The third major of 2013 ended today with an exclamation point as Andy Murray brought euphoria to a nation starved for a home-grown Wimbledon champion. Here are some thoughts.
That was…historic: 77 years, and counting no longer. It often must have felt like 777 years to Andy Murray and members of his team, so often did the media dangle British futility at Wimbledon over his head like the sword of Damocles. With a convincing straight-sets victory over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Murray echoed his achievement in winning an Olympic gold medal on home soil last year. He will open play on Centre Court at Wimbledon 2014 as the defending champion.
But also anticlimactic: Considering the magnitude of the history at stake, and the quality of his opponent, one felt certain that an epic of breathtaking drama would unfold. Instead, Djokovic played by far his worst match of the tournament at the most costly time. He surrendered 40 unforced errors across three sets even by the generous standards of the Wimbledon scorekeepers. Djokovic had much less reason to want this title desperately than did Murray, and it may have showed. Not that any British spectator regretted the routine scoreline.
Symptoms of a real rivalry: Through nearly 20 meetings now, the Djokovic-Murray rivalry has not caught fire to the extent that Federer-Nadal, Djokovic-Nadal, or Federer-Djokovic did. Perhaps it is the lack of contrast between their styles, or the fact that they rarely seem to play their best against each other at the same time. But the matchup in three of the last four major finals is the key ATP rivalry of the future, if not the present, and at least it has taken plenty of twists and turns. After Murray swept the Olympics and the US Open, Djokovic swept the year-end championships and the Australian Open, only to see Murray bounce back at Wimbledon. One cannot predict a winner between these two from one match to the next, not the case for long stretches of the Federer-Nadal and Djokovic-Nadal rivalries.
Return to normalcy: Their Australian Open matchup felt like an anomaly when neither man lost serve until the third set, and Djokovic never dropped serve at all. Wimbledon set this return-heavy rivalry back on track despite a surface oriented around the serve. Murray and Djokovic combined for 11 breaks across three sets, and at least one of them rallied from trailing by a break in every set.
The grass is greener: Murray’s decision to withdraw from Roland Garros in favor of maximizing his grass chances paid off in spades. He has won his last three tournaments on grass and reached four straight finals on the surface. With his victory over Djokovic, moreover, Murray has won eight consecutive sets against top-three opponents on grass. Could it become his favorite surface?
No place like Down Under: Despite his stranglehold on the No. 1 ranking and consensus recognition as the best player in the world, Djokovic has built most of his success on the Australian Open. His dominance there include a 4-0 record in finals and a 6-1 record against the Big Four, contrasted with a 2-5 record in finals and a 5-14 record against the Big Four at other majors. In fact, Murray now has matched Djokovic’s title count at other majors by winning one title each at Wimbledon and the US Open, none at Roland Garros.
Four in a row: Earlier in his career, Murray was the member of the Big Four most likely to stumble early or severely stub his toe. That trend has changed as he has reached the final at his last four majors, showing the consistency expected of a contender, and he has played a fifth set against only one opponent outside the Big Four in 2012-13. His No. 2 ranking owes much to that improvement.
Del Potro lurking (again): At the Olympics last year, Juan Martin Del Potro extended Roger Federer through a 36-game final set. It depleted the Swiss star’s energy ahead of the gold medal match against Murray. Something similar might have happened at Wimbledon this year when Del Potro battled Djokovic for 4 hours and 43 minutes ahead of the final against Murray. On the other hand, Djokovic’s superb fitness has risen above similar burdens before.
No competition, no problem: Not facing a single top-16 seed before the final, Murray did not struggle to raise his level when the level of competition spiked. Of course, quarterfinal and semifinal opponents Fernando Verdasco and Jerzy Janowicz played better than their rankings suggested.
Practice makes perfect: The experience of losing last year’s final may indeed have helped Murray survive the only slight patches of adversity that arrived this year. Winning the first set 6-4, as he did against Federer, he again found himself under pressure in the second set. But this time Murray held off a second-set rally that could have turned around the Wimbledon final for the second straight year. He did something similar in the third set, although by then a Djokovic comeback seemed implausible.
Hangover ahead: After he won the Olympics and the US Open last fall, Murray faded sharply over the next few months while adjusting to his new status as a major champion. One might expect a similar swoon after this equally important breakthrough at Wimbledon. On the other hand, Murray may feel spurred to defend his US Open title, and he usually shines on North American summer hard courts.
More drama elsewhere: France produced its second champion of this Wimbledon when Kristina Mladenovic partnered Daniel Nestor to win the mixed doubles title. The pair rallied from losing the first set and survived a topsy-turvy decider to win 8-6. The last set played on Centre Court in 2013, it epitomized many of this tournament’s unpredictable trajectories.
We can anticipate a blockbuster meeting between two members of the Big Four in the Wimbledon final after all. The route getting there took some intriguing twists and turns, however. Here are some reactions to Friday’s action.
That was…expected: For the seventh time in ten years, the Wimbledon final will feature the top two men in the world. When Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal tumbled by the first Wednesday, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray became overwhelming favorites to reach the second Sunday. Credit to them for taking care of business and ensuring a worthy climax to the tournament.
But also better than expected: With Djokovic’s semifinal opponent injured and Murray’s semifinal opponent highly inexperienced, two routs could have unfolded on Friday. Instead, a captivated crowd saw more than seven and a half hours of high-quality tennis, courtesy of underdogs who showed determination and resilience. Credit to Juan Martin Del Potro and Jerzy Janowicz for battling the favorites bravely.
