Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Venus Williams

3.36pm: Blown by a second wind, the resurgent Date-Krumm opens her shoulders and hits for the lines, locking up the decider at three-games apiece. Over on Court One, brutish Thomas Berdych is already 2-1 up on France's Julien Benneteau, while play is now poised to commence on all the outside courts.
3.28pm: Date-Krumm is clutching at lifelines, straining every muscle and sinew to keep Venus Williams at bay. At break point down the umpire steps in to save her, overruling a call to conjure her crosscourt backhand into a clean winner. But the break points keep coming, rearing up like waves against a wharf.
Bathed in sweat, fighting for breath, Date-Krumm nonetheless holds firm. She saves six break points to tie the score at two games all.
3.18pm: Hope springs eternal for Kimiko Date-Krumm, who immediately breaks back, courtesy of some brilliant scampering defence and a crowning double-fault into the net from Venus Williams. The Japanese phoenix now serves at 1-2 down.
And the mood of optimism appears to be infectious. All around, the All England Club is coming alive again. Thomas Berdych and Julien Benneteau have just swaggered onto Court One with a view to beginning their second round contest.
3.11pm: Venus Williams breaks in the second game of the decider, connecting with a brutal forehand return that has Date-Krumm reeling on the back foot. And for the first time in this entire, electrifying contest, the American is ahead.
3.05pm: The sun is out and the skies are at least partly clear and play is set to begin on all The Other Courts in "10-minutes time", announces the voice on the PA. This, no doubt, is news from heaven for all the soggy, lowly-born punters who have been barred from joining the likes of Bruce Forsyth and Andrew Strauss in the royal box on Centre Court.
In the meantime, here's more Elf and Safety coverage from our own Matt Scott:
This Health and Safety Executive row is hotting up and, if it does not calm down soon, someone is going to end up getting hurt.
Ian Ritchie has responded to claims by the HSE chair, Judith Hackitt, that citing
health-and-safety legislation in shutting Murray Mount on Monday was a
mere "excuse", and he has pulled no punches.
Get this: "I am surprised to receive your public letter," wrote
Ritchie, in a letter made public to this blog/Digger. "Your concern
appears to be the media; mine and that of my professional colleagues
and advisers is the safe running of one of the major sporting events
in the world."
After that deliciously catty introduction, Ritchie then explains that
the decision to close Murray Mount was taken in conjunction with the
event safety officer and the senior police officer. "Our unanimous
view, after much deliberation, was that in heavy and continuing rain
and in diminishing light it was inappropriate to maintain pictures on
the screen to encourage people to sit in that area," added Ritchie.
"It must be entirely inappropriate for the chairman of the HSE to make
such public comments on specific decisions reached at an event when
you have absolutely no knowledge of the circumstances or the reason
for any decision made at the Championships. It is further regrettable
that you made no effort at all to discuss the facts with the club
prior to your letter being publicly distributed. To use your own
phrase I could not let your ill informed comments 'pass
2.59pm: Second set to Venus Williams, helped by a brilliant stretching forehand volley and an error at the net by (a possibly wearying) Kimiko Date-Krumm. The American takes it six games to three, levelling the match at a set apiece.
Ester Addley tweets:
Top fact about Kimiko Date-Krumm. She *retired* in 1996 - when Laura Robson was two
2.52pm: Banish the thought that Date-Krumm might be content to sit out the second set, keeping her powder dry for the third. She's still here, still playing, still bamboozling Venus Williams with her deft volleys and delicate sliced backhands to the lines. What she needs, though, is a break-back of serve and so far that's still eluding her. Williams leads four games to three.
2.40pm: Under the roof on Centre, Williams leads 3-2 with a break in the second set.
A weather update from Owen Gibson, currently doubling up as the Guardian's Michael Fish (which also makes him the father of Mardy, according to the ATP guide to professional tennis):
I can report that the forest of brollies on murray mound went down briefly. only to go back up five minutes later
2.35pm: Break point down, Date-Krumm elects to serve and volley. On this occasion she's too impetuous, snatching at the ball and pushing it long. So Williams breaks to lead 2-1 in the second.
To the electomail, meanwhile, where Suhrith Parthasarathy weighs in with a good point on the Murray-Mom debate:
Just to weigh in on Becker's comments, the family of the Williams sisters seem to travel with them all around and they've done alright, haven't they?
