fans’ POV: the weird women’s wimby semis

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Even for avid tennis fans, the Wimbledon women’s semifinal line-up evokes a certain amount of confusion. “Puh-ronk-oh-va?” “Pet-rah Kee-vote-who?”

In Tuesday’s quarterfinals at the All England Club, winners were expected to be named Williams or Clijsters, but only was that the case in a single of three matches, as Venus Williams went down in straight sets and Kim Clijsters lost in three.

Serena Williams held up her end of the bargain, beating Li Na of China in her match, the same player that took out her sister Venus in the quarterfinals at the Australian Open this year. Unknown Petra Kvitova came through in her match against Kaia Kanepi, 8-6 in the third set.

Women’s tennis has a history with unknown semifinalists, though few compare to what will take place on Thursday at the All England Club in London. Earlier this month, Francesca Schiavone and Samantha Stosur surprised all by making the semifinals (and then the finals) at Roland Garros, and earlier this year it was Na who beat Venus Williams while countrywoman Jie Zheng earned a final-four birth in Melbourne, as well.

Tsvetana Pironkova and Petra Kvitova are the least known of the bunch, much like Belgian Yanina Wickmayer was unknown in her march to the semifinals of last year’s U.S. Open.

Here’s a few thoughts from TSF followers on what exactly the Wimbledon semifinals mean for women’s tennis as a whole, TV ratings, business, the future and all that jazz:

I think all this means now is that Serena’s got an easy path to the title.  She clearly looks the most dominant, and she’s the only one of the four that’s even been to a Grand Slam final before.  I think if it were a situation of four unknowns, we’d get a Roland Garros re-do, but to me this just seems to clear the road for Serena to win. She also has that intimidation factor that could put a stop to any streaking player that otherwise has the momentum. Chances are, if Serena can get past her semifinal match (which she should), it’ll be a pretty boring final.  My pick: Serena takes the title easily in straight sets. –Hilary Scurlock, Co-Editor, Strawberries & Scream

As great as it is these lesser known/ranked players are having the tournament of their lives (and of most player’s lives) NBC has to be fuming because of potential ratings drops.  We could be seeing a lot of Isner/Mahut re-aired that day. Maybe if Zvonareva makes it to the finals they’ll do some soap opera story line about her crying and decombusting all the time.  It was just last year that Zvonareva won Indian Wells and made it to #5 in the world … can she get back up there?

As for the other girls, I know Pironkova had upset Venus at a grand slam some years ago [the 2006 Australian Open].  She beat Dementieva in Warsaw R16 earlier this year. At least with the French we had a storyline with the veteran Schiavone and the hot up and comer (even though she’s not a rookie) Stosur.  I think with Schivone and Stosur, while not the “biggest” names in the sport, they are established names with signifant wins under their belt. –Christopher Phillips, Contributing Writer, TSF

I would say that the situation is not quite as surprising as it looks–the fact is that Serena  is likely to wipe the court with all three of the other semifinalists. So in that regard, it is possible that order will be peacefully restored on Saturday. It’s like when the French get all excited that there are eight Frenchmen left in the third round of Roland Garros,  but you know by the semis there will be zero.

Also, Vera  was part of the first wave of Russians that took over the top 20; so it’s not quite  as big a shock as it might seem. She and Petrova were on the JV squad after Sveta, Dementieva and Myskina’s breakthroughs and everybody expected them to break out at some point as well. Vera is to be credited with hanging around after injuries and meltdowns and still fighting for that big win.

Overall, though I think it testifies to a lengthy power vacuum at the top of women’s tennis that has dragged on for too long. It raises the question why are there so many damn players who cannot stay at the top or near it or headed to it from Ivanovic to Sveta to Kirilenko to Wozniacki. –David Thorpe, Freelance Tennis Writer

I would be lying if I said that I was fine not seeing Venus vs. Serena in the finals. At the same time I am happy to see some other folks — Pironkova in particular — get a chance to break through. Zvonareva, too. Perhaps this will help her overcome all her mental demons (and validate that whole not-having-a-coach thing).

As far as the casual viewer is concerned — the ones who’ll be turning on Breakfast at Wimbledon — Stosur/Schiavone probably won’t differ from Zvonareva/Pironkova (except that the Wimbledon gals, save for Kanepi, are easier on the eye). –Erwin Ong, Editor, TSF

Overall, this women’s semifinal shows the depth of the women’s tour right now, as opposed to days of old when the top seeds romped their way through to the semis and finals.  There are so many strong women in the game these days, it makes for exciting matches and suspenseful outcomes.  While some American viewers may be more used to the “familiar” names showing up on NBC’s Wimbledon coverage, the broader tennis audience appreciates the athleticism and finesse of the underdog.

At the same time, it’s not like Vera Zvonareva is a complete unknown – she’s been excelling for some years now, and Kanepi [a quarterfinalist] as well has accomplished some nice results.  Certainly Pironkova’s upset over Venus Williams is surprising, given Venus’ historical success on the grass courts, but that’s what makes tennis so unpredictable and thrilling.  I look forward to seeing how the next few days turn out. –Andrew Feldman, Senior Manager, Learning & Leadership Development, USTA

Blech.  Bad for womens tennis.  Ratings will be down.  Sponsors will pull out.  You will never hear from these girls again.  It’s going to be a Williams-Pironkova final and over 6-0, 6-0. I’m boycotting this tournament on TV and switching back to the world cup.  GO BRAZIL!

The issue is not enough time for the top women to prepare on grass.  I am sure the losers in the semis here were bounced early in Paris and had plenty of time to prepare on grass.  You see it often where a qualifier gets thru to second week in London because of the extra time on grass.   People forget the US is the biggest TV market and the biggest source of revenue for WTA/Wimbledon/USTA and with total complete nobodies making it far in tournaments, American public doesn’t care and tunes out.  Same issue happened with World Cup.  USA was bounced and ESPN ratings have plummeted.

And POO POO to the All England people.  SEEDINGS! How dare they put Henin/Clisters and S. Williams/Sharapova in round of 16.  STUPID STUPID STUPID!  Henin should of been 12 or higher and Sharapova should of been seeded 16 or higher.  –David Song, C.E.O., SongPlus, angry/bitter tennis fan

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