Marathon man: The world No. 1 played the longest major final ever last year at the Australian Open, and this year he played the longest semifinal in Wimbledon history. Novak Djokovic’s super fitness and physical style of play predispose him toward these epics, as do the ebbs and flows that still characterize his emotions. His five-set victory over Del Potro lasted 4 hours and 43 minutes, just five minutes shorter than the Federer-Nadal classic in 2008 and longer than the Federer-Roddick thriller in 2009.
The march of grass revenge continues: Having defeated his 2009 Wimbledon nemesis in the fourth round and 2010 Wimbledon nemesis in the quarterfinals, Djokovic avenged his loss on grass to Del Potro in the bronze-medal match of the 2012 Olympics. In the final, he will get a crack at the man who denied him a chance at the gold medal there.
That was then, this is now: Djokovic’s Wimbledon semifinal followed almost exactly the opposite pattern of his Roland Garros semifinal. He took an early lead, let it get away, took another lead, let that get away in a fourth-set tiebreak, but then closed the fifth set in style by winning his opponent’s last service game. With just a month between those memorable matches, the similar situation combined with the contrasting result should give him even more confidence for the final.
E for effort: Deep in the fourth set, Del Potro cracked an unthinkable 120-mph forehand, a speed comparable to the average first serves of many players. He also saved two match points in the fourth-set tiebreak before forcing a final set. The Tower of Tandil came to play despite a painful knee injury, and he willed himself to retrieve more balls and survive longer in rallies than anyone could have asked of him. Fans could see why he had not lost a set en route to the semifinal, where he made his most impressive statement at a major since winning the 2009 US Open.
But Z for zero: On the other hand, Del Potro remains winless against the Big Four of Djokovic, Murray, Nadal, and Federer at majors since the start of 2010, with at least one loss at each major. He has won at least one set in four of those six losses, but an 0-6 record is what it is. Players don’t get points or trophies for “almost” in this cruel sport.
Murray’s mulligan: For the second time, Andy Murray reached the final at consecutive majors. The previous do-over did not end well when he lost the 2011 Australian Open final to Djokovic in straight sets, a year after falling to Federer. Losing last year’s final at his home major likely taught the Scot some valuable lessons that he can apply to his second chance, though, and he came much closer in his first attempt than he did in Melbourne. One can expect Murray to shed tears for one reason or another on Sunday, and the British fans will do their best to facilitate a happier ending to the remake.
Guru of grass: Great Britain should count itself fortunate in producing not only a remarkable champion in Murray but one suited to succeed at his home major. Murray has won 17 straight matches and reached four consecutive finals on grass, including the Olympics gold medal and the Queens Club title earlier this month. He will hold the surface advantage against Djokovic on Sunday with his superior first serve and stronger forecourt skills.
Contrasting paths: Just as in the women’s draw, one finalist has survived a significantly more difficult route than the other. Like Lisicki, Djokovic has halted three top-15 opponents en route to the final, including two top-eight seeds. Like Bartoli, Murray has not faced a top-16 seed in his first six matches.
Contrasting trajectories: In each of his last three matches, Djokovic has started impressively in winning the first set and then stumbled in the second set. He rallied to win that set from Haas and Berdych anyway, but he trailed the German 2-4 and the Czech by a double break. In contrast, Murray has started slowly in each of his last two matches, dropping the first set before roaring back to win. If this trend continues, the final could become a best-of-three affair after the first two sets.
Rubber match: Djokovic and Murray have contested three of the last four major finals, equal to any span compiled by Federer and Nadal. The rivalry between the top two men has not quite caught fire yet, although they split those two previous matches in New York and Melbourne. Perhaps extending their clashes beyond hard courts will raise the successor to Federer-Nadal a notch higher in intrigue.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie: Overlooked amid the drama on Centre Court, Casey Dellacqua and Ashleigh Barty reached their second doubles final in three majors. The two Australians defeated two of the top five teams in the world to reach the final, where they will face Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai. Their Fed Cup team will have a solid pairing on whom to rely in decisive doubles rubbers moving forward.
My picks for the singles finals: I’m taking Lisicki in two and Murray in four. This Wimbledon has belonged to the underdogs, and I think that it will stay that way.
By Maud Watson
No matter how poor her results coming into or after Wimbledon, for that fortnight, Sabine Lisicki plays like a Top 5 talent. She’s defeated the reigning French Open champion four of the last five years (she didn’t play in 2010), and her winning percentage against Top 10 players on the lawns of the All England Club is quite impressive. But unlike in years past, Lisicki has managed to find enough consistency to book herself a place in her first major final. She’s in with an excellent shot against Bartoli to produce a little more magic to claim her maiden slam title. Irrespective of what happens Saturday, however, it will be a disappointment if Lisicki fails to follow up the rest of her season with stellar results. She has a powerful, all-around game and far too much talent not to be vying for the game’s biggest titles on a consistent basis. She also has an affable personality that the WTA could use right now, so here’s to hoping that this Wimbledon final is just the first of many major titles the German will be competing for.
In 2007, Marion Bartoli shocked Justine Henin to reach the Wimbledon final where she lost to Venus Williams. Now, six years later, Bartoli has once again defeated a Belgian in the final four to reach a Wimbledon final where she’ll face another talent with a big serve, powerful game, and brings her best on the grass. But things are a little different in 2013, too. Bartoli thrashed Flipkens in the semis instead of escaping by a hair, and her opponent in the final, Lisicki, is even less experienced at this stage than her. And despite struggling with her game for the past several months, Bartoli is looking like the Top 10 player that she can be once again. She showed no signs of nerves in the semis, not only relentlessly attacking virtually every ball with laser-like precision, but she showed a willingness to mix it up by coming forward. Assuming she doesn’t let the occasion get to her and is able to play at this high level on Saturday, tennis fans are going to be in for a real treat.
