AAAAAH. Can everyone stop complaining about how there are no “stars” in the Wimbledon semifinals? New rule: If you make it to the semifinals of Wimbledon, you are a star. You know why? Because you are one of four players remaining at the best tennis tournament in the entire world. That’s way more remarkable than anything you or I will ever do in our lifetime. Therefore, STARDOM.
I mean, look, I’ve been a fan of getting some consistency at the top of the women’s game the past year and a half. I do think it’s good (ideally) to have Number Ones with Grand Slams, reliable rivalries, and familiar faces at the late stages of tournaments. We don’t want the WTA to become golf or anything.
But also? I get sick of hearing the same story told over and over again. I’ve seen Sharapova give the same post-victory presser a hundred times. I have Serena’s Grand Slam celebration memorized. While I enjoy tennis no matter what, I sometimes have a hard time getting overly invested in the battle of who is going to get Grand Slam No. 16 vs. No. 5.
(Don’t even get me started on the men.)
You know what’s way more interesting than that? Grand Slam No. 1. Fresh faces. New stories. Rags to riches. Surprises.
The four women’s semifinalists at Wimbledon might not be who we expected, but they are all absolutely amazing women. (I realize I might be preaching to the choir, but hopefully this blog post will find itself in the right hands.)
In case you don’t know, here are their stories.
1. Kirsten Flipkens
Let’s just start with the most amazing story right away, shall we?
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 2, 2013
Kirsten Flipkens is 27 years old and, to put it frankly, was not supposed to be here. Though she won the Junior Wimbledon title in 2003, she did not make a successful transition into the pros. This is what her Grand Slam performance timeline looked like from 2004-2012:
Last spring, doctors discovered that she had blod clots in her leg right before she hopped on a plane to Thailand for an ITF event. If she would have gotten on the plane, she likely would have died. She was off the tour for two months and the Belgian Tennis Federation decided to pull their funding.
Her ranking fell to No. 262 in the world, and when she came back on tour, she couldn’t even qualify for Wimbledon. This time last year, she was playing a $25K ITF event.
But she kept believing in herself. She started winning on the ITF circuit and qualified for the U.S. Open. She won her first WTA event in Quebec in the fall, and made it to the fourth round of the Australian Open in January.
Now she’s in the Top 20 and just made her first Wimbledon semifinal, taking out 2011 Champion Petra Kvitova along the way.
It’s not just a good story. It’s a fucking fairytale.
I think I’m love.
2. Marion Bartoli
Kirsten’s semifinal opponent will be the LEGENDARY Marion Bartoli.
— Live Tennis (@livetennis) July 2, 2013
I’m not doing a good job containing my excitement, because that is humanly impossible.
Marion Bartoli is just the best. She doesn’t conform to your rules and she doesn’t want to. She marches to the beat of her own drum. But it’s not so much a march as a “maniacal bunny hop.”
She’s back to her third Grand Slam semifinal, and will be trying to return to the Wimbledon final for the first time in six years. And what a six years they have been. While she’s floated around the Top 20 the entire time, she has never won a Premier title or a Grand Slam. She’s still looking for her giant moment in the spotlight.
This year she’s finally (at the age of 28) taken her career into her own hands. She split with her very controversial father earlier this year and for the first time in her life began looking for outside guidance. It wasn’t a smooth road–she went through coaches rather quickly–but she didn’t give up.
She patched things up with the French Federation (she previously had not played Fed Cup for them because her father couldn’t coach, and she also couldn’t go to the Olympics) and started getting help from them. She found a new hitting partner that she really likes. Oh, and you want a story? Her hitting partner Thomas Drouet is the same guy who was sent to the hospital by Bernard Tomic’s dad in May.
Now she has the FABULOUS Amelie Mauresmo sitting in her box, she senses the golden opportunity, and she is ready to pounce. And when Bartoli pounces, she means it.
3. Agnieszka Radwanska
Speaking of awesome women looking to make their second Wimbledon final who have bravely split from their fathers, I bring you Agnieszka Radwanska.
— Live Tennis (@livetennis) July 2, 2013
Aaah, the ninja. She has a crafty and versatile game, an amazing bitch-face, and the ability to completely and totally sneak up on you. Like she has this tournament, where she’s suddenly the TOP SEED REMAINING. Hysterical and amazing and wonderful. (I’m a fan, if you couldn’t tell.)
Radwanska has been The Face of Polish Tennis for the last six years, and of course as soon as she has her best shot to win a slam THE BOYS come along and hog her spotlight. Ugh. Typical.
But Aga does not care if you pay any attention to her or not. In fact, she’d much rather fly completely under the radar and steal the title while nobody is looking. Which, actually, might be what hap … nevermind. Getting ahead of myself. Long way to go.
In an era with big hitting and bigger personalities, Radwanska has stealthily dug out a niche for herself on the WTA Tour. Those who pay attention know that she is smart, funny, and consistently unpredictable. She’s refreshing and surprising both on the court and off.
But she also works hard, stands up for herself, and takes her tennis very seriously. Two years ago she finally stopped working with her father, who said some pretty terrible things about her to the Polish press. She hadn’t won a title in three years when they split and was outside the top 10.
Since that time, she’s won eight titles and made it to the Wimbledon final. She’s gotten as high as No. 2 in the world, and has been a mainstay in the Top 5. Now she’s back in the Wimbleon semifinals. Her father said that if she (and her sister, Ula) permanently split with him, “they will find out the truth – the truth of life.”
Well, the truth is that Aga is awesome. End of story.
4. Sabine Lisicki
— Sabine Lisicki (@sabinelisicki) July 3, 2013
Aaah, smiling Sabine. She is actually the lowest-ranked player to make it to the semifinals, but one of the more accomplished at Wimbledon. She’s made it to the quarterfinals four times, the semifinals twice, and now she’s just trying to take it one step forward.
She cried and smiled at the same time after her titanic upset over Serena Williams, and that was a welcome sight to see because we’re used to just seeing Lisicki cry tears of pain. Only 23 years old, the German has seen her fair share of tragic days on the tennis court.
In 2009, she hurt her ankle down match point at the U.S. Open and had to leave the court sobbing in a wheel chair. In 2010, she hurt her ankle at Indian Wells, and was off of the tour for five months. She struggled during her comeback, and had to be carried off the court at the 2011 French Open on a stretcher because of dizziness. Not even a month later she would make the semifinals of Wimbledon as a wild card.
In 2012, she hurt her ankle in Charleston in a match against Serena Williams, and once again left the court in tears of agony.
She’s still so young though, and definitely has the talent to be one of the top players of her generation. She’s been through enough that she knows she has to cherish moments like this: Centre Court. Wimbledon. Semifinals. Health.
She did a wonderfully mature job backing up her win over Serena Williams by taking out Kaia Kanepi in the quarterfinals. She seems poised enough to seize the day. It would be quite the story if she did.
SEE? Awesome ladies. Awesome stories. Everything on the line. Nothing to lose. Insert whatever cliche you want. Just don’t call them boring.
I cannot wait.