2.28pm: High time to pause, draw breath, and check on the outside world. It rains, it rains. But (good news) a swatch of blue sky appears to be pulling in from the north, while (more good news) Henman Hill is open for business, and the spectators are camped out beneath brollies in front of the giant screen. Elf and Safety won't like that. Just look at them in that picture above. Their eyes have grown black and Elf's smirk has turned into a grimace of rage. Sooner or later they'll be playing a visit to Henman Hill and woe betide anyone who slips up and comes a-cropper.
Back on Centre it's one-all in the second, going with serve.
2.18pm: First set to the astonishing, evergreen Kimiko Date-Krumm. She wins it the hard way, in dramatic fashion, reaching another set point courtesy of a ridiculous half-volley forehand pass that barely kisses the line. Williams challenges, but to no avail. On the next point the American's backhand finds the net and the Japanese player raises a fist in triumph. The cheers darn near take the roof off Centre Court.
2.14pm: The tiebreaker is a nail-biter. Date-Krumm sails to 6-2 with four set points. Then she's rocked by an ace, puts a volley long, goes wide with a backhand and is clubbed by a forehand. Six points all at the change of ends!
2.06pm: One has the sense that Date-Krumm is fighting for her life out here on Centre Court. She needs to win this set to stand any chance of unseating the five-time champion, but the tide has turned against her. Williams lunges for a volley and reaches set point, but Date-Krumm is not done yet. She saves it with a stabbed forehand volley and then takes the game with another of those beautiful half-volleys, sent back behind the rampaging American. And so a tiebreak it will be.
2.00pm: The Venus Williams serve is in the groove and her opponent is being increasingly shut out of the points. Date-Krumm must now serve to stay in the set at 5-6 down, having lost the last five games in a row.
1.58pm: Yet again Date-Krumm arrives at set point. Yet again Williams denies her, weathering a torrid rally and finding the space with a clubbing forehand to the corner. The score stands at five games apiece on a tense Centre Court, where the collective sigh of dismay suggests that Date-Krumm's moment may well have already come and gone.
1.50pm: Once, long ago, grass court tennis was played at the net. If the player was serving, they volleyed behind it. If they were receiving, they found a way to chip and charge forward at the earliest opportunity. For Date-Krumm, raised in a bygone 80s era of Navratilova and McEnroe, this is still the only way to play on nature's own court. She snakes in with intent, bedeviling Williams with dinks, volleys and smashes.
The American toils to repel this advance, hitting torpedo first serves that rear off the court and fighting hard to evade two set points against her. Kimiko Date-Krumm now has another chance to close out the set, serving at 5-4.
1.41pm: Kimiko Date-Krumm goes long (and not just in the tooth) and Williams stands at 15-40, two break points. Date-Krumm saves both with audacious runs to the net. But then, disaster! Two double-faults hand the game to Williams, who now serves at 3-5.
1.32pm: Kimiko Date-Krumm sidles to the net to cut off a stern backhand volley. She then rips Williams with a forehand down the line, hit flat and hard for a clean winner. The Japanese Lazarus duly holds serve to lead 5-1 in the opening set.
1.28pm: It was a golden age, a happy time, when you could leave your doors unlocked and the kids could play untended with the chimney sweeps. But the evidence suggests it may finally be drawing to an end. Errors are creeping, slowly but surely, into the Date-Krumm repertoire and Williams claws back one of the breaks.
The American is now serving at 1-3. But wait. Yet again, Date-Krumm turns back the clock, finessing a sublime half volley that has Williams chasing shadows to bring up two break points. The American goes long with an attempted forehand pass and she's broken again, trailing 1-4 in the first.
1.22pm: Date-Krumm bends double to receive serve, suggesting that she's either suffering from acute indigestion or preparing to kneel down to pray. But when the ball comes, she's ready for it, finding acute angles on the return and sneaking in to volley when the opportunity arises. She's playing out of her skin right now and breaks Williams to 15 with the aid of a lancing forehand pass that skips happily off the net. Date-Krumm now leads three games to love.
1.17pm: Out comes Venus Williams for her opening service game, but she's sloppy and rusty and Date-Krumm breaks her to love. The Japanese player then claws her way out of a 0-30 deficit to hold for 2-0, finishing off with a glorious drive volley into the open court.
