By Jane Voigt
June 27, 2014 — As The Championships approached Middle Sunday, a day of rest, the intensity of play mounted. Fans perched on the edge of their seats, as tension was palpable in the stands of Wimbledon, in homes around the world, and at corner cafes.
Seventeen-year-old Belinda Bencic advanced to the third round of her very first Wimbledon. The Swiss youngster defeated American Qualifier Victoria Duval early today, 64 75, when the sun shined brightly on Court 18. Bencic will be up against it tomorrow, as she meets Simona Halep the number 3 seed and Roland Garros finalist. The match will be tough for Bencic, but she’s the one with the experience. She won the Junior Wimbledon title last year.
Marin Cilic (No. 26) eliminated Tomas Berdych (No. 6) after the sun had set and Hawkeye ball-tracking had been put to bed due to low light. The Croatian won 76(5) 64 76(6). The third set felt like an extended fifth. Cilic on the verge of an upset. Berdych desperate to win set three, when the match would’ve been called for darkness and tomorrow would have brought hope. Cilic has never gone beyond the 4th round at Wimbledon. He plays Jeremy Chardy next. The Frenchman defeated the serve-and-volley giant, Sergiy Stakhovsky, who ruined Ernests Gulbis’ week and Roger Federer’s 2013 with wins over both. Stakhovsky, though, still has not progressed past the 3rd round of any major.
Venus Williams, the 5-time women’s champion, lost to the 2011 ladies’ champion, Petra Kvitova … 57 76(2) 75. All four of their matches have been decided in third sets and today’s was beautiful ball striking from front to back. Williams was two points away from a straight set win and berth in the round of 16, when Kvitova upped her game. Both women love to play on Centre Court Wimbledon for obvious reasons. Mentally, though, the edge was with Kvitova.
“It’s a shame there had to be a loser and more of a shame that it had to be me,” Venus told the press. “This was a great match for me. But the battle is always more enjoyable when you win. I’m still in the doubles. That’s what is on my mind right now.”
Li Na came up with another dismal display of slam tennis, losing to 43-ranked Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, 76(5) 76(5), on a double fault. Li had not played any of the grass court warm-up tournaments. The lack of match practice showed. However, the win for the five-foot-five Czech Republic woman was the biggest of her career. Her appearance on Monday in the round of sixteen will be her first, in her 12th trip to the All England Club. She meets Caroline Wozniacki (No. 16) Monday.
Without a doubt, the name that will not ring a bell for millions of fans is Tereza Smitkova, also from the Czech Republic. She came through qualifications, is ranked No. 175 in the world, and is 19. She has not officially turned pro and has never played on the lawns of The Championships. Her WTA resume lists one match win. One. Yet, the youngster fought through nerves and tears to defeat Bohana Jovanovski, 46 76(5) 10-8. The Serbian had beaten two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka (No. 8) in the prior round.
Grigor Dimitrov (No. 11) and Alexandr Dolgopolov (No. 21) are two bright hopes for men’s tennis. Dimitrov’s year has been one of changes working alongside his new coach, Roger Rasheed. The Aussie has not tinkered with Dimitrov’s game, but has soothed his mind and soul enough to watch him blossom into a player John McEnroe says is the outside chance to win this year’s men’s singles title after the big four. Today was a display of his game strengths and mental concentration. Down 2 sets to Dolgopolov, Grigor brought out his court bag of skills and showed them off. It helped that ‘Dolgo’ wagged out in the fifth, but nothing should be taken away from Dimitrov’s shot selection and execution.
“The only thing I could do was stay in there and fight,” Dimitrov said. “But, as soon as I got that break in the fifth set I knew I could close it out at last. I felt physically very strong. I knew that the longer the match went the better chance I had of winning. Today I felt inspired. I am proving myself not only as a player but also as a person outside the court.”
Girlfriend Maria Sharapova must have smiled, hearing this comment.