Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Thwackety wackety zingety ping

LAST Saturday we went to watch the semi-finals of the AEGON Classic at the Priory Club in Edgbaston, Birmingham. I'd not been to see professional tennis before, but being just down the road, it seemed silly not to go. Armed with picnics, sun cream and umbrellas, we had a pleasant day that has made me very excited for Wimbledon.

First to play were Daniela Hantuchova and Ana Ivanovic, in matching shocking pink dresses. It was a bad start for Ivanovic, probably embarrassed at having come to the match wearing the same outfit as her opponent, as she was broken in the very first game. She regained dominance, but she was consistently sloppy. Meanwhile, Hantuchova played mind games with Ivanovic, and it was Hantuchova who eventually took the victory, despite her lower seeding. It was a bit of a slow game - even Martina Navratilova, present to celebrate the tournament's thirtieth anniversary, got bored and went home before its completion. I supported Hantuchova from the beginning as the underdog, but I wasn't happy with her play, which seemed unsportsmanlike and lacking grace.

Next to play were Shaui Peng, seeded third and the highest seeded player remaining in the competition, and Sabine Lisicki - unseeded, unheard of, headphones in her ears as she came on court. Now this was a match: faster, much more exciting and fair play from both sides of the court. Both seemed nice players, not ones to mess with each other or challenge umpire decisions, but it was Lisicki who caught our attention. She played with a smile... indeed, she played very, very well with a smile. At each missed shot she would squeal in anguish, followed by an embarrassed giggle. She won convincingly, and was ecstatic.

Two days later (the final was delayed by one day because of rain), she repeated this performance and beat Hantuchova to the trophy, only her second ever singles title. I gather it was equally as effortless. It qualified her for Wimbledon, raised her WTA ranking by 38 places to 62 and earnt her four new fans - Rachel and myself and my parents.

Today she takes on Latvia's Anastasija Sevastova in the first round of Wimbledon, where she reached the quarter finals in 2009 before falling into two years of injury and comparative obscurity. I hope you will join me in cheering her on.

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