The Bryan Brothers have done almost anything there is to do in doubles, breaking records right and left. On Saturday, they’ll have the chance to add one more feather to their caps as they vie for the Wimbledon doubles crown. Should they win, they’ll have a “Bryan Bros.” Grand Slam and will become the first doubles duo in the Open Era to hold all four majors at once. Also, should they taste victory in London, look out when Flushing Meadows rolls around. The twins would then be going for a calendar-year Grand Slam, one of the rarest feats in the sport. They’ve managed to do just about anything else in the world of doubles, so why not this?
For all of the dramatic upsets and withdrawals that have unfolded the last two weeks, the top two favorites in the men’s field, Djokovic and Murray, are still standing. Both still have a little more work to do if they hope to contest the championship match on Sunday, but make no mistake, they’re heavy favorites to live up to their seeding. On paper, Djokovic has the more difficult of the two semis, with del Potro as his opponent. The two split meetings earlier this year, and the Argentine got the better of Djokovic on these same courts at the Olympics in 2012. But in this semifinal, you have to figure Djokovic’s experience will prove a major X factor. There’s also the knee issue that’s plaguing del Potro, and trying to defeat the Serb at less than 100% is a big ask. Janowicz will also have to come up with some spectacular answers if he’s to disappoint an entire nation by upsetting Murray. The Pole did get the better of Murray last year at the Paris Masters and has a monster serve. He’ll also go in knowing that Murray was less than steady in his quarterfinal clash with Verdasco. But Murray has far more experience in these situations, is the steadier of the two, especially in the mental department, and will have virtually all of the fans on the Centre Court in his corner. Both should be entertaining affairs, but expect Djokovic and Murray to set up a blockbuster final.
After a stunning early loss at Wimbledon, Federer appears to be going back to the drawing board. In lieu of his usual break following the conclusion of Wimbledon, the Swiss will be adding two clay court events to his schedule. He’s set to contest Gstaad – the tournament that offered him his first wildcard – and Hamburg, which he’s also won more than a few times in the past. It may be interpreted by some as a troubling sign from the ageing veteran, but in many ways, Federer’s decision is one to be admired. He’s not letting his pride get in the way, and he’s smart to try and pick up a few events between now and the summer hard court season. He could use the rankings points, a chance to get his game clicking, and more than anything, a chance to gain some confidence. Hopefully he’s able to get it going so that he can be fully back in the mix come the US Open.
The top two men stayed on course for a Sunday final, although in dramatically contrasting fashion. Joining them in the semifinals are two men who never have advanced this far at Wimbledon.
Closer than it looked: The straight-sets scoreline of Novak Djokovic’s victory over Tomas Berdych suggested yet another routine win for the world No. 1. In reality, either of the first two sets could have tilted toward the underdog with just one or two more key points in his ledger. Berdych took the first set to a tiebreak, losing it by a single mini-break, and led Djokovic by a double break in the second set. The more easily ruffled version of the Serb from earlier in his career might have crumbled under that pressure. But nothing has disturbed the top seed’s equilibrium this fortnight. Reaching a fourth straight Wimbledon semifinal on his weakest surface, Djokovic eyes a second title in three years.
What a difference a year makes: When Juan Martin Del Potro faced David Ferrer at Wimbledon last year, he won just eight games in an embarrassing rout. One year later, Del Potro earned his revenge by straight-setting the Spaniard for his first victory in their rivalry since 2009. Wimbledon remains the only major where Ferrer has not reached the semifinals, although an ankle injury may have played a role in his valiant but fallible performances throughout the tournament. For his part, Del Potro continued to cope with a knee injury that flared up early in this battle of the walking wounded. He now has reached the semifinals at every major except the Australian Open.
Something has to give: Neither Djokovic nor Del Potro has lost a set at Wimbledon this year, heading into their marquee semifinal. Del Potro has dropped serve only twice in the tournament, which should give him confidence as he aims to repeat his Indian Wells upset of the world No. 1. It will not come easily, for Djokovic looks much sharper at Wimbledon than he did in that earlier tournament.
Heart attack for the home crowd: British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted good luck to Andy Murray in advance of his quarterfinal against Fernando Verdasco. Infamous for jinxing his nation’s contestants in all endeavors, Cameron nearly pulled off the impossible on Verdasco’s behalf. The last Spaniard left in singles swept the first two sets from a flustered Murray, whom he had defeated en route to an Australian Open semifinal in 2009. A second, even more implausible semifinal lay within Verdasco’s grasp, and a wide-open path to the title for Djokovic. The seventh comeback of Murray’s career from a two-set deficit, culminating with a 7-5 fifth set, kept alive the prospect of a blockbuster final on Sunday. Before that match, someone may need to deactivate Cameron’s Twitter.
Pole vaults Pole: The least eventful quarterfinal of the day came from the section where most expected the thriller of the second Wednesday when the draw appeared. From the quarter of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer emerged Jerzy Janowicz into his first major semifinal. Never having reached the second week of a major before, Janowicz cruised past compatriot Lukas Kubot in straight sets.
Week of revenge? Fourth-round opponent Tommy Haas defeated Djokovic at the All England Club in 2009. Quarterfinal opponent Berdych defeated Djokovic at the All England Club in 2010. Semifinal opponent Del Potro defeated Djokovic at the All England Club in 2012. Likely finals opponent Murray also defeated Djokovic at the All England Club in 2012. Judging by the fates of the first two, the world No. 1 could spend his week serving a heaping helping of revenge to his recent grass nemeses.
Nada, not Nadal: For the second straight year, no Spaniard reached the semifinals at Wimbledon. At least one Spanish man reached the semifinals at all of the other majors in 2012-13. Expect that trend to continue with so little time separating Roland Garros from Wimbledon and most of the top Spaniards aging with few replacements on the horizon.
