15 June 2011

Eastbourne - Wednesday 15 June

I see you!
It's hard to have a bad day when it begins watching Sam Stosur, Serena Williams and Vera Zvonereva practicing side by side in Eastbourne. Sam was on the nearest practice court and when I arrived I saw Richard Williams and his wife so knew Serena would be coming soon. She walked right past me and I completely clammed up tho wanted to say 'welcome back' or something. Fail!

I've seen Serena play a lot - Melbourne, US Open and Olympics but had never been so close to her as I was today as hadn't seen her in any practice. It's hard for me to explain how amazing it is to be so close to these athletes we love so much. Watching player practices at slams is such chaos but here the players are so accessible so you almost feel like you're intruding. Yesterday Venus had a bit of a rest after her practice and she stood there watching everyone watching her, no one speaking. I was tempted to say something, ask for a pic or something but it was an odd experience (see pic- think she really wanted me to speak!).

The famous booty

Serena and Sascha
I watched Serena practice for awhile and then it was time to watch Venus take on Ana Ivanovic. I saw these two play each other in 2008 at the Aussie Open, and Ana won that QF. This time, Venus was in total control. Her serve was spot on, her groundies fab and she moved well. Ana started off serving really well and then her toss just seemed so errant and to me she showed no patience and really tried to go for too much. Easy win for Venus!

Then on Centre Court it was little sis taking on Vera. What a fantastic, tense match - seriously have no fingernails left. Serena's start was fab - nothing like yesterday. Although she was called for a foot fault during her first serve of the match (really?), her serve was solid and her groundies so much sharper than yesterday. I'll say the quality of this match was miles ahead of Venus/ Ana and there were some fantastic points all throughout. Serena had the match on her racket but today she didn't quite get the aces cracking BP down and before you knew it Vera won the set in a tiebreak - there were some great points toward the end and Serena was puffing quite a lot. 
You could tell Serena was getting a bit fatigued at the end of that set and she went down a double break in the third really quickly. At this stage of course I was worried and was quite sad to see her shots lack any bite or just not clear the net and she was down 2-5. The comeback queen tho would break Vera twice while she served for the match to tie things at 5-5. Could she do it again, after only playing one match in the past year? The fighter tried to make it happen but couldn't do it and Serena meekly got broken to lose 3-6 6-7, 5-7. 

I read Serena hit 58 winners in the match. Yeah baby!

I'll have more perspective on this match later but sitting through this 3+ hour match surrounded by 'go Vera' repeatedly really made it an unpleasant match. I know people can cheer for anyone they want, but I'd like to know how many of these vocal fans were actually Vera fans (had they even heard of her?) - the crowd got really frustrating. They cheered Serena's errors particularly even a double fault late in the match. At one stage in set three I called out "come on Serena" and had dozens of people turn around to look at me. I watched little old ladies all around me clap fervently whenever Vera won a point particularly on a Serena error. Frustrating. I don't buy that all these people just wanted an underdog to win and I'd have thought the crowd might still have some concern left for Serena's health considering her issues and long break. But no, the woman in front of me made fun of Serena's grunt, the man behind me called her a drama queen when she briefly knelt on the court after a long rally that Vera won. Sigh.

 Anyway, this is getting long but there is so much to say about a day at the tennis. Outside Centre Court, there were only two other slam winners competing (this draw is amazeballs) - Fran lost again to Agie and Li Na lost to Dani. I watched Dani/Na for about 20 minutes and what a battle!

One of today's highlights was meeting Mo (Mohamed Lahyani). He had just finished a match on an outer court and I approached him and told him how much he's loved by us tennis junkies and he was so lovely and appreciative. He posed for a pic with me and I walked away, looked at it and saw my eyes were closed (doh!) so went back and he was happy to pose again and checked it with me to ensure all eyes were open. Such a fantastic man and what a smile!

I'm back for one more day and it's again a Williams on Centre Court as Venus takes on Dani and then it's Stosur/Bepa.

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