Maria Sharapova vs. Petra Kvitova
It wasn't the greatest ladies' final ever, it wasn't the greatest ladies' match of the tournament (that 'award' go to Venus Williams vs. Kimiko Date-Krumm), but it was nonetheless (even with Sharapova screaming her way through the match) a very good match. It didn't go to three sets, but the two sets were close and hard fought out and it was won, not lost.
They exchanged breaks in the first two games of the first set and then went on to hold their own serves, playing some great tennis, pushing one another to play better and some good rallies before Kvitova broke to take the first set.
During the second set they exchanged breaks several times as neither seemed able to win two games in a row before finally Kvitova held on to her serve in a tight game, the score was then 5:4 to Kvitova. I, the commentators and plutos_revenge (and probably a lot of other people) felt that Kvitova had to break Sharpova's serve to win the match, rather than having to serve it out. But Sharapova showed her true fighting spirit and held her serve.
At that point I would have put money on Kvitova's nerves (which she had for the most part kept well in check) prevailing and Sharapova breaking to level the match. I would have lost that bet. Not only did Kvitova's nerves seem to vanish, not only did she hold her serve she held it to love and won the match with an ace - her first of the match.
Sharapova was a very gracious loser and praised Kvitova not only in her on court 'chat' with Sue Barker, but later in her press conference when she openly admitted she'd been troubled by Kvitova's left handed, powerful serve and that Kvitova played the better tennis.
Petra Kvitova was a charming champion, she seemed not to really believe she'd won the title and also very gracious. She will be very good for the ladies' game. And with Sharapova (who let's not forget is only 24 and in an era when women seem to be playing much longer) back to her best, the next few years could be very interesting and enjoyable.
Two doubles' finals were played yesterday. The Men's and the Ladies'.
Mike and Bob Bryan (the Bryan twins who were the #1 seeds and already ten time Grand Slam winners) easily won their match against Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau, beating the #8 seeds in straight sets. It wasn't an overly entertaining match, but it was a very high quality match - you can easily see why the Bryan brothers have won so many titles.
In the ladies' doubles the #2 seeded team of Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik beat the first time playing together team and unseeded Samantha Stouser and Sabine Lisicki. The match started really well and promised to be close and entertaining, but then the Stouser and Lisicki's game (and in particular serve) deserted them and in the end Peschke and Srebotnik showed why they were seeded #2 and showed they were used to playing doubles together. They won in straight sets.
Today Rafael Nadal (#1 seed) takes on Novak Djokovic (#2 seed) in a match that promises so much and in many ways has more than just the Wimbledon title at stake. Whatever happens Djokovic will formally become World #1 tomorrow, so as one newspaper said today 'it's a match between the World #1s'.
Both men will be under pressure and both have things to prove:
Djokovic has the pressure of being the best player in the world this year, having only lost one match in the semi finals of the French Open to Federer. He also has just taken the World #1 slot from Rafa and so winning Wimbledon to take his second Grand Slam of the year would in effect 'prove' (if any more proof was needed) that he is the best player in the world at the moment. He's also beaten Rafa in four finals this year (two on Rafa's beloved clay). Okay so they were all in three set matches and as Djokovic himself has said, Rafa over five sets is completely different from Rafa over three sets. He's playing in his first Wimbledon final and whilst he's played in other Grand Slam finals and won Grand Slams, all players will tell you Wimbledon is different, the history, the sense of ceremony, it's not just 'another match'.
Rafa himself has the pressure of being the #1 seed. Also of having not lost at Wimbledon since Federer beat him in the 2007 final. Also, of not having lost a Grand Slam final to anyone but Federer (not counting today he's played twelve and won ten, his two losses have been here at Wimbledon in 2006 and 2007 to Federer). He also has the pressure of the four losses this year to Djokovic, can he remember how to beat Djokovic? Despite the four losses this year he has a winning record of 16:11 and maybe crucially he has beaten Djokovic in every Grand Slam match they've played, including the US Open final last year, a surface many said Rafa would never conquer. So two of those Grand Slams 'wins' were down to Djokovic retiring, but nonetheless they were wins.
To my mind the key to winning the match today will be more in the mind than on the grass. We know both men are playing exception tennis, they are the best two players in the world at the moment (whoever wins today's match will have won two Grand Slams this year), they both have the game to win, they both respect one another and one another's game, they know one another's game so well, they are both fit - Djokovic who used to struggle with fitness is a different man this year.
For Rafa to prevail I think he has to forget the four losses to Djokovic this year and remember what he did to a) beat Federer in the French Open five weeks ago b) what he did to beat Murray two days ago and most importantly c) what he did to beat Djokovic in the US Open last year.
For Djokovic to beat Rafa he has to forget he's lost to Rafa in every other Grand Slam match they've played and remember what he did to beat Rafa in four finals this year.
Sounds easy, doesn't it? *g*
For the first time this year we did see the 'other' Djokovic, the man who used to turn up quite frequently, quite a bit in his quarter final win over Tomic and even flashes during his win over Marcos Baghdatis (when he brutally but also coldly and clinically smashed his racquet. Will that Djokovic show himself at all today? If he does, the match is Rafa's with no question. But two bursts of the 'old' Djokovic against all the other 'new' Djokovic appearances this year are not good odds.
I'm going to stick with Rafa emerging the winner as he is my favourite player and I have called him from the beginning. But I do fear by the end of today I'll be disappointed. Having said that my good friend and fellow tennis lover plutos_revenge did successfully predict her favourite Roger Federer's loss not only in this year's quarter final but also in last year's and also about Sabine Lisicki in this year's quarter's. She's predicted Rafa in four and having been so right, she can't be wrong, right? *Grins* *Eyes her very, very carefully*
Four or five sets, a close, entertaining, well fought match with Rafa emerging the winner.
But good luck to both Rafa and Nole - may the better man win.