Kimiko Date-Krumm and Venus Williams started the day off with a wildly entertaining match on Centre Court today.
Great tennis comes in many shapes and sizes, and that was made abundantly clear on Centre Court today, as 6'1" Venus Williams took the court against a 5'4" dynamo who is nearly 10 years her senior.
It wasn't the cleanest match, or the most beautiful for that matter, but it did feature oodles of creatively constructed points, numerous twists and turns, and plenty of vibrant emotions from the two WTA Tour veterans.
At first glance, it seemed a gross mismatch; Krumm's abbreviated backswings and pitter-patter footsteps were on display against one of the mightiest swashbucklers that the Wimbledon grass has ever seen, but surprisingly, as the two starkly contrasted women traded body blows for nearly three hours, it remained unclear which was going to emerge the victor.
At times transcendent, at times sloppy, at times drenched in drama (and perspiration too), this match was interesting on so many levels. Each women's personal story is compelling -- Krumm is in her third year of play since returning from a 12-year hiatus from the sport, while Williams, a five-times Wimbledon champion, is trying to revive her once-dominant grass court game after 6-months off due to injury -- and each women's fierceness and intensity is also compelling.
But what put this match over the top was the sheer unpredictability of it all. Krumm's kamikaze forays to the net would periodically rattle Williams cage, while Venus's mighty serves and blasts from the baseline were the perfect tonic to beat the feisty Krumm back, keep the match close, and heighten the drama.
When an exchange of ricochet volleys at the net led to a Date-Krumm smash that gave her a set point in the first, the crowd roared its approval, sensing further drama.
They would not be disappointed.
To see a diminutive 40-year-old Japanese woman deploying a vast array of quirky-looking strokes that appear better suited for 1920's era tennis in the face of all the power that Venus Williams can generate, was quite a sight indeed.
The first set tiebreaker (won by Krumm, 8-6) alone would have provided the 15,000 Centre Court partisans with enough tennis sustenance to make up for a week's worth of boring matches.
It was good enough to make BBC commentator David Mercer utter "This is my 38th Wimbledon. I have never ever seen a better set of women's tennis than that. That was wonderful."
This wasn't just a fantastic match because it was close (which it was) or because there were many big points on which the outcome hinged (which there were). The essence of this match was the points themselves; they were frantic and chaotic, full of desperate lunges, acute angles, and tantalizing temerity . Each was its own unique competition within the larger competition, and each seemed taxing enough to call for a celebration and a toweling off at the conclusion. As soon as one would finish another would begin, equally wild and equally exciting. One would finish at the net with a delicate drop volley, the next with an overhead, the next with a lob, an ace, or a let chord winner. You name it, this veritable smorgasbord of shot making had it, and then some.
Finally after a mad scramble of a third set, Venus proved herself worthy of advancing. In between we were fortunate enough to witness some of the most invigorating tennis that we've seen in a while.
Williams was the victor in the end, 6-7(6), 6-3, 8-6, but it was pretty clear from the roar of the crowd that everybody who saw this match emerged victorious.
Check out a replay of the match on ESPN3.