MS. WILLIAMS OR MRS. WILLIAMS, SHE’S STILL THE SAME SERENA

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Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

WIMBLEDON

Bill Simons

Radio Wimbledon commentator Barry Cowan confidently informed us, “There is no chance Camilla Giorgi will bother, let alone beat, Serena.” It was a sensible prediction. After all Giorgi was just ranked No. 52. She had never reached a Slam quarterfinal and had never won a single set off of Serena in their three previous meetings. In the third round she’d had to save a match point against No. 42 Katerina Siniakova. Plus, only four Italian women had ever reached the Wimbledon quarters. An Italian reporter scoffed, “All four of them lost, and today it will be five.”

Of course, in Britain the name Camila has been stirring up things for decades – think Prince Charles’ controversial wife Camila, the Duchess of Cornwall. But today another Camila began to make potentially newsworthy waves. The 26-year-old came out on fire as she displayed her stroke-‘n-blast, go-for-it game. She has a compact swing, fabulous coordination and she puts every ounce of her body into her shots. She essentially doesn’t have a second serve. She hits out each time.

“Giorgi looks more like a gymnast,” suggested BBC. “She seems to be doing back flips on the beam…She has two speeds – fast and faster.” It was hardly surprising that the Italian had also suffered 149 unforced errors in the tournament. Her game can be as wild as her Dad’s long geless hair.

But today Camila harnessed her power and took an early 4-2 lead when she forced a backhand error. Soon, she did what no one else has been able to do here in London this fortnight – she took a set off of Serena.

Oh well, rationalized Serena-lovers. This was only Serena’s fourth tourney back. She’s better, but still doesn’t have her quickness. She’s protecting the pec muscle she injured in Paris, and is not going all-out on serve. Let’s say she’s at about 80 percent.

But hold on, don’t forget the first dictum of women’s tennis these days – “Never underestimate a Williams!” And whether they call her Ms. Williams or Mrs. Williams, she’s still Serena, the American treasure who has 23 Slam titles. The other seven quarterfinalists have three total.

So, almost on cue, Serena started to step in on the baseline and play more aggressively. Early in the second set she hit a nifty cross-court forehand to break. Soon the match was even – a set apiece. Common sense and most of the 15,000 Brits on hand on this sunny afternoon thought Serena’s prospects were bright.

They were. As is often the case, Williams’s prime weapon was her will. On the run, in the third game of the third set, it seemed that she was going to lose a scramble point. Never mind that she was off-balance and on her heels, she somehow stretched out on her backhand and willed the Slazenger spheroid into the open court to go up in the decider.

Fifteen minutes later, we heard six words and saw two gestures that have all but defined the women’s game in the 21st century. “Game, set and match, Mrs. Williams.” Serena then displayed her joyous wave and offered a twirl – two mannerisms which typically mark her wins.

Now she’s just two matches from a record 24th slam. She’ll next face German Julia Goerges, whom she handled with some ease on clay in June in Paris. Perhaps more importantly to Serena, she’ll soon be able to return to doing what she truly loves these days – being a mama.

TENNIS FROM EVERY CORNER OF THE WORLD: In this era of Roger, Rafa, Djokovic and Murray, tennis has long been a Eurocentric affair. Amazingly, Wednesday’s men’s quarterfinals will be only the second time in the Open Era in which there are players from all five continents. There will of course be three Europeans – Roger, Rafa and Djokovic. There are two North Americans, John Isner and Milos Raonic, plus one South American, Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro. Rounding things out are Japan’s Kei Nishikori and South African native Kevin Anderson. Way back in 1981, when America ruled much of tennis, there were three Americans, Connors, McEnroe and Tim Mayotte, as well as Australians Peter McNamara and Rod Frawley, South African Johan Kriek and a sole European. His name was Borg.

GO FIGURE: Roger, Rafa and Djokovic, who have 13 Wimbledon titles between them, are all into the quarterfinals for the first time since the 2015 French Open. If all three make it to the semis, it will be the first time they have gotten that far since the 2012 French Open…Going into the quarters, Rafa and Roger have both lost only 36 games. It’s Rafa’s first Wimbledon quarterfinal since 2011…A lot of Centre Court seats were empty due to soccer-loving fans being MIA due to the World Cup. On Wednesday, England’s big game vs. Croatia is not until 7 p.m. local time, so there might not be a big problem…There are two Germans in the women’s semis. The former US and Aussie Open champ Angie Kerber is the highest seed left in the draw. She’s the No. 11 seed. And German Julia Goerges is the 13th seed. The last German to win Wimbledon was Steffi Graf in 1996.

BIG JOHN’S BIG RESULT: In the fourth round John Isner, ranked No. 10, downed Greece’s charismatic star of the future, 19-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas, to reach a Slam quarterfinal for the first time in seven years. He’ll face Milos Raonic. He also set the mark for the most attempts before reaching the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
So what’s been his problem in Slams? John’s answer: “Maybe it was a little bit of belief and just not playing…as well as I can, when I’ve gotten to the third round, fourth round…A lot of times I’ve been the lower-ranked guy…who was seeded 13, 14-ish a lot, and I had to go up against some top-eight players…Now I’m in the quarters. I want to keep going.”

JUST WONDERING: Will Federer, 36, and Nadal, 32, meet in the Wimbledon final for the fourth time? How many aces will there be in the Isner vs. Raonic quarterfinal?

LOVING ROGER: John McEnroe said, “What Roger Federer has done over the past 18 months is the most incredible thing I have ever seen in tennis.”

NOT LOVING ROGER: After playing 20 straight matches on Centre Court – a run that goes back to 2015 – Federer will play his Wednesday quarterfinal match against US Open finalist Kevin Anderson on Wimbledon’s second most important arena – Court 1. He has a 4-0 record against the 6’8” veteran, who lives in Florida. The Court 1 arena will then feature the Isner vs. Raonic battle. Centre Court will see a baseline duel between Djokovic and Kei Nishikori and then a meeting of two of the most beloved figures in the game – Rafa and Juan Martin del Potro.

CELEBRITY WATCH: Insiders feel there’s a far greater chance that Prince Harry’s new wife and FOS (friend of Serena) Meghan Markle will show up at Wimbledon than Trump. The President has a packed schedule. But he is a golf lover who has courses in Scotland and could show up at the British Open, which is in Scotland. Serena was funny and coy about the possibility of her friend Meghan coming to watch her. She ended her press conference by saying, “Just stay tuned…Stay tuned for the next episode of Serena Williams, Centre Court.” Tea leaf readers think that if she reaches the Saturday final, Markle will be there.

KIM CLIJSTERS’ THOUGHTS ON THINKING: While reflecting on the play of Slovokian Dominika Cibulkova, commentator and former No. 1 Kim Clijsters said, “I don’t think a lot of players think out there anymore. If John McEnroe were sitting here, he would be saying why doesn’t she throw in some slices and come to the net. Women, we’re stubborn.”

KIM CLIJSTERS’ THOUGHTS ON ABUSE: The Belgian icon said, “I see female team sports and how their organizations work and am surprised at how little support there is [in tennis].”

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