Kimiko Date-Krumm, incidentally, played her first Wimbledon way back in 1989 - before 36 of the players in this year's women's draw had even been born. Back then the men's trophy went to Boris Becker and the women's to Steffi Graff. Back then the spectators wore top hats and returned home in horse-drawn hansom carriages and you could pick up a Centre Court ticket for three-shillings-and-sixpence, and still have change left over for a flagon of mead. It was a happier time, an age of innocence. And, so far at least, the times are a-changing back.
1.03pm: While we wait for Venus Williams (recovering from a hip injury) and Kimiko Date-Krumm (40-years-old and still with all her own teeth) to get play underway on Centre Court, here's Matt Scott on the (alleged) Problem With Mrs Murray:
So Judy Murray is more of a hindrance than a help to her son Andy's
career — according to Boris Becker — and sport's most famous mum has
felt the need to justify herself. "Between the Australian Open in
January and the Italian Open [on 8 May] I did not attend a
tournament," she said, which is perhaps a reduction in her courtside
commitment. But it is nowhere near as light a touch as Andy Roddick's
parents, with the American world No.10 explaining in his USA Today
column: "My parents are here [at Wimbledon] with me this year for the
first time since 1997.
"It's the first time they've ever seen me play here. I thought they
might have snuck over for one of my three finals and were just sitting
in the stands, but they swear they haven't. (They never sit in the
player box). I haven't seen much of them, however. I brought them down
to get credentialed a couple days ago and got them lined up for some
sightseeing, but they give me my space. They know I have to play a
Number of Wimbledon finals for Roddick: 3. Number of Wimbledon finals
for Murray: 0. Just saying.
12.50pm: Raining hard at Wimbledon and this is how it looks. The PA informs us that this is likely to keep up until around 3pm, after which it will be wine and roses and Monte Carlo levels of sunshine and unfettered play on every spare bit of grass. Possibly.
In the meantime the roof is drawn on Centre Court, where proceedings start in about 10-minutes. First up is Venus Williams versus Kimiko Date-Krumm, the battle of the golden oldies. We'll be covering that while also keeping an eye on the covers. What's going on under those covers? Are the pygmy professionals of the Lilliputian Tennis Academy playing one of their brutal, unseen contests? Or do the covered courts double as a kind of dormitory for the other players, with the likes of Novak Djokovic, Caroline Wozniacki and Jurgen Melzer all slumbering on the lawns, waiting to be roused and called to battle? If this deluge keeps up, we may be forced to crawl under and find out just what's going on.
Until then we're moseying over to Centre Court.
12.24pm: Here's more from the great Matt Scott on today's Elf'n'Safety controversy.
Wimbledon has been publicly chastised by the health-and-safety
ombudsman over its claims that Murray Mount had to be closed in heavy
rain. A letter to the Lawn Tennis Association's chief executive, Roger
Draper, and his All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club counterpart,
Ian Ritchie, has been made public by Judith Hackitt, the chair of the
Health and Safety Executive, and it does not make for pretty reading
for the pair.
Hackitt's beef is that the closure of Murray Mount at so high-profile
an international event was nothing more than "an excuse". And it is
illuminating that Hackitt says sports fans are frequently subjected to
similarly shabby treatment. "There is nothing in health and safety
legislation which prohibits the continued broadcasting of centre court
action to the crowds on the hill during the rain," wrote Hackitt.
"People have been walking up and down wet grassy slopes for years
without catastrophic consequences. If the LTA was concerned about
people slipping and suing for their injuries the message should have
made clear the decision was 'on insurance grounds'.
"Health and safety excuses are becoming as much a feature of the
British sporting calendar as the rain. You will understand that while
we can do nothing about the weather, we will not let the excuses pass
Hackitt believes it undermines genuine interventions by the HSE on
safety grounds. Wimbledon's ill-judged decision, it's the health &
safety executive that's gone mad.
We're now wondering if the picture above might not be of the notorious Elf and Safety. Elf calls to mind a smirking Andy Murray, while Safety resembles a placid, long-haired Roger Federer. Steer well clear. They've both gone utterly mad.
12.13pm: Down in the comments, Sociopol wonders why Britain's Alex Bogdanovic missed out on a Wimbledon wild-card. I believe this is on account of the organisers refusing him one after he lost something like seven first-round matches on the trot (at least I think it was seven: it may have been fewer, like six, or more, like 15).