Question of the day: Can Verdasco build upon his excellent result, his best performance at any tournament of significance since 2009?
Wimbledon Rewind: Serena Stunned, Djokovic Dominant, Radwanska Resilient, Li Lethal, Ferrer Fierce on Manic Monday
Monday got manic in a hurry with a titanic upset in the women’s draw, only to settle down into more predictable outcomes for most of the day. Catch up on any of the fourth-round action that you may have missed with the daily Wimbledon rewind.
Match of the day: Twists and turns pervaded the clash of rising star Jerzy Janowicz and grizzled veteran Jurgen Melzer. In the intimate surroundings of Court 12, Melzer started the match on fire but gradually lost his momentum in the second set and later trailed two sets to one. Able to rally in the fourth, he secured a clutch break in the tenth game to force a deciding set. With his first major quarterfinal on the line, though, Janowicz refused to let the opportunity escape him as he edged across the finish line 6-4 in the fifth.
Comeback of the day: The other half of an all-Polish men’s quarterfinal, Lukas Kubot trailed Adrian Mannarino by a set and later by two sets to one in the most important match of his career so far. Nobody would have expected Kubot to reach a major quarterfinal in singles, yet he wrested away this five-set encounter from his fellow journeyman. His semifinal chances may hinge on whether Janowicz or he can recover from their draining victories more efficiently.
Upset of the day: None. Tomas Berdych deserves credit for snuffing out the most plausible upset threat in Bernard Tomic. Splitting the first two sets in tiebreaks, Berdych gradually asserted himself against the Aussie talent in the next two sets and avoided the nerve-jangling scenario of a fifth set.
Gold star: Before 2013, Juan Martin Del Potro never had reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. This year, he has reached the quarterfinals without losing a set. Del Potro overcame a knee injury to defeat Andreas Seppi after wondering whether he would be fit to play on Monday. Despite all of the surprises at Wimbledon this year, all of the top-eight seeds in the men’s top half reached the quarterfinals.
Silver star: Winless in two previous grass meetings with Tommy Haas, Novak Djokovic seized control of the third from the outset and never let the veteran catch his breath. Like Del Potro, Djokovic has not lost a set en route to the quarterfinals, but this victory impressed more than those that came before because of his history against Haas. He will seek his fourth straight Wimbledon semifinal, not bad for a man whose worst surface is grass.
What doesn’t kill you…: …makes you stronger? World No. 4 David Ferrer has not won any of his four matches in straight sets, three of them against unseeded opponents. Struggling with a painful ankle injury, Ferrer fell behind early again on Monday before dominating the latter stages of the match, as he had in the third round. Wimbledon is the only major where he has not reached the semifinals, so he will aim to end that futility by repeating last year’s victory there over Del Potro.
Foregone conclusion of the day: Even with Nadal’s early exit, two Spaniards reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals. Joining Ferrer there was Fernando Verdasco, who rolled past Kenny de Schepper in straight sets.
Stat of the day: In addition to Agnieszka Radwanska in the women’s draw, the quarterfinal appearances of Kubot and Janowicz gave Poland more Wimbledon quarterfinalists than any other nation.
Question of the day: World No. 2 Andy Murray again took care of business efficiently today, dispatching 20th seed Mikhail Youzhny. Can Murray continue his uneventful progress to the final, his path barred only by Verdasco and one of the Poles? Or will the escalating pressure of the second week lead to some unexpected drama in the bottom half?
Match of the day: One of the greatest grass specialists in WTA history, Sabine Lisicki reached her fourth Wimbledon quarterfinal by shocking heavy title favorite, defending champion, and world No. 1 Serena Williams in three sets. Serena had not looked as sharp in the first week as she had at Roland Garros, but one expected her to prevail once she recovered from a dismal first set. The defending champion dominated Lisicki in the second set and rolled to an early lead in the third, at which point many underdogs might have surrendered. Lisicki is a different player on this court than she is anywhere else, though, and she swung freely with the match in the balance at 4-4 in the final set. Hitting through her nerves and a staggering Serena, she scored perhaps the biggest upset in an upset-riddled draw.
Comeback of the day: When Tsvetana Pironkova claimed the first set from Agnieszka Radwanska, Wimbledon suddenly looked in danger of losing all of the top five women before the quarterfinals. But grass specialists would split their two meetings with top-four seeds on Monday as Radwanska ground through a second straight three-set victory. As has been the case with much of her 2013 campaign, she has not shown her best form while doing just enough to win.
Gold star: Li Na had survived consecutive three-setters to end the first week, including an 8-6 epic against Klara Zakopalova. She needed to fasten her teeth into the tournament more firmly, and she did by losing just two games to the 11th seed, Roberta Vinci. Having defeated Radwanska in a quarterfinal at the Australian Open, Li will hope to repeat the feat in a Tuesday match between the two highest-ranked women remaining in the draw.
Silver star: Only one woman has reached the quarterfinals without losing a set or playing a tiebreak. Take a bow, world No. 15 Marion Bartoli, who has threatened only occasionally at majors since reaching the Wimbledon final in 2007. Granted, Bartoli has faced no opponent in the top 50 to this stage. She participated in a bloodbath of Italians by ousting Karin Knapp for the loss of just five games. (None of the four Italians who reached the fourth round won a set on Manic Monday.)
What doesn’t kill you…: …makes you stronger? The only former Wimbledon champion left in the women’s draw, Petra Kvitova had dropped sets in both of her first-week victories and easily could have done so again on Monday. Former nemesis Carla Suarez Navarro took Kvitova to a first-set tiebreak and the brink of an emotional meltdown, but the Czech steadied herself once she survived it. Kvitova can look ahead to a quarterfinal against Kirsten Flipkens, also fortunate to avoid losing a first set for which her opponent served twice. Flipkens won their previous meeting this year in Miami.
