Kirsten Flipkens tops Venus Williams in a three-hour epic: No.5 seed Venus Williams just couldn't put Kirsten Flipkens away. Over the course of this three hour and 15 minute long tug-of-war match, Flipkens found a way to force Venus into playing on her terms. The Belgian's backhand slice was effective into the corners and she used her guile to get Venus out wide and out of position before executing a pitch-perfect dropshot. It was a pattern Venus saw often and early, but one from which she struggled to break.
It was a disappointingly early exit for Venus, who also lost in the first round of doubles with Serena to the Czech duo of Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova. We know how much the Olympics means to her, and in many ways the event has been the buoy for her career whenever she was struggling and needed that bit of extra motivation.
What can I say.. Where should I start.. Rio, Brazil, u r AMAZING!! Goosebumps from the 1st untill the last second.. Which is actually 1/3
But this was also an incredible feel good moment for Flipkens. The 30-year-old missed out on the 2012 Olympic tennis event after her ranking slipped due to being diagnosed with blood clots in her legs. Outside the Top 200, her struggles worsened when the Belgian Tennis Federation revoked her funding. Left to go about her career alone, she rebuilt her team, and a year later she was into the Wimbledon semifinals.
quite long.. 11.580 sec :) Best crowd ever.. Together with my quarter final match in Wimbledon '13 the most epic match of my carreer 2/3
Her career hasn't reached the same highs since, but this win over Venus, in her Olympic debut, had to taste so sweet given her rollercoaster ride to Rio.
"I was already thinking in the third set that it was one of the most epic matches I've ever played," Flipkens said in a television interview. "My dream was to come to Rio but to beat one of the greatest champions, that's a second dream coming true."
The biggest upsets did not come in singles: While the focus may naturally fall on the singles competition, the most surprising results of the weekend came in doubles, where the top two seeds and medal favorites bowed out. On Saturday it was Japan's Misaki Doi and Eri Hozumi stunning No.2 seeds and French Open champions Carolina Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic 6-0 0-6, 6-4. No one saw this result coming - let alone that wacky scoreline. The French team were a heavy medal favorite before the competition.
Then on Sunday it was the veteran Czech pair of Barbora Strycova and Lucie Safarova who ousted top seeds and defending gold medalists Venus and Serena Williams, winning, 6-3, 6-4. The weekend also saw India's team of No.1 Sania Mirza and Thombare Prathana lose to China's Peng Shuai and Zhang Shuai. The losses open up a doubles draw that was always tough to call. It should be a very exciting week.
Asian tennis had a big weekend: In addition to Doi and Hozumi's doubles upset, two of the biggest singles upsets also came at the hands of Asian players. China's Zheng Saisai stunned a flat and frustrated No.4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-4, 7-5, and Zhang Shuai saved three match points to upend No.12 seed Timea Bacsinszky, 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(7). Doi and Nao Hibino also scored solid singles wins, with Doi beating Yaroslava Shvedova and Hibino ousting Florianopolis champion Irina-Camelia Begu.
These are two crushing losses for Radwanska and Bacsinszky. I tapped both women at having a good look at the medal rounds after the soft draws they were dealt. For Radwanska, a combination of her three-day journey from Canada to Rio (via...Lisbon?), combined with a slow, gritty court that plays to the opposite of her strengths, spelled her doom.
Bacsinszky will also be kicking herself after playing three passive points on match point to surrender her lead in the third set tiebreak. Unlike Radwanska, her tournament continues. She rebounded later in the evening to score a win in doubles with Martina Hingis.
Daria Gavrilova's spirited effort: She was outmatched on nearly every metric, but hat tip to Gavrilova, who scored the unlucky fate of being Serena's first round opponent. The slow surface kept her in the rallies and she whooped the Center Court crowd into a frenzy with her tenacious defense. It ended in a 6-4, 6-2 loss, but that scoreline is a bit unfair. It was a great match and the perfect opening round test for Serena.
Slow and steady wins the race: Aside from the results themselves, the story of the weekend was the speed of the courts at Barra Olympic Park. They were described as being slower than the Rogers Cup, and after observing just a handful of early points it was clear it was a slow, high-bouncing court, not unlike the BNP Paribas Open, but with heavier balls and conditions. It's not going to be easy to hit through this court, though the straight set wins by Serena Williams, Garbiñe Muguruza, Madison Keys, and Petra Kvitova may indicate the big hitters can tee off.
Wardrobe Malfunction: After her disappointing loss in doubles, Kristina Mladenovic took to Twitter to explain the team's frazzled state on court. According to Mladenovic, she and Garcia were ready to take the court when officials told them they could not wear kits of different colors. Luckily, Mladenovic had a second dress and Garcia wore - inside out, for sponsorship reasons - that so that they matched. But the entire ordeal was not the ideal match preparation.
Sloane Stephens bows out to Eugenie Bouchard: The Canadian won, 6-3, 6-3 to notch her first win as an Olympian. She will face Angelique Kerber in the second round. Kerber notched a scratchy opening win over Mariana Duque-Mariño, rallying from 2-5 in the second to win 6-3, 7-5.
? Genie Bouchard (@geniebouchard) August 7, 2016
As for Stephens, after starting the year at 17-3 with three titles, she is now 5-7 since. Perhaps playing on home soil will get things back on track.
To Opening Ceremony or not: It's always a tough decision to make for any tennis Olympian: Should I go to the Opening Ceremony or should I rest? For some, the schedule makes the decision for them. Those who did not have to play until Sunday jumped at the chance to walk out with the compatriots on Friday night.
In the end, there really is no science to the matter. Madison Keys went to the Opening Ceremony on Friday night and was first up on Saturday. She won. Heather Watson also went and she won both her singles and doubles matches on Saturday. Andrea Petkovic, Timea Bacsinszky, and Venus Williams opted out. They lost the next day. Reading too much into the decision is a waste of time.
But this tweet was one of the best of Friday night:
Second round matches to watch: All second round matches will be played on Monday. Here are the one's we're paying particular attention to: Serena Williams vs. Alizé Cornet, Petra Kvitova vs. Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber vs. Eugenie Bouchard, Madison Keys vs. Kristina Mladenovic, Johanna Konta vs. Caroline Garcia, Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Monica Niculescu, Daria Kasatkina vs. Zheng Saisai, and Barbora Strycova vs. Sara Errani.
There in spirit: Simona Halep is not in Rio for the Olympics but that doesn't mean she's not celebrating the Olympic spirit. In her own way.
? Darren Cahill (@darren_cahill) August 6, 2016