What they gave him, by way of compensation, was a wild-card into the qualifying tournament. Bogdanovic promptly lost in the first round, in straight sets, to a player called Bastian Knittel, who in turn lost in the second round, in straight sets, to Marc Gicquel. Thanks to the Wimbledon daily report for providing such a window into the subterranean pre-history of this year's tournament.
12.05pm: In other rain-related news, a tweet from Esther Addley:
Three hrs of heavy showers, says #wimbledon officials, so no play for foreseeable. How will they stage olympic tennis here next year?
12.00pm: Is here time for an email? It transpires that there is. The courts are covered and the promised midday start rolled back to the afternoon. Wilson Beuys (presumably no relation of Joseph, the avant-garde German artist) has an issue with the Murray mask:
Whoever made that Andy Murray mask had a bit of a job on their hands. Where did they find a picture of him where he's not snarling? I can only assume they altered it in PhotoShop - which explains why it looks nothing like him.
Agreed, the image is deeply unsettling. It makes me worry that Murray and Federer have fallen in love, run to seed and are just about to embark on a dead-eyed killing spree, starting at your house, as the rain falls outside.
Bolt the windows. Don't open the door. Then mail to reassure us that all is well.
11.50am: Looking on the bright side, here's the order of the play for the two main show-courts, where play kicks off at 1pm.
First up on Centre is what the tournament's official "daily report" is dubbing "the Zimmer Frame Special", pitting 31-year-old Venus Williams against Kimiko Date-Krumm, the Little Miss Methuselah who celebrates her 41st-birthday in September. That's followed by Nadal versus Sweeting, after which eighth seed Andy Roddick takes on Romania's Victor Hanescu.
Over on uncovered Court One, the 2010 runner-up Thomas Berdych faces France's Julien Benneteau. Then, all being well, we have Andy Murray battling for a place in the third round against Tobias Kamke of Germany, followed by Britain's Anne Keothavong versus the talented Petra Kvitova, who sliced and diced her way to last year's semi-finals.
The outside courts, meantime, play host to the likes of Gael Monfils, Francesca Schiavone, Vera Zvonereva, Richard Gasquet and the redoubtable Mardy Fish. It should be a grand day of tennis. But that "should", it must be pointed out, comes ringed by lowering clouds and trumpeted by an ominous rumble of thunder.
11.35am: Umbrellas at the ready for day three of these Wimbledon championships, where the sky is like porridge and the met office are predicting heavy showers throughout the day. Already the moisture is gathering in the air around Centre Court and the ground-staff seem as nervous and jittery as rescue-centre greyhounds, all set to bolt for the covers at the first sign of a deluge.
Undeterred, Rafael Nadal is currently camped on an outside court, warming up for his second round match against Ryan Sweeting, belting topspin forehands with a blithe insouciance. Regardless of the weather, the reigning champion will be OK. He's due on Centre, most likely beneath the roof and possibly for the benefit of the rear admiral in the royal box. So bully for him and hurrah for the admiral. But what of the other competitors, cast out in the cold of the outside courts? And what of the lowly-born non-rear admirals who have come all this way to watch them? Here at the All England Club, we are battening down for a lengthy, stuttering afternoon. Stay indoors and watch us drown.
11.26am: An early story knocking around SW19 today concerns health and safety bosses, who have criticised Wimbledon organisers for using their legislation to shut down the hill now known as 'Murray Mount' when it rains. History was made at SW19 on Monday when the giant screen was turned off for the first time as officials feared fans would slip and injure themselves. Judith Hackitt, chair of the Health and Safety Executive, wrote to Wimbledon and the Lawn Tennis Association complaining about the decision. The HSE clearly feels it is being wrongly scapegoated whenever there is the slightest chance of anyone getting injured.

"People have been walking up and down wet grassy slopes for years without catastrophic consequences. If the LTA was concerned about people slipping and suing for their injuries the message should have made clear the decision was 'on insurance grounds'."
• Xan will be here shortly. In the meantime, check out today's order of play and catch up with our reports from yesterday's matches.
• Feast your eyes on the best images from day two with our award-winning photographer Tom Jenkins's picture gallery.
• If reading our Wimbledon live blog has made you want to get down and experience the action at SW19 for yourself, why not enter our competition to win VIP tickets to savour this Saturday's action. It's a very simple question.