All eyes on Andy: A round after she upset Angelique Kerber, Kaia Kanepi sent home local darling Laura Robson in two tight sets. The match could have tilted in either direction, so Kanepi’s experience probably proved vital in securing her second Wimbledon quarterfinal appearance. She also earned the last laugh on British tabloids that lampooned her burly physique before the Robson match.
Americans in London: In the wake of Serena’s loss, the United States plausibly might have gone home without a single quarterfinalist in either singles draw. Sloane Stephens averted that disappointment by winning a second straight three-setter, this time against Monica Puig. Trailing by a set, Stephens showed resilience in battling through a tight second set and then dominating the third. She has won twelve matches at majors this year, more than many higher-ranked women.
Stat of the day: In Lisicki’s last four Wimbledon appearances, she has defeated the current Roland Garros champion every time. Her repeated denials of Channel Slams protect a record held by compatriot Steffi Graf, who completed the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double four times.
Question of the day: The first three majors will crown three different women’s champions for the third straight year. With all of the top three gone before the quarterfinals, who becomes the new title favorite? One might favor Kvitova, the only woman who has won here before, but conventional wisdom has taken it on the chin all fortnight.
Wimbledon Rewind: Djokovic and Serena Thrive, Radwanska and Li Survive, Ferrer and Kvitova Rally, Grass Specialists Sparkle on Day 6
Miraculously after the rain on Thursday and Friday, Wimbledon has set all of its fourth-round matchups for Manic Monday. More than half of the top-ten players there (five men, six women) fell in the first week, and Saturday featured its share of drama despite the welcome sunshine.
Match of the day: Even with the cloud of his father hanging over him at a distance, Bernard Tomic has compiled an outstanding Wimbledon campaign. The enigmatic Aussie has upset two seeded players to reach the second week, most recently No. 9 seed Richard Gasquet. Showing his taste for drama, Tomic played five sets in the first round against Sam Querrey and reached 5-5 in every set against the 2007 Wimbledon semifinalist.
Upset of the day: Few tennis fans knew much about Kenny de Schepper entering this tournament. The 26-year-old Frenchman benefited from a Marin Cilic walkover in the second round and made the most of the opportunity. Not losing a set in the first week of Wimbledon, de Schepper upset No. 20 seed Juan Monaco to reach this stage at a major for the first time.
Comeback of the day: Imperfect in his first two matches, world No. 4 David Ferrer predictably fell behind the mercurial Alexandr Dolgopolov two sets to one. After Dolgopolov steamrolled him in the third set, though, Ferrer regrouped immediately to drop just three games in the next two sets. His far superior stamina gave him a valuable advantage against an opponent who struggles with sustaining energy or form.
Foregone conclusion of the day: There’s death, there’s taxes, there’s Nadal winning on clay, and there’s Tomas Berdych beating up on poor Kevin Anderson. Nine times have they played since the start of 2012, including at four majors, with Berdych winning all nine. At least Anderson took the first set this time and kept the match more competitive than most of its prequels.
Gold star: Considering Kei Nishikori’s promising start to the tournament, Andreas Seppi merits special attention for his five-set battle past the Japanese star. Like Ferrer, Seppi trailed two sets to one before digging into the trenches and holding his ground with an imposing fourth set that set the stage for a tight fifth. As a result of his efforts, Italy leads all nations with four players in the second week of Wimbledon, an odd achievement for a clay-loving nation.
Silver star: One day after demolishing an unseeded opponent, Tommy Haas overcame a much more worthy challenger in Eastbourne champion Feliciano Lopez. Haas bounced back from losing the first set to prevail in four, arranging an intriguing Monday meeting with Novak Djokovic. The German has won both of their previous grass meetings—four years ago—but lost to Djokovic at Roland Garros.
Wooden spoon: At a minimum, one expected some entertaining twists and turns from a match pitting Ernests Gulbis and Fernando Verdasco. The firecrackers fizzled in a straight-sets victory for the Spaniard, who now eyes his first Wimbledon quarterfinal with de Schepper awaiting him on Monday. Gulbis joined a string of unseeded players unable to follow their notable upsets with a deep run.
Stat of the day: World No. 2 Andy Murray cannot face a top-20 opponent until the final. (No. 20 seed Mikhail Youzhny, his Monday opponent, is seeded higher than his ranking because of the grass formula used in making the draw.)
Question of the day: Top seed Novak Djokovic seems to grow more formidable with each round, dismantling Jeremy Chardy today for the loss of only seven games. Can anyone slow his path to the final? Juan Martin Del Potro, the only other man in this half who has not lost a set, might have the best chance. He defeated Djokovic earlier this year at Indian Wells and on grass at the Olympics last year.
Match of the day: One of many players who rallied to win after losing the first set, Li Na rushed through a second-set bagel against Klara Zakopalova but then found herself bogged down in a war of attrition. Li finally opened the door to the second week in the 14th game of the final set. She continues to show more tenacity at this tournament than she has in several months.
Upset of the day: Sabine Lisicki’s victory over the grass-averse Samantha Stosur came as a surprise only on paper. In fact, the greater surprise may have come from Lisicki dropping the first set before dominating the next two. Lisicki has reached the second week in four straight Wimbledon appearances, proving herself the epitome of a grass specialist.
Comeback of the day: British hearts quailed when Laura Robson started a winnable match against Marina Erakovic in dismal fashion. The feisty home hope did not quite recover until late in the second set, when Erakovic served for the match. Needing some help from her opponent to regroup, including a string of double faults, Robson asserted control swiftly in the final set and never relinquished the momentum once she captured it.
