Thursday, 30 June 2011

A Trip to Wimbledon and No 1 Court - Part 2

We took to our seats, which were some of the best we have ever had for Number one Court. We were side on to the court but on the opposite side of the umpire and felt really close to the action. It was a really entertaining start to the second set as Anderson went toe-to-toe with Djokovic. There were a number of really long rallies but it was Djokovic who appeared to have the edge with his superior movement and superb returning ability. In one rally, Djokovic ran down some impossible balls before finishing the point off in stunning fashion at the net.

Our view from our seats on number one court

Djokovic's movement was fantastic throughout the match

Both players held comfortably at the start of the second set; however Anderson couldn't keep up with Djokovic and threw in a terrible service game to hand the initiative to the Serbian. Anderson has a potent serve but lacked consistency at key stages of the match. This highlighted the strengths of Djokovic who was able to maintain his level throughout the whole match. Djokovic broke again to wrap up the second set, 6-2.

Anderson showed his talent but his inconsistencies too

Djokovic was dominant in the second set and had his eyes on the task at hand

The third set followed a similar pattern as Anderson threw in some poor games to hand Djokovic the advantage. Djokovic had a few edgy moments where he struggled with his serve and when the moment came to serving the match out, he fell behind with some untimely double faults. However Djokovic regained his composure and eventually closed out the match, 6-3 6-4 6-2.

Djokovic showed some frailties on his serve at the end of the match

Anderson has a huge serve but Djokovic's returning was exemplary

I was impressed with Djokovic on the grass and he was my tip from the start to take the title. He's had a few struggles since the second round but remains in contention and should not be overlooked. Let's not forget he has still only lost one match this year! He is also probably my favourite of the top four players. I particularly like how respectful he is to his opponents such as clapping their good shots but all the time he remains focussed and passionate about his own game.

Djokovic always looked the favourite in this match

Djokovic wins

Before the next match began on No.1 Court, we decided to have a wander around the outside courts. We headed to court 4 where Agnieszka Radwanska was taking on Petra Cetkovska. Radwanska was a set and a break up when we joined the match and looked to be in total control. It was a high quality match with some great rallies but also both players were coming into the net and mixing up the play. Radwanska served for the match at 6-3 5-4 and was at 30-30 when the first rain of the day arrived. We hung around by the court as all the players on the outside courts walked past us including David Nalbandian as they retreated to the locker rooms.

Agnieszka Radwanska in action

It was only a short rain delay and within 30 minutes, the players were back out on court. As they returned with Radwanska two points from the match, she missed both her first serves and Cetkovska smashed her second serve to pieces to break back. Radwanska had a second opportunity to serve it out at 6-5 but once again wasted her chance. Into the tiebreak and at 5-4 up, Radwanska had two points on her serve to finish it off... but she messed it up again! Cetkovska took her chances superbly and wrapped up the 2nd set to the dismay of Radwanska who smashed her racket into her chair.

Radwanska struggled to close the match out

Cetkovska battled superbly to stay in the match

Radwanska has such a weak second serve and it demonstrates the strengths of the rest of her game that she has been a consistent top 15 player for the last couple of years. Unfortunately it is unlikely that she will progress further up the rankings unless she sorts the serve out. We later found out Radwanska wasted a 4-1 lead in the third set to end up losing the match to Cetkovska!!!

Top of Radwanska's to do list - sort out the second serve

As we continued to wander, Olivier Rochus walked past us. We then predicted his opponent on Court 2, Juan Martin Del Potro would follow. I managed to get a shot of him as he was being chased by children who were after his autograph! We also saw Jarmilla Gajdosova in action and Dominika Cibulkova and Petra Kvitova in the doubles who are both great singles players but didn't seem to be working that well together in the doubles. We then headed back to Court No.1 to catch the match between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Grigor Dimitrov. It was the third time in 3 weeks that I saw Tsonga but this turned out to be by far the best match of the three...

Juan Martin Del Potro

Little and Large, Dominika Cibulkova and Petra Kvitova in doubles action

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A trip to Wimbledon and No 1 Court - Part 1

My second trip to Wimbledon was on the first Thursday and I went once again with my brother, David. We had tickets for Number one court... thanks Gran :))) I wasn't feeling quite as excited the night before because I had looked at the weather forecast, which was not looking particularly promising! I was also disappointed that we had missed out on the match including one of my favourite players, Sabine Lisicki against the French Open Champion, Li Na. Despite my disappointment, credit to the schedulers for putting it on Centre Court because it was the best match-up for that day.

Serena complained about her match being put out on Court two but frankly I feel she needs to get a grip! For me, it showed an air of arrogance because the schedulers got it spot on by putting the two best matches on paper on the two top courts. Although we had missed out on Lisicki against Li, we had been scheduled the match between Laura Robson and Maria Sharapova. Unfortunately because the match was scheduled third up on No 1 court, it looked unlikely they would take to the court because of the predicted weather forecast! I had my fingers crossed though!!!

