Photo: Susan MullaneAnna Blinkova (RUS)
For 16-year-old Russian Anna Blinkova, the Wimbledon quarterfinal match against American Alicia Black came with extra winning incentive.
The No. 12 seeded Blinkova, who needed seven minutes over the three hour mark to outplay Black 16 63 1210, has suffered from memories of a bad defeat to Black at the 2014 Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas tournament last September.
“You know, the (Fed Cup) match was such a terrible match for me,” Blinkova said. “I lost the match 63 60 because of my fears. I didn’t know what to do with her, she was running very fast and I missed every ball. It was the most terrible match of my life and I remember it almost every day. So today I wanted to win so much.”
Except for the loss to Black at the Junior Fed Cup, Blinkova highly recommends the team event as a golden opportunity for juniors selected to play.
“It was good because we got to play against the best girls from all the countries,” Blinkova said. “It was so nice to meet them and talk to them.”
Now that Blinkova’s managed to avenge her previous loss to Black the nightmares of that outing can be replaced with fond memories of Thursday’s Wimbledon quarterfinal encounter.
In truth, the first set appeared to indicate there would be a continuation of where Blinkova left off against Black last September. But then she pushed herself to find an answer, forced herself to relax, which helped her find a way to win.
The statistics for the match are quite stunning and revealing. Clearly Blinkova determined she was going to go for every shot and see how it played out. The Russian posted 63 winners and 77 unforced errors to 12 winners and 21 unforced errors for Black. In the end, both players won 128 points, which proves that what really counts is when a player wins the points and not how many points they win.
“In the end, I said, ‘I have to win this game because I can lose the match very easily because every game was very tough,’” said Blinkova, the only seeded player remaining in the girls’ draw.
“She’s a great player. I was serving for the match many time and at last I said, ‘I have to finish this match right now.’ In the third set I was having problems with my serve, so I was just so happy to finish the match with an ace.”
Blinkova will face Vera Lapko of Belarus in the semifinals. Lapko defeated Michaela Gordon of USA 63 76(4) in the quarterfinals.
The other semifinal will feature Sofya Zhuk of Russia against Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia. Zhuk defeated fellow Russian Anastasia Potapova of Russia 64 63, while Kuzmova took out No. 5 Katie Swan of Great Britain 76(2) 60.
The 15-year-old Zhuk, who spends about half the year training at Justine Henin’s Academy in Belgium, is enjoying her first experience playing on grass.
“I’m in love with Wimbledon,” Zhuk said. “This is my first time on grass courts. I love to play when there’s a lot of people, and a lot of people come to watch you here. I’m feeling very comfortable because I like fast surfaces and like to come into the court.”
Tennis wasn’t Zhuk’s first pursued sport as her grandmother had dreams of her excelling in a different endeavor.
“I began with gymnastics at 3-years-old because my grandmother loved it and wanted me to try it,” said Zhuk, who proudly speaks English with a nearly American accent. “I saw my brother playing tennis and I ran onto the court and said, ‘Let me try it one time.’ I was like, “Wow,’ because I like games to play. It was good-bye gymnastics, I’m going to tennis.”
In the boys’ competition, top seed Taylor Fritz is set to play fellow American Reilly Opelka in one semifinal, while No. 12 Mikael Ymer of Sweden squares off against Patrik Niklas-Salminen of Finland.
The 16-year-old Ymer posted a 75 76(3) quarterfinal win over Alvaro Lopez San Martin of Spain. Ymer’s previous best result at a Grand Slam junior event was reaching last year’s U.S. Open quarterfinals as a qualifier.
“I kept my cool at the important points,” said Ymer, assessing why he won his quartefinal match. “It’s really fun to play on the grass and I’m really enjoying it. I just enjoy everything about it. You can hit hard, and it plays fast and you can feel like your a men’s ATP player.”
Nilas-Salminen’s established himself as an enemy of seeded players this tournament. In the first round he upset No. 13 Nam Hoang Ly of Viet Nam, in the third round he upset No. 2 Duck Hee Lee of Korea, and in the quarterfinals he took down No. 7 Tommy Paul of USA 64 16 60.
Fritz dropped his first set of the tournament against No. 11 Yunseong Chung of Korea, winning their quarterfinal outing 62 46 60. Opelka beat his second seed of the tournament when he upset fellow American and No. 10 William Blumberg 63 63.