Foregone conclusion of the day: There was no Williams déjà vu at Wimbledon, where Kimiko Date-Krumm could not repeat her epic effort against Venus Williams there two years ago. Notching her 600th career victory, Serena surrendered just two games to the Japanese star as she predictably reached the second week without losing a set. Since the start of Rome, the world No. 1 has served bagels or breadsticks in nearly half of the sets that she has played (15 of 31).
Gold star: In trouble against Eva Birnerova when Friday ended, Monica Puig rallied on Saturday to book her spot in the second week. Unlike most of her fellow upset artists, she used a first-round ambush of Sara Errani to light the fuse of two more victories. An almost intra-American match awaits between the Puerto Rican and Sloane Stephens.
Silver star: Tsvetana Pironkova extended her voodoo spell over these lawns with a third second-week appearance in four years. A non-entity at almost all other tournaments, Pironkova could not have chosen a better place to plant her Bulgarian flag. thou
What a difference a day makes: Shortly before play ended on Friday, Petra Kvitova had lost seven straight games to Ekaterina Makarova and narrowly avoided falling behind by a double break in the final set. When she returned in the sunshine of Saturday, Kvitova won five of the last six games to abruptly wrap up a match full of streaky play from both sides.
Americans in London: Also able to collect herself overnight, Sloane Stephens recovered from a second-set bagel to outlast qualifier Petra Cetkovska. Stephens became the only woman outside the top four to reach the second week at every major this year. Nearly joining her was Madison Keys, who gave 2012 finalist Agnieszka Radwanska all that she could handle in a tight three-setter. The impressive serve and balanced baseline power of Keys suggest that we will see much more of her at future Wimbledons.
Question of the day: In 2009, 2011, and 2012, Sabine Lisicki halted the previous month’s Roland Garros champion at Wimbledon. Can she do to Serena what she did to Svetlana Kuznetsova, Li Na, and Maria Sharapova? Plenty of massive serves will scar the grass on Monday.
(June 28, 2013) Andy Murray came out firing in his third-round match and Tommy Robredo didn’t know what hit him. Robredo played very strong tennis for much of the match and even hit some incredible shots. But at the end of the day, he stood no chance against Murray and lost 6-2, 6-4, 7-5.
And now, Murray is primed for a clear path to the finals against Novak Djokovic, as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have all been taken out already. But if this tournament has taught us anything, it’s that we should never take anything for granted about the top seed winning the match.
That being said, Murray has looked nearly unbeatable this tournament. His defense and depth of shot have been incredible. His movement has been crisp and his shot selection has been almost perfect. When Murray plays at this level it takes an incredible performance to stop him.
So who could Murray meet along the way that could derail his path to the final? For starters, he could meet a resurgent Viktor Troicki in the next round. Troicki’s level of play fell for much of last year, but he is playing well again and looks very comfortable on the grass. He is 0-5 in his career against Murray, but did win the first two sets in a match at Roland Garros two years ago. Of course, he has to get by Mikhail Youzhny first.
No quarterfinal opponent should pose any problems for Murray on grass, unless Ernests Gulbis decides to play out of his mind tennis for the rest of this tournament. Even then, though, Murray should be able to handle almost whatever Gulbis throws at him.
The only place that we can really see trouble for Murray is in the semifinals. Jerzy Janowicz has backed up his final at the Paris Masters last year with a great season and he is only getting better. The big Pole has been playing great tennis this tournament, bombing down huge serves and supplementing that with a lethal ground game.
Janowicz clearly has the talent and the style to trouble Murray’s game. His serve is big, accurate, and well-placed enough to nullify Murray’s amazing return game. Janowicz can also hit with—and hit through—Murray from the baseline, something that few players in the world today can do. Murray is still the better player, there is no doubt about that. But if someone is going to stop the Scot from reaching the final, Janowicz is your best bet.
Wimbledon Rewind: Murray Shines, Janowicz Soars, Kerber Crumbles, Ferrer Survives, Kvitova Wobbles on Day 5
The rain continued to make its presence felt on Friday as a mixture of postponed second-round matches and third-round matches unfolded. Here are the studs and duds from the fifth day of Midsummer Mayhem, where no seed is safe.
Match of the day: The tremors of Wednesday’s earthquakes have not quite left Wimbledon. In his second-round match, David Ferrer split the first two sets with compatriot Roberto-Bautista Agut and needed a tiebreak to salvage the third. Perhaps emboldened by the feats of other underdogs, Bautista-Agut battled deep into the fourth set before the last Spanish man left in the draw limped through. After arduous four-set victories in the first two rounds, though, blood is in the water around Ferrer, the victim of multiple turf tumbles. His future opponents await their chances to pounce.
Upset of the day: This upset mostly happened yesterday, in fact, when Grega Zemlja and Grigor Dimitrov exited the court locked at 9-8 in the fifth set. The longest final set of the tournament in terms of games ended with Dimitrov excused to join Maria Sharapova at a sunnier location. Despite his enormous promise, he still has not reached the second week of a major and continues to struggle in the best-of-five format.
Gold star: A non-entity a year ago, Jerzy Janowicz hammered 30 aces against the 15th-seeded Nicolas Almagro to reach the second week of a major for the first time. Janowicz has not dropped a set in the tournament and should be considered the favorite to reach the (gasp) semifinals in the quarter vacated by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. He has shown far more discipline this week than at most previous tournaments this year.