We arrived at Wimbledon just before 11am by taking advantage of a shorter queue for the bus! We immediately noticed how much emptier the grounds were compared to Tuesday. We weren't sure if this was because we were into the 2nd round matches or whether people had been put off by the weather forecast. I managed to find out on the BBC live text that the nets were being put up Court 11. We headed straight over there to find one of my favourite players, Sabine Lisicki practising with Sam Stosur!

Sabine Lisicki practising on Court 11

Sam Stosur in action

There weren't many people watching so we managed to find two seats and watch their full practice. I was really impressed with both players but in particular, Sabine who was striking the ball with such force and precision. You could see that this was a player who was playing with such confidence following her victory in Birmingham. Lisicki and Stosur are playing the Women's Doubles together and looked totally at ease as they smiled and laughed their way through a really enjoyable practice. Lisicki's dad told them during the practice that they were playing like Doubles Champions... I would totally agree!

Lisicki was hitting the ball beautifully in practice

As I said to David how well Stosur was volleying she then decided to miss every volley under the sun!

As they wrapped up their practice session to a few drops of rain, I decided to dash to the other side to try and get Sabine's autograph! She was surrounded by several guards but I managed to get her autograph and wished her luck for today's match. She gave me an awkward smile as she raced off back to the locker rooms... it's safe to say I was very excited to have got my first ever autograph at Wimbledon!

Stosur and Lisicki were all smiles during their practice

We had studied the Order of Play the night before and decided the most exciting match on the outside courts was between Nadia Petrova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. It was on Court 17, which is rather tucked away from the main walkways between Centre Court and Number one Court . Thankfully, there were a number of seats available on the court with about fifteen minutes until play began. We also had a prime view of a scoreboard on the side of Centre Court so we could keep up to date with all the scores!

Pavlyuchenkova and Petrova in action on Court 17

Nadia Petrova was kept waiting by Pavlyuchenkova who came out ten minutes late to the court. From the outset, Pavlyuchenkova did not look at the races. Petrova raced into an early lead as Pavlyuchenkova struggled to keep balls in the court and could get nowhere near Petrova's menacing first serve. There were a number of long, drawn-out games that went to deuce but Petrova had the edge in the first set and won all the big points to claim the set, 6-3.

Petrova's first serve was too hot to handle for Pavlyuchenkova

Pavlyuchenkova started the match poorly

Pavlyuchenkova raced to 40-0 on her serve at the beginning of set 2; however she produced a number of poor errors and sloppily gave away her serve. She slammed her racket in frustration as the grey skies piled in overhead. To Pavlyuchenkova's credit, she dug deep on Petrova's service game at 2-1 and 30-30 as she produced two stunning passing shots to break the Petrova serve for the first time. We were cheering her on throughout the match and I think she noticed us!!

Pavlyuchenkova came alive at 2-1 down in the 2nd set

Unfortunately, Pavlyuchenkova couldn't use the momentum of that great game at 2-1 down and ended up losing her service game at 4-3. It was all Nadia from there as she held and then put extreme pressure on Pavlyuchenkova's next service game at 6-3 5-3. She saved two match points but it was just delaying the inevitable as Petrova wrapped up a routine 6-3 6-3 victory. I was very disappointed that Pavlyuchenkova lost, but to be honest she did not deserve to win based on this performance. There was one frustrating issue with watching on Court 17 and that was that people kept entering and leaving the court during the points. I wish they would have security for this court!

Petrova was too solid for an error flowing Pavlyuchenkova and wrapped up a straight sets win

After the completion of the match, we headed straight to our seats on Number One Court to catch some of Novak Djokovic who was playing against the talented South African, Kevin Anderson. We missed the first set, which Djokovic won 6-3 but were in our seats ready for the start of the 2nd set! Surprisingly, the rain hadn't arrived and there was glorious sunshine :)


Saturday, 25 June 2011

A Trip to Wimbledon and Centre Court - Part 3

After the Federer match, we headed out to watch some tennis on the outside courts. Me and David have entered a fantasy tennis game where you pick ten male and female tennis players to amass points over the tournament. We were keen to follow some of our players so we headed over to court 10 to watch one of David's players, Karol Beck who was into a deciding fifth set against the Argentinian, Carlos Berlocq. The match was made all the more entertaining by some crazy Slovakian supporters who were on their feet cheering every point that Beck won! Some of the British fans were trying to neutralise the support by cheering on Berlocq. The atmosphere was fantastic and it is one of the reasons that makes Wimbledon so special. Beck managed to pull the win through in the fifth set to the delight of his crazy fans (and David!)

