If there is one nation on the earth that is tennis-happy right now, it has to be Belgium.
Once upon a time it was pretty normal for Belgium to have two women in the semis of a major, but ever since the retirements, one year apart, of Clijsters and Henin, Belgium has been pretty much reliant on the Rochus brothers and Kristof Vliegen for its tennis jollies... which means it really hasn't been that merry. But would you look at this now - here we are again. Two Belgian women in the final four of a major.
Kim Clijsters is no stranger to the semis, though she hasn't been here for a while, what with that whole baby/retirement thing she had going on. This has got to be the best comeback I've ever seen - I can't think of one better. Martina Hingis, eat your heart out. You've got to think that whoever wins the clash between her and Serena will win the tournament... and you'd pretty much put your money on Serena, but if anyone can give her a run for her money, then it's Kim. She took out one Williams sister. If Serena blinks, you can bet Kim'll pounce.
But I wanted to focus a little more on the other Belgian woman in the semis, someone you don't really hear much about - Yanina Wickmayer. She's come through the draw very quietly, making the best of a quarter that was pretty much totally deseeded by the second round and definitely by the third, and although she hasn't been pulling major upsets, it's because she hasn't had the chance yet. She had a great win over Kateryna Bondarenko today, who was coming off a double bagel, and will go on to face the winner of Oudin/Wozniacki in the semis. Either opponent, you would think, is a winnable match. That side of the draw is so wide open it is not even funny.
Yanina gave a lovely press conference the other day where we got to hear a bit of her life story, and I have to say, her dad sounds like the best tennis dad ever. Her mother died when she was young and Yanina wanted to play tennis, and so her dad packed up their life and let her. Not because he was pressuring her - but because he wanted to make her happy. How lovely is that? Good on you, Mr Wickmayer, and good on you, Yanina, for making it to your first Slam semi final. If we were to see you in the final, then you know what? I think I'd pull for you.
But in conclusion - brava, Belgium. You have two fine ladies in the semis - I hope you are very proud!
US Open (Flushing Meadows)
Novak Djokovic def. Fernando Verdasco, 7-6 (7-2) 1-6 7-5 6-2
Yanina Wickmayer def. Kateryna Bondarenko, 7-5 6-4
Roger: older and not quite out
6 months ago