Wimbledon 2012: Of Serena Williams, Mardy Fish and Brian Baker, only one American is left standing
By Liz Clarke,
WIMBLEDON, England — It was a resilient trio of Americans that took the courts at Wimbledon on Tuesday, three players who have battled through recent illness and injury that would have ended the careers of many pros.
But Mardy Fish, the 10th-seeded American who earlier this year underwent a medical procedure to fix an irregular heartbeat, fell to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a fourth-round match that was halted by rain the previous day.
Fish, 30, who wasn’t sure two months ago that he’d be able to compete at Wimbledon, couldn’t sustain the level of play he displayed earlier, while Tsonga, a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, raised his game. The ebullient Frenchman hit four aces in the tiebreak that proved decisive and closed with a 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 6-4 victory.
“He’s a lot of fun to watch when you’re not playing him,” Fish said of Tsonga, who ousted six-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer from the tournament last year.
Also falling Tuesday was qualifier Brian Baker, who had surpassed all expectation by reaching the fourth round in his Wimbledon debut.
Among the country’s heralded talents as a teen, Baker, 27, underwent five surgeries between November 2005 and July 2011 (three on his hips, one for a hernia and one on his right elbow). It took him three years to recover from elbow surgery, but he wasn’t ready to quit, determined to slog his way back to a credible career.
After starting the season ranked 458th in the world, he’ll be ranked inside the top 100 following his surprising showing here, which ended with a 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 defeat to Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.
While disappointed, Baker had little trouble acknowledging the strides he had made in recent weeks, winning three qualifying matches just to earn a spot in Wimbledon’s 128-player draw and then winning three more matches to reach the fourth round.
“Basically since I’ve been coming back, it has been about the health,” Baker said. “Now it’s about the game. So that’s a good thing.”
In her quarterfinal against the fourth-seeded Kvitova, Williams was so powerful and precise it was easy to forget she had been rushed to a Los Angeles hospital in March 2011 with a pulmonary embolism.
She blasted 13 aces past the reigning Wimbledon champion, never lost her serve and finished with 27 winners to just 10 unforced errors.
Kvitova, 22, looked flat-footed by contrast to her 30-year-old opponent. And by the time Kvitova ramped up her aggression, stepping in closer to receive Williams’s serve, which hit 120 mph, Williams was firmly in charge.
“When she’s on fire, I really don’t want her on my part of the draw, that’s for sure,” said No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska, who also advanced to the semifinals by outlasting Russia’s Maria Kirilenko, 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 in a match that was halted multiple times by rain before being relocated to Centre Court for its completion. Cheering Kirilenko on from her courtside box was boyfriend Alex Ovechkin. The Washington Capitals star has been a constant and spirited presence at her matches, carrying her racket bag back to the locker room on at least one occasion.
Radwanska, who’s on track to face Williams in Saturday’s final, was clearly impressed by the fitness of her potential opponent.
“I think she’s still in shape,” Radwanska said. “She’s looking good on court. She’s playing still a good tennis, running like 18 years old.”
British hopes for a Wimbledon champion were kept alive by Andy Murray’s efficient conclusion to rain-interrupted match against Croatia’s Marin Cilic, with the Scot advancing 7-5, 6-2, 6-3. On Wednesday, Murray will face Spain’s David Ferrer, who bounced him from the French Open just last month.
Rain is forecast for the next several days at the All England club. Barring further delays in play, Thursday’s women’s semifinals will pit Williams against No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and Radwanska against Germany’s Angelique Kerber, who ousted compatriot Sabine Lisicki.
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