The crazy supporters for Beck which made for a fantastic atmosphere

Beck comes through in a tight five setter against Berlocq.

We hung around on court 10 to watch a first round match between Kirsten Flipkens and Peng Shuai, another one of my favourite players! We stood behind Kirsten Flipken's coach and it was not a fun afternoon for him as Flipkens was bagelled in the first set. She really struggled in the windy conditions as her serve faltered and her groundstokes sailed long. Peng dealt with the conditions well and eventually strolled to victory with some solid and precise tennis. I tried not to get too excited behind Flipken's dejected coach and what may have been her parents too!

Peng and Flipkens take to the court

Peng was a comfortable winner yayyyy!

We managed to watch a number of matches on the outside court; most notably we caught a quick glimpse of Stosur through the crowds of people surrounding Court 14 as they witnessed a major shock as she was humbled by Melinda Czink. We saw a grumpy Iveta Benesova lose the first set to the all shrieking, Sandra Zahlavova although she did recover the match in the end. We also watched the 4th set tiebreak between Frank Dancevic and Ricardo Mello in which Dancevic wasted two match points. Dancevic then went onto lose which both David and I were not happy about as he was one of our players! We then headed back to our seats on Centre Court where Novak Djokovic had managed to win in super quick time and was walking off the court victorious!

Stosur was stunned out on Court 14

Dancevic choked his way to defeat

Following the quick matches on Centre Court, we had another match added to our order of play. This was between Maria Sharapova who was many people's tip for the title, and Anna Chakvetadze. From the start, Sharapova looked to have too much power for Chakvetadze who struggled on every one of her service games as Sharapova battered her limp looking second serve. Chakvetadze did well to save numerous break points at 3-1 down in the first set and the pair traded blows in some long crunching rallies; however Maria was too tough for Anna and took the first set 6-2.

Sharapova's serve still looked shaky at times

Sharapova had far too much power for Chakvetadze

Chakvetadze in action

The second set was a pretty scrappy affair with consecutive breaks at the start of the match. Sharapova lost her serve with two consecutive double faults. Her serve let her down in the French Open semi-finals to Li Na and she struggled for consistency in this match too. However Sharapova did ease away with the match from 6-2 1-1 to 6-2 6-1 as she broke the resistance of Chakvetadze who has suffered a number of health problems at the start of this year.

Sharapova was at her grunting powerful best at times

Chakvetadze tried bringing Sharapova into the net with mixed success

Sharapova was victorious 6-2 6-1

Before we left Wimbledon, we caught a glimpse of the match on court 11. This involved two hard-hitting Czech players with enormous serves in Lucie Safarova and Lucie Hradecka. It was a good match and Safarova pulled the win through against a moody Hradecka... you wouldn't want to get in a fight with her! As we decided to leave, we could hear cheers on all the courts but most notably on Court 3 where Isner comfortably saw off Mahut in the repeat of the first round epic. Overall, it was a fantastic day at Wimbledon and one of the best we have had in years. It was so exciting witnessing so much action on the outside courts and we were already excited about returning on Thursday.

Lucie Safarova in the fading sun

Lucie Hradecka signalling that a ball was longgg

A Trip to Wimbledon and Centre Court - Part 2

Our seats were side on to the play and on the opposite side of the umpire. We were three rows from the back but it was still a good view! Another positive note is how comfortable the seats were and how much leg space you get. This is compared to other venues notably Queens where it was painful to be sat down for longer than an hour!

At the start of the third set, there was a lot of support for Rezai who was matching Serena from the back of the court. We immediately noticed that one of the line judges was the same one that Serena threw a wobbly at in the US Open two years ago! At the start of the third set, Serena threw down a huge serve which hit the same line judge! Serena did apologise! Unfortunately Rezai's game started to drop off at 1-1 in the third set as she hit a number of wild errors. Rezai has had a terrible 2011 following a number of family issues which have massively affected her game. She has won just five matches this year so taking a set off Serena was a commendable achievement.

Our view from our seats on Centre Court with no zoom!

Serena and the line judge she threatened at the US Open!

The turning point came for Rezai at 1-3 down in the 3rd set when an epic point took place (you can see it on the BBC Sport website!). Rezai looked to have an easy overhead smash but unfortunately she didn't hit it into the empty space and it went straight back to Serena who produced a superb lob to win the point. It got the biggest applause of the day on Centre Court, however the applause on TV sounded nowhere near as loud as it did in real life!

Aravane Rezai

From that point on, Serena eased to the finish line in super quick time and wrapped up a 6-3 3-6 6-1 win. There was a nice exchange at the net and it was obvious how much the win meant to Serena. As much as I dislike her, it was touching to see her get upset in the post-match interview, which received a warm applause from the Centre Court crowd.