Silver star: Last year’s runner-up has become the only top-15 man left in the bottom half of the draw. Andy Murray dispatched Tommy Robredo methodically for a third consecutive straight-sets win. He will enter every match until the final as an overwhelming favorite, adding to the pressure already on him at his home major.
One-hit wonder: The man who slew Roger Federer fell victim just one round later, no more able to build on his accomplishment than the man who slew Rafael Nadal. Sergiy Stakhovsky dropped a four-setter to Jurgen Melzer two days after Steve Darcis withdrew from the tournament with a shoulder injury. But both of these men outside the top 100 will have a story to tell for the rest of their lives.
Question of the day: Brought back today for the third and fourth sets of his second-round match, Jeremy Chardy returns tomorrow to face Novak Djokovic. The French shot-maker reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open this year and could threaten the Serb on grass with his forward-moving attack. But will he lack the energy to make a match of it?
Upset of the day: Six of the top ten women have started their midsummer holiday already, most exiting in uneventful fashion. World No. 7 and 2012 semifinalist Angelique Kerber looked likely to survive the tsunami of upsets when she led the dangerous Kaia Kanepi, a former Wimbledon quarterfinalist, by a set and by 5-1 in the second-set tiebreak. Undeterred by those odds, Kanepi swept five straight points and eventually the tiebreak. She asserted control early in the final set against a reeling Kerber, who suffered the latest in a string of painful three-set losses this year.
Comeback of the day: Still in the draw with Victoria Azarenka’s withdrawal, Flavia Pennetta has made the most of the opportunity. The Italian veteran had earned mostly tepid results since returning from injury this spring, but she now finds herself in the second week of Wimbledon. Pennetta dropped a first-set bagel to fellow clay specialist Alize Cornet, only to wrest away the momentum in a second-set tiebreak and cruise through the third. Call it Kanepi-Kerber Lite.
Gold star: Depending on the result of a postponed match, Marion Bartoli might find herself the highest-ranked woman in the bottom half of the draw when Monday arrives. The 15th seed and 2007 finalist notched another straight-sets win over another mediocre opponent. It is possible that Bartoli could reach the semifinals without facing anyone ranked higher than No. 70 Christina McHale, but one cannot fault her for the shortcomings of those around her.
Silver star: The adrenaline of playing a top-ten woman at Wimbledon probably carried Laura Robson to her first-round upset of Maria Kirilenko. Another rush of adrenaline arrived when Robson stepped onto Centre Court for her next match. She used it to her advantage in a comfortable victory over Mariana Duque Marino. With no seed left in her vicinity, a quarterfinal berth would not come as a shock.
One-hit wonder: Like Stakhovsky, Michelle Larcher de Brito subsided meekly in the wake of her massive upset. She fell to the equally unremarkable Karin Knapp, giving Italy at least two women in the second week pending Roberta Vinci’s match tomorrow. The last supposedly rising star who defeated Maria Sharapova in the second round of Wimbledon, Alla Kudryavtseva, never went on to achieve anything more significant. We will see whether Larcher de Brito can build something stronger from it.
Americans in London: In a tale of two very different sets, No. 17 Sloane Stephens eked out a tiebreak against qualifier Petra Cetkovska—and then gulped down a bagel in the second set. She will return tomorrow with one set to decide who reaches the second week. If Stephens does, she would have advanced to that stage at every major this year, more than eight of the top ten women can say. Meanwhile, Alison Riske avenged compatriot Mallory Burdette’s loss to Urszula Radwanska by battling past Agnieszka’s sister in three sets.
Question of the day: Leading fellow lefty Ekaterina Makarova by a set and 2-1, world No. 8 Petra Kvitova lost seven straight games. The easily flustered former champion now trails Makarova by a break in the final set as a golden opportunity to plow deep into a major draw threatens to slip away. Can Kvitova collect herself when play resumes tomorrow?
By Maud Watson
One of the two biggest upset of Week 1 at Wimbledon was that of Rafael Nadal losing to Steve Darcis. Nadal meekly succumbed to the inspired play of the Belgian in the opening round, leaving many questioning his future in the game. The knees are the obvious first concern. That his knees could deteriorate as quickly as they appeared to in that first match after the performances he’s put on the past five months seems a stretch. But his condition is a tricky one, and the grass does force his knees to work harder. There are also rightfully questions about his scheduling – both before and after SW19. Before Wimbledon, he put in a lot of tennis for someone with documented knee issues who had sat out seven months. Post Wimbledon presents the question of how much more mileage Nadal will be willing to put on those knees, since it will primarily come on hard outdoor and indoor surfaces. But the other question that has to be asked is how much of this is also between the ears. When Nadal walked out onto Centre Court, it was likely with the bad memories of 2012. The slightest niggle is also apt to have a major impact on his level of play, which given his injury history, is understandable. It also explains why he has become noticeably more irritable when things aren’t “just right” for his needs/wants (like his uncharacteristic griping about scheduling at Roland Garros). No matter how you slice it, what we saw from Nadal at Wimbledon was troubling. We know he can play on surfaces outside of clay, but he has to 100% believe his body will allow him to the second half of the season, or being a factor on anything outside of clay may just be a pipe dream.
The other upset vying for the biggest shocker of the tournament is that of Roger Federer by Sergiy Stakhovsky. If ever there was a moment when it felt Federer was truly in decline, it was this match. It’s the first time in nearly a decade that the Swiss has lost before the quarters of any major, let alone Wimbledon. But the days of Federer being able to consistently find his best or escape from the jaws of defeat with great frequency are behind him. It happens with age, and Federer’s is finally starting to catch up with him. It doesn’t mean he will never win another major (see Sampras, Pete in 2002), and Federer insists he doesn’t view himself as in decline. He still feels he has the game to win the big ones, and bottom line, his belief is the only one that matters. So though he’ll likely need some help to win the slams, don’t be too quick to send him off into the sunset. He still has game, and there are still some moments of pure genius left up his sleeve.
