sjorgen’s Syndrome, she is supposed to be a spent force, past it, consigned to history. 

But you write off Venus at your peril. The former champion has no intention of going anywhere for a very long time to come. She moved impressively into the third round with a 7-6, 6-1 win over the diminutive Kurumi Nara on Wednesday, the world No.41 from Japan, and much as a couple of wins does not constitute a championship-winning run, she clearly has plans to stay in town for a while. She served well enough, she hit 46 winners, she kept the error count down to a respectable 16 and she bossed the show once the first set was done. Back in 2011, Venus revealed that she had been diagnosed with Sjorgen’s Syndrome, an auto-immune disorder that leaves the sufferer with a range of symptoms from a dry mouth to joint pain and chronic fatigue. 
Yet, through diet, careful management of her schedule and grim determination not to be beaten, she has found a way to compete at the top level despite everything. There are still good days and bad days, but Venus will not give in. And as she pushed Nara this way and that on No.3 Court, it was the Japanese who was struggling physically, not Venus. It did appear that Venus was running the legs off her opponent – and that really did not seem fair as they were not very big legs to begin with. Before anyone starts complaining about gratuitous short jokes, it was the lack of height that was causing the problems. This is a serious tennis point. Nara is a tiny but perfectly formed 5ft 1ins short and weighs in at 116lbs. 
Venus is a full foot taller at 6ft 1ins and she weighs in at 160lbs, most of it leg and muscle. In boxing terms, that is like a flyweight taking on a light-middle weight – and even in the more brutal world of pugilism, that would simply not be allowed. Unable to out-hit her predominantly taller foes (she is the shortest player in the world’s top 100), Nara has to rely on craft, skill and pinpoint accuracy if she is to have a chance. 


Q. You had indicated earlier this week you knew it was going to be a challenging match because of her experience and her skill on grass. Was she as you expected her to be? 
 EUGENIE BOUCHARD: Yeah, I expected a tough match, and it was a tough one. I definitely feel like I didn't play my best most of the match, but competed when it counted, raised my level at some big points, at 5???All in both sets, I played a bit better. I'm proud of that. 
 Q. How did you feel about the way the first set ended? Did you see the ball out? 
 EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I thought it was out, yeah. But, you know, you never know with the challenge system. So I was ready for anything. You know, even if it was in, no big deal, just go one more point, one point at a time, that type of thing. 
 Q. When you say you didn't play well, what does that mean? 
 EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I felt like I was a bit inconsistent. I didn't take the ball as early as I would have liked to. She was definitely trying to be the one in control. I felt myself more on defense more often than I'd like to be. At least I realized this during the match and tried to make, you know, later in the second set make some adjustments. But, you know, it's important for me to kind of start the match that way. The first match of a tournament, especially a Grand Slam, is always a bit nervy. I think there was a bit of nervous tennis out there. 
 Q. After Paris you said that grass is probably your favorite surface. Coming into the tournament, you didn't have a lot of matches under your belt. How do you feel you are prepared for a Grand Slam on grass? EUGENIE BOUCHARD: Yeah, I played one match, but I got a lot of practice in. I had a few good practice weeks on grass. So I've been feeling good with my game. I feel like, you know, getting better every day. So that's the most important thing. Grass is such a short season, so I'm going to try to make the most of it in every single match. It's definitely tough to adjust. But I feel like, you know, I've adjusted pretty well. 
Q. You've drawn your share of attention in the buildup to this tournament for good reasons. Do you feel pressure at this point? 
 EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I do. I feel more eyes on me, for sure, and expectation to win more matches. Being higher ranked than most opponents most of the time, there's that expectation to win. I really try not to focus on it. There's so much that's said around me, I try to ignore most of it and focus on my game. That's the most important thing. Try to play as well as I can, try to improve.


Petra Kvitova matched the feat as she dispatched Mona Barthel 6-2, 6-0. 
 Kvitova, who overpowered fellow Czech Andrea Hlavackova 6-3, 6-0 in the first round, once again defied her reputation for slipping into three-set tussles. 

Barthel had raced to a 7-5, 6-0 win against Romina Oprandi in her opening match and was expected to provide a little more resistance, having taken to Kvitova in three sets back in 2012. In the end, the result was nothing short of emphatic – the German lost 11 games in succession to bow out in just 54 minutes. Kvitova, her right thigh still strapped to protect a hamstring strain, made a cautious but steady start against Barthel. The German’s brief was clear: keep the No.6 seed moving, but Kvitova brought up a break point in the first game while still finding her range. Barthel recovered to hold and might have capitalised on a 0-30 lead in the second game, but Kvitova found her way back with a couple of timely aces. From that point onwards Kvitova assumed complete control. Moving with greater freedom, she was free to let rip from the baseline and bully Barthel into submission. The 23-year-old held once more but a cross-court backhand return blazed past to bring Kvitova a second break point in game five, sealed with a Barthel double-fault. As the German crumbled, Kvitova grew in confidence. There were shades of her 2011 form as she struck 25 winners in all and showed the fine touch around the net. The opening set disappeared in 25 minutes, and after falling to a third break at the start of the second, Barthel disappeared beneath her dipped visor. With the match all but over at 6-2, 5-0, the German rallied to finish on a high note. Having cruised through the match without facing a break point, Kvitova was suddenly 0-40 down. Undeterred, the world No.6 served her way out of trouble before Barthel came again, saving four match points and bringing up another two chances to break with some of her best tennis of the match.


