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Briefs from Birmingham 2014: Date-Krumm doubles up

Kimiko Date-Krumm hits a backhand during her opening round match.
by Michael Beattie
Thursday 12 June 2014

One of the great balancing acts during the grass court season is gaining as much court time before Wimbledon without wearing yourself out in the process. Thursday was the story of one doubles partnership making their mark in the singles draw, and an old rivalry renewed on a day of upsets. Wimbledon.com reports…

Major headlines

After an impressive start at Edgbaston, Sam Stosur’s Aegon Classic campaign came to a crashing halt against fellow Australian Casey Dellacqua, as she became the first of the top four seeds to fall.

Stosur looked out of sorts from the outset but managed to protect her misfiring backhand well enough to avoid an early break and surge through the first set. The Australian duo had not faced one another in over a decade – and never before on the WTA tour – but Dellacqua defended her unbeaten record against the second seed, crafting points that exposed Stosur’s faltering wing and passing the former US Open champion almost at will when she came forward.

“You can't let the starts of games get away,” Stosur conceded. “Even though I won that first set, I knew that it was still a fairly tight match. I think that's what probably let me down in that second set – I didn't come out of the blocks firing. The way you start a match can definitely set the tone, but it's almost more important how you end a match than the way you start.”

Forget that Kimiko Date-Krumm is 43 years old. Forget she had to save a match point to beat Monica Puig and reach the third round, or that she followed the two-hour contest with a doubles win in the afternoon. The world No. 78’s 6-4 6-0 victory over defending champion Daniela Hantuchova was impressive on its own merit.

Date-Krumm, a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 1996, and Hantuchova hadn’t played each another since 2011, when the Slovakian won both meetings in Pattaya and Madrid, but she had no answers for the Japanese veteran’s game today. After giving up chances to break in the opening game, Hantuchova failed to deal with Date-Krumm’s variety and struggled to make any inroads on return. After claiming the first set Date Krumm gave up just nine points in the second.

“I think today she played one of her best matches,” said Hantuchova, who heads to Eastbourne next week. “She was hitting lines, moving well, coming to the net, serving unbelievably well. I thought I was always going to have chances on her serve, but today just everything went her way.”

The same could be said for top seed Ana Ivanovic, who steamrolled American Lauren Davis 6-1 6-1 in 68 minutes, but Sloane Stephens was given a brief scare by two-time Edgbaston semi-finalist Alison Riske. After claiming a tight first set, Stephens was broken twice as Riske went for broke, but while the third seed kept her composure Riske’s risky plan backfired early in the third as she game up an early break from which she never recovered.

Klara Koukalova. winner of Wednesday’s longest match against Virginie Razzano, once again fought back from a set down to book her spot in the quarter-finals at Coco Vandeweghe’s expense, coming through 3-6 7-6 6-4 in two hours 11 minutes. Next up for Koukalova is Ivanovic, who has spent just two hours 13 minutes on court en route to the last eight at Edgbaston.

Shuai Zhang raced away with the first set against Petra Kvitova but the Czech offered more resistance in the second set before exiting 6-0 7-6. But Barbora Zahlavova Strycova was forced to regroup after Timea Babos claimed a love set of her own before winning 6-2 0-6 6-3.

“I stopped believing myself that I could go through and mentally I was really down,” Zahlavova Strycova admitted. “I had to get back to the game somehow. I had to move better.  I called my coach, and we were talking a little bit about it on the changeover. I wanted to win that so much, and I believed again a little bit more.”

Both Zahlavova Strycova and Date-Krumm, two of the busiest players at this year’s tournament, returned to play in the doubles in the evening, but their perfect records came to an end at the hands of Caroline Garcia and Shuai Zhang 1-6 6-1 10-7.

Biggest upsets

While Sam Stosur’s became the tournament’s top-ranked casualty on Thursday, Date-Krumm’s victory over Hantuchova tops the list. The 43-year-old first reached the quarter-finals at Edgbaston in 1989 – a quarter of a century ago – before exiting in the semi-finals to Zina Garrison. She couldn’t even remember that tournament, but Thursday’s victory will live a little longer in the memory.

“I think it's almost perfect day for this year, maybe in a few years,” she said. “I have no pressure today against Daniela. She's defending champion, and then of course she's a top player. She has many experience, I have nothing to lose.”

Date-Krumm faces Dellacqua, her former doubles partner and friend, for a place in the semi-finals. “On grass, [against a] lefty, and now she has confidence, so it's going to be very, very tough. But I'm also not bad on the grass.”

Best match

Ana Ivanovic readily admits that grass is not her favourite surface. She may have arrived as the top seed at Edgbaston, but it wasn’t until she felt the turf beneath her feet that she knew if she would be worthy of the billing. As it turns out, she certainly is.

Every facet of the former world No. 1’s game was firing against Davis, who was reduced to cannon fodder in the face of Ivanovic’s full arsenal. Serving well, stepping in to return and coming to the net – to the delight of her coach, who found himself sitting in the photo pit – where she produced a string of fine volleys.

“Grass is a specific surface – you have to play aggressive and you have to play with confidence otherwise you're out,” explained Ivanovic. “It's easy to forget sometimes what have to do, especially if you're up with a break, so I really tried to remind myself I still have to be aggressive and still move.”

Unsung hero

There aren’t many fourth seeds who can fly under the radar in a tournament, but Kirsten Flipkens has quietly gone about her business to reach the quarter-finals, raising her game just in time to end qualifier Aleksandra Wozniak’s stellar run from qualifying in the last 16.

The Belgian, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist, was blown away by the Canadian in the first set but took the odd break in five in the second to level the match before stuttering to a 1-6 7-5 6-4 victory.

They said

“They're trying to rebuild. I think [there are] over two million ruins, and now people need to rebuild. Luckily there hasn't been many viruses, which is a good thing. It's really sad, because the people that are affected the most are the poorest people. That's always the case. I was really surprised when I was back home to see how many young people came out and they were really generous giving their time and money to try and accommodate these people” – Ana Ivanovic reflects on the ongoing impact of the Serbian floods

“I've been going to bed so late for some reason, I don't know why. At 5pm I'm exhausted, and I push through and get my second wind at 11:30pm.  I'm like, Why? It's horrible. But I don't know – they have NCIS marathons all day long at the hotel” – Insomnia hasn’t been all bad for Sloane Stephens 

“Tomorrow morning I don't know what'll happen to my body. This morning when I woke up, my glutes are so tight. Then when I warmed up this morning I’m very stiff. It's very difficult to start right moving” – Turns out Kimiko Date-Krumm is human after all


Best tweet

Tomorrow’s action

Ann Jones Centre Court

Sloane Stephens v Shuai Zhang

Ana Ivanovic v Klara Koukalova

Kimiko Date-Krumm v Casey Dellacqua

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova v Kirsten Flipkens

Court 1

Cara Black & Sania Mirza v Darija Jurak & Megan Moulton-Levy

Liezel Huber & Lisa Raymond v Ashleigh Barty & Casey Dellacqua

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