From the Sports Editor: Wimbledon victories are memorable for Brengle

Like most players, Madison Brengle’s matches stick with her.

“I remember all my matches that I play — even the bad ones,” said the 27-year-old tennis player from Dover.

So certainly Brengle isn’t going to forget her first main-draw match at Wimbledon in 2015.

The trouble is, that match wasn’t very memorable for Brengle. She got crushed by Venus Williams, 6-0, 6-0, that day.

“It’s not that I didn’t fight,” Brengle said a year ago. “I kind of got played off the court. It’s something to work toward — playing against those bigger players and being able to hold your own a little more.”

It took a little while, but Brengle finally redeemed herself this week in London.

She not only notched her first Wimbledon win in three tries but followed it up with a three-set upset of No. 11 Petra Kvitova on Wednesday.

Dover’s Madison Brengle is all smiles during her upset of No. 2-ranked Serena Williams in New Zealand earlier this year. (WTA via Getty Images)

While Kvitova, a former two-time Wimbledon champion, clearly still hasn’t fully recovered from being attacked by a knife-wielding intruder six months ago, the marquee victory was a special moment for Brengle.

Since 2014, Brengle is now a very respectable 10-11 in Grand Slam matches, reaching at least the third round in four tournaments.

If there was a breakthrough moment for Brengle, it came when she picked up her first Grand Slam victory at the ‘14 U.S. Open.

“That was a hurdle in my head,” she said. “I had played a couple main-draw Slams and I had never won a match. That was kind of something you have in the back of your head.”

Brengle, who lost to No. 21-ranked Caroline Garcia in Wimbledon’s third round on Friday, has had big moments outside of Grand Slam events.

No moment was bigger than her upset of Serena Williams in a tournament in New Zealand on Jan. 4. And since Williams, a 23-time Slam champion, is taking the rest of the year off to have a baby, Brengle will have the distinction of being the only player to beat her in 2017.

“That’s my thing,” Brengle said earlier this week, holding up a fist and laughing. “I’m going to hold on to that one forever.”

But, in the tennis world, nothing is bigger than a Grand Slam tourney.

Brengle said the key to winning on such big stages is simply not trying to play the best match of your life every time out. It’s advice that a friend once gave her.

“She goes, ‘Everybody is so, so nervous going into a Slam,’” Brengle recalled. “‘Everybody — not just you. Everybody that you play is incredibly nervous.’

“She said, it’s not a battle of playing the greatest tennis you’ve ever played. It’s a battle of getting to ‘normal’ first. Whoever can get themselves down and relax to normal first is going to win. She goes, ‘You’re not fun for anybody to play. Go out there, do your thing and get to normal before the other girl.’

“Now when I go to a Slam, I keep telling myself, ‘Get to normal. Just get to normal.’”

CR suffers loss

The Caesar Rodney High athletic community was saddened by the recent death of James Toliver, who was an assistant coach in both girls’ basketball and track & field.

The 66-year-old Dover resident passed away on June 28 after a long battle with cancer.

A Texas native who was a good athlete at Arizona’s Sahuarita High, Toliver enlisted in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War and served for 20 years.

Toliver ended up going back to school, earning a degree in education from Delaware State, before teaching fourth and fifth graders in the CR district for a decade. He served as a coach for over 20 years.

Hooping it up

Local high school basketball guru Curtis Watkins has put out a summer Top 25 list of the best boys’ players in the state and Smyrna High is well represented.

The defending state champion Eagles have three players ranked in the Top 10, including Caleb Matthews (No. 2), Azubuike Nwankwo (No. 5) and Jaymeir Garnett (No. 9).

Smyrna also appears to have the 12th-best player in guard Greg Bloodsworth, who helped lead St. Thomas More to the state semifinals a year ago. The senior-to-be has left the Ravens and is expected to be transferring to Smyrna, his home school.

Other Henlopen Conference players ranked in the Top 20 are Cape Henlopen’s Randy Rickards (No. 7), Woodbridge’s Hassan Corbin (No. 10), Cape’s Ian Robertson (No. 11), Dover’s Eden Davis (No. 21) and Caesar Rodney’s Davione Robinson (No. 22).

Watkins has Sanford’s Jyare Davis, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, ranked as the top player in the state.

Odds & ends

• The 39th annual Great Stampede, which includes both a 5K Run/Walk and a 10K Run, will be held next Saturday morning in and around Wyoming.

Registration can be completed on-line at www.active.com or www.ddsr.org/buffalo-stampede.

• There was a familiar face in the stands at Madison Brengle’s third-round Wimbledon match on Friday. Former CR tennis standout Sarah Candeloro, who graduated from Tennessee-Martin in the spring, was on hand in London.

• Smyrna High still has just nine games on its football schedule for this fall. The two-time defending Division I champions only have nonconference dates with Middletown, Franklin (Md.) and Salesianum.

• The Budweiser Clydesdales will be making an appearance at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino on Thursday from 6-7 p.m.

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