Centre Court at the All England Club evokes many emotional memories for Radwanska. The setting for her most triumphant performance when she became the first Polish player of the Open era to reach a Grand Slam final in 2012, it was also the venue for one of her most bittersweet career matches when Sabine Lisicki claimed last year’s superb semi-final 9-7 in the third set. 

 There would be no such emotional extremes for Radwanska today but rather a pleasing sense of accomplishment as she completed a 6-4, 6-0 win over Casey Dellacqua. “It’s always great to be out there, especially here what I really have the best memories on the Grand Slam,” she later related. “I was really looking forward to being in the Centre Court again.” Although perhaps not spending too much time there. Competing with brutal efficiency, Radwanska took just 56 minutes to progress, her 'get the job done' approach soon evident in the round two encounter. Early in the third game of the first set, she slipped on the baseline only to calmly pick herself up and return the next ball for a winner, perhaps symbolising her approach to the Grand Slam that has provided the best results of her near 10-year career. That early fall wasn’t the only lapse Radwanska would have to navigate against Dellacqua, who has risen from outside the top 200 last September to world No. 36 in the latest WTA rankings. The 29-year-old Australian showed the spirit that has driven her career comeback when she was down two service breaks in the first set, winning four consecutive games to force Radwanska to fight for another break of serve to close out the set. But navigating that challenge simply freed the crafty Radwanska up to play her best tennis in the second set. The errors (she had eight in total compared to Dellacqua’s 22) became less noticeable and the winners (19 for the match) more entertaining, with the only disappointment for the enraptured crowd the fact that it was over in 22 minutes.


Maria Sharapova speaks to the media following her 6-1, 6-0 victory against Great Britain's Samantha Murray. 

 Q. Slightly shaky start, but fairly comfortable after that. 
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, there's always a bit more tension coming into the first round of a Grand Slam. It was such a quick turnaround. Just a couple weeks ago you're on the clay, coming onto the grass, with the new grass and new surface, it's a different feeling. It was obviously a bit slower start than I wanted, but happy overall with how I progressed through the match, which was the important key. 
 Q. What did you make of Samantha's attempt to blast you away from the first point? 
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think she has a pretty aggressive game. I believe she enjoys playing on grass because she served and volleyed a couple of times, really went for her shots, stays quite low as well. So, yeah, sliced a bit and came in. Quite unusual game. But I think she made a few more unforced errors than she would have liked definitely. 
 Q. You struggled with your serve in the first two or three service games, but once you broke and were 4-1 up, it went pretty well. Troubles with the service due to the new environment and different surface? 
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, definitely. As I said, it was certainly a slow start. I wish I didn't make those errors. But I think as the match progressed, I got more comfortable, found my toss a little bit better. I think my percentage went up, which was quite important considering she did want to play an aggressive game off of the second serves. 
 Q. After what happened last year, was it just important to get a victory, to kind of settle things down, get on to the roll of being back in Wimbledon in the tournament? 
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I try not to dwell on what happened in the past, whether good or bad memories I had, whether it was last year, years before. This is a new day. It's not a new tournament, but it's a new opportunity. You start from scratch. That's the way I treat the first round. I try not to think about what happened. I have a great opportunity to do well here. I've had great memories. There's no reason why I can't turn those results around that I had in the last couple of years. 
 Q. And the form that you carry into Wimbledon, can that be any help? Obviously a different surface, but can you take anything from that? 
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, the match play. I played a lot of matches in the last couple of months. That's always great because I've been put in very different situations, whether I was up or down come through some very tough ones, played some very physical matches out there. So that gives me a lot of confidence going into this tournament. Although this is a quicker surface, it's still very physical, requires a lot of speed and reaction, footwork, all those things. That combination is never quite easy. That adjustment always takes a little bit of time. That's why I'm happy that I settled in as the match went on today. 
 Q. You were pictured traveled by Tube to or from Queen's last week. What do you make of the public transport in England these days? 
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think I picked a crowded hour (laughter). Maybe it's always like that. I'm just inexperienced. But it was nice. I think it was the quickest route at that point. But, yeah, I do enjoy doing that once in a while. 
 Q. Do you ever travel to Wimbledon on public transport? 
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I stay in Wimbledon, so I don't really need to take the Tube. 
 Q. How about someday taking the subway to the US Open? 
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I haven't done that. Yeah, that would be a new experience. But maybe when I'm a tourist and not a player. 
 Q. With it being 10 years, does it make you more determined that you owe yourself a second Wimbledon? MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, yeah, reflecting on that victory brings a lot of great memories. I've had my fair share of success and also tough results here. It really jump-started my career from a very young age. But I don't look back to that very often, because as I said before, I treat every year and every tournament as a fresh and new start. I try to make it a new beginning rather than looking towards whatever happened years ago.