Serena strolled to victory in the third set

An emotional Serena salutes the crowd

The next match up was between Roger Federer and Mikhail Kukushkin. Even from the warm-up, Federer looked totally effortless on the court. Federer won his opening service game in about one minute as he battered four well-placed serves past Kukushkin. After saving early break points, Kukushkin quashed his early nerves to grab a foothold in the match and both players held with consumate ease as the first set went into a tiebreak. It was at this stage when Federer raised his game and he was imperious as he won the tiebreak, seven points to two.

Federer produced a majestic display of serving

Kukushkin gave a good account of himself

For the rest of the match, Federer always looked in control and never looked in doubt for the win. He mistimed a few shots here and there but overall his game was flowing well and he served superbly throughout the whole contest. Kukushkin put in a good fight but could never challenge Federer who eased to a 7-6 6-4 6-2 victory. The crowd gave him a rapturous applause at the end and it was well deserved after a great 1st round performance.

Federer at the net

My best shot of Federer

Friday, 24 June 2011

A Trip to Wimbledon and Centre Court - Part 1

I was lucky enough to get my first ever set of Wimbledon tickets in the AELTC public ballot for Centre Court on the first Tuesday. I went with my Brother, David and was able to start paying him back for so many years of taking me with HIS tickets! Following a rain affected day on the Monday, there was a packed schedule on all the courts. We got the bus from the train station to Wimbledon and arrived at the grounds at around 11am. I still get a real buzz just before arriving at Wimbledon as you pass all the huge houses on both sides and Centre Court emerges on the horizon!

We made our way into the grounds after a very short wait in the queue and getting searched by security (I obviously looked dangerous :P). We bought a programme (which is actually just about worth the money) and got my camera out ready to snap some players! There was a huge crowd of people surrounding Court 8 where Serena Williams was practising ahead of her first round match. On the court next door to Serena was the World number one, Caroline Wozniacki who had a notably smaller crowd following her.

Caroline Wozniacki on the practice courts

It took us quite a while to navigate our way through the huge crowds as we walked up towards number one court. We also found Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic practising on some of the outside courts. We tried getting onto the Aorangi practice courts but once again there were large queues everywhere! This is the obvious disadvantage to Wimbledon compared to Eastbourne where you have no problem seeing the players on the practice court.

Andy Roddick practising his serve on Court 19

We studied the order of play beforehand and decided to catch an entire match on the outside courts at 12pm instead of watching Serena Williams first up on Centre Court. We headed over to the roof overlooking Court 18 to watch a first round match between the number 11 seed, Andrea Petkovic and Stephanie Foretz Gacon. Petkovic has had a stellar 2011 season and is one of the most exciting personalities on the tour. I had also yet to add her to my list of players seen live! Petkovic arrived 5 minutes late to the court but started her Wimbledon campaign in impressive fashion. She attacked Foretz from the start and took the early lead; however Foretz broke Petkovic back in the next game with some solid hitting as Petkovic's 1st serve percentage dipped. Petkovic managed to get the vital break later on in the set with some excellent returning and she eventually wrapped up the first set, 6-3.

Andrea Petkovic and Stephanie Foretz-Gacon on Court 18

Foretz-Gacon was a lucky loser into the main draw

Petkovic won the first set, 6-3

The second set went with serve until 2-2 when Petkovic broke the Foretz-Gacon serve for a third time. The match felt very even throughout but Foretz was unable to raise her game on the big points. Petkovic struggled to close the match out at 6-3 5-4 and faced several break points on the final game of the match. However each time Foretz threw in a careless error that sailed long or crashed into the net, which demonstrated the difference in class between the two players.

Petkovic was solid yet unspectacular

Petkovic used her serve well with a number of aces throughout the match

Eventually Petkovic finished the match off, 6-3 6-4 and we got a shot off her new victory dance, the hula hoop! The "Petko dance" has become a tradition after a Petkovic win and was another reason why I wanted to see Andrea in action! In truth, I wasn't that impressed with Petkovic who looked particularly shaky at the end. I was definitely feeling worried about my prediction for her to reach the semi-finals!

Petkovic wins the match, 6-3 6-4

The new Petko dance!

At the end of the match, we headed over towards the South end of the grounds where another of my favourites, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was playing her first round match against Leslie Tsurenko. We turned up at the business end of the 2nd set and had a great view of the match over the new court 4 standing under court 3. I have to confess that Pavlyuchenkova was pretty disappointing and made a lot of errors against a very average opponent. Thankfully, she managed to finish the match off in a second set tiebreak.

The new Court 4 next to Court 3

Pavlyuchenkova pulls it through in the end, 6-4 7-6 against Tsurenko

We had another wander around the courts before finally taking up our seats on Centre Court! We made our way up several flights of staircases to the top level of Centre Court and were surprised to see on the tv's that Serena had lost the second set to Aravane Rezai. We joined the match at the beginning of the third set...