One of the biggest controversies at this year’s Championships has been the condition of the courts. There have been many slips and falls, with some alleging that the courts are dangerous, while others simply chalk it up to typical grass court tennis. Though the weather has possibly had a negative impact on the grounds, there are a few things to consider before condemning Wimbledon and its grounds crew. First, the bulk of the complaints have come from the losers, while the winners (many of whom have managed to stay upright) see no real issue. Additionally, many of the withdrawals and retirements were due to either freak accidents or pre-existing injuries the players picked up in the weeks leading up to Wimbledon. And perhaps the biggest culprit of all is the players’ movement on the court. As Darren Cahill pointed out, many of the players are guilty of not taking enough of the tiny steps, which you have to do on grass, to maintain balance. Video footage of many, but not all, of the tumbles shows players hitting the turf after taking a large, wide step or getting completely wrong-footed. It’s a perfect storm that has left the folks at Wimbledon to do damage control, but hopefully going forward, especially with an extra week between Wimbledon and the French beginning in 2015, we’ll see far less of these unfortunate events.
Love is blind. It’s a phrase we’ve all heard. It’s also a phrase that we typically think of as relating to romantic love, but it applies to other types of love, too. Sometimes it can refer to familial love, as is the case with Bernard Tomic. The Aussie, who had an impressive five-set win over Sam Querrey in the opening round, lashed out at the ATP for banning his father due to pending assault charges dating back to Madrid. He feels that they’re hurting his game by not just banning the man that is his father, but the man that he still views as his coach. It’s understandable where Tomic is coming from, but it’s a sad situation. His dad is too physical with others, including his own son. With any luck, Tomic will find success without his father by his side so that he can see he doesn’t need him to enjoy a fruitful career. And hopefully, he’ll one day look back and realize what a favor the ATP has done for him by putting its foot down.
Bring It On
Event organizers’ brains are probably just whirling with the possibility of a showdown between Andy Murray and Serena Williams in what could once again be billed as an intriguing “Battle of the Sexes.” The Scot responded to a Twitter follower who introduced the idea that he should take on Serena Williams, and it turns out the Scot is game. When Williams heard about it, she also expressed enthusiasm at the idea. It’s of course all in good fun, but if organizers can find a way to turn this talk into a reality, it’s a guaranteed success. And better yet, stage it in Vegas as Murray suggested. It would be a spectacular show sure to bring plenty of good publicity to tennis.
(June 27, 2013) Sports network ESPN has released the nominations list for their annual ESPY Awards (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly), and it includes not only best male and female tennis-exclusive categories, but also nods to Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in various other categories. (Remember to cast your official votes at the ESPYS website here.)
American Serena Williams receives her ninth ESPY Award nomination, and is listed this year as one of four women under the “Best Female Athlete” category. According to ESPN, the award is presented to the female sportsperson, irrespective of nationality or sport contested, adjudged to be the most outstanding over a given year.
Her competition includes US Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin and Baylor University college basketball player Brittney Griner. Williams’ achievements giving her the nod for the ESPY nomination include her 2012 titles at Wimbledon and the US Open, her Olympic gold medal in singles and doubles in London last summer, and her 2013 French Open title.
Scot Andy Murray receives a nomination in the “Best Moment” category which is presented to the moment or series of moments occurring in a sporting event or season, irrespective of sport contested or gender of participating sportsperson(s), adjudged to the most remarkable, compelling, or entertaining in a given year.
Murray’s “moment,” of course, is winning a gold medal at the London Olympics last year in straight sets over Roger Federer, whom he had lost to four weeks prior in the Wimbledon final. The nomination also alludes to him being the first “British” man to win a singles gold in the Olympics since 1908.
Murray’s three competitors include Jack Hoffman’s touchdown run in the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ spring game, Alex Morgan’s game-winning goal against Canada in the Olympic semifinal, coach Chuck Pagano’s return to the Colts after being diagnosed with leukemia.
Serb Novak Djokovic is nominated for “Best International Athlete,” which is presented to the sportsperson in a North American professional or collegiate league, irrespective of gender, born outside the United States adjudged to be the best in a given year. According to ESPN, the nod was given because (1) he was the first player to be year end No. 1 in consecutive seasons since Roger Federer achieved four straight world No. 1 finishes from 2004-07, and (2) he won the 2013 Australian Open singles championship.
Djokovic’s four tough competitors include Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, Mexican boxer Juan Manuel Marquez, Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi, and Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo.
There were also two exclusive tennis categories: Best Male Tennis Player and Best Female Tennis Player. Full nominations list below.
Best Male Tennis Player Nominations
- Clinched the year-end No. 1 ATP Ranking, becoming the first player to accomplish the feat in consecutive seasons since Roger Federer achieved four straight World No. 1 finishes from 2004-07
- Won 2013 Austrailian Open singles championship
- Won his record 17th Grand Slam singles championship and record-tying seventh Wimbledon singles championship
- Captured his first Grand Slam singles title when he beat Novak Djokovic in five sets to win the 2012 U. S. Open
- Won the Olympic gold medal, beating Roger Federer in the finals
- Became first man to win the same Grand Slam tournament eight times when he won 2013 French Open
Best Female Tennis Player Nominations
- Finished 2012 as No. 1 ranked player in WTA
- Lost in the finals of the 2012 U. S. Open
- Equaled her best season to date, finishing number two in the world
- Won three WTA titles
- Earned her fourth U. S. Open singles title in 2012
- Won her fifth Wimbledon singles title in 2012
- Won the 2013 French Open singles title