By Maud Watson
Who to Watch
With Wimbledon wrapped and the summer hard court season upon us, it’s worth taking a look at some of the storylines to keep tabs on as the rest of the year unfolds. We’ll start with who to watch, and after her run at Wimbledon, Sabine Lisicki is the player to follow on the WTA. As previously noted, she’s got a big game, but she also possesses touch and feel and still has youth on her side. She’s never played consistently well outside of SW19, but after breaking new ground at the All England Club by reaching the final, perhaps she’s ready to do the same at other venues across the globe. On the men’s side, you have to like what you saw from Juan Martin del Potro at Wimbledon. He gave Djokovic all he could handle before bowing out in five enthralling sets in the semifinals and after that defeat, stated he felt he was ready to be back in the mix with the Big 4. As an added bonus, del Potro managed to engage the crowd much more by conversing with spectators and even joking throughout the course of that important match. He may have ultimately lost that semifinal, but he won a lot of fans sure to watch him going forward.
Who Will Feel the Love
After holding her nerve to grab the opportunity of a lifetime, newly-crowned Wimbledon Champion Marion Bartoli deserves some serious respect. The Frenchwoman has been better known for her quirks and some unfortunate disparaging remarks regarding her looks, but she deserves to be known for her game. Her relentless attacking style makes her a tough customer for the game’s best – as she proved six years ago – and with the confidence that comes from winning a major, she should be solidly back in the thick of it this summer. She also has a delightful personality that should have fans warming to her. For the men, it’s about time Ferrer got some kudos. He’s now in the top three, and he’s not there by accident. He consistently shows up week in and week out and just reached his first major final a month ago in Paris. At 31, he doesn’t have the same kind of upshot as a del Potro, but with the Spaniard likely to continue to produce throughout the remainder of 2013, it’s about time he was fully appreciated and respected for the tenacity and consistency that have played a big part in him surpassing Nadal and Federer in the rankings.
How Will They Respond?
Despite winning Roland Garros, Serena was undoubtedly unhappy to fall short at Wimbledon. To be fair to her, Lisicki did play a great match. But Serena also looked nervous. It’s unclear if that had to do with fear of Lisicki’s ability or if the pressure of defending her title – and a heavy favorite to do so – was getting to her. If it was the latter, things could get tricky for the American in the second half of 2013. She has a boatload of points to defend thanks to a stellar second half of 2012, and particularly if she wants to maintain the top WTA ranking, the pressure will only mount. She’s responded well to adversity before, but at 31, she’s bound to feel it a little more. As for the ATP, it’s a tossup as to whether it’s Federer or Nadal facing more questions going into the second half of the season. Both suffered shocking early exits at Wimbledon. Federer is looking to get back on the horse immediately by playing a couple of European clay court tournaments before heading to North America. How things transpire at those events will likely dictate just how freely he’s swinging as he preps for the US Open. In regards to Nadal, it’s unclear when he will return and how much the knee may or may not be hampering him. How his knee responds, as well as how mentally confident he feels about his game and body on the hard courts will determine just how much success he’ll enjoy the remainder of the season.
Will They Return?
The two players facing this question both represent the Stars and Stripes. Venus Williams continues to battle a back injury and is questionable for the US Open. It will all depend of if she is healthy enough to play a tune-up event before Flushing Meadows. If you factor in her age and other outside interests, it wouldn’t be entirely shocking if we see little to no play from her until the autumn or even 2014. Mardy Fish is the other player struggling to make a comeback, though he is set to compete in both Atlanta and Washington DC in the coming weeks. Fish remains upbeat about his chances of tasting success, citing the recent resurgence of veteran Tommy Haas as a point from which to draw inspiration. But as Mardy has admitted, so many of his issues have stemmed from the mental side of things. He’s also already suffered a couple of comebacks that have failed to get off the ground this season. Again, at his age, you have to wonder how many setbacks he’s willing to overcome before he decides to hang it up.
Race for No. 1
It’s a three-way race on both tours. For the WTA, it’s your top three, with Serena, Sharapova, and Azarenka the most likely candidates to finish in the top spot. On paper, Serena has a bit of a cushion, but she has more to defend than the other two. Still, if she stays healthy, you have to like her odds of defending the bulk of her points from 2012. If not, with Azarenka struggling with injuries, this could prove a great opportunity for Sharapova to step it up. On the men’s side, it’s looking like a race between Djokovic, Murray, and Nadal. Similar to Serena, Djokovic has an apparent cushion but also has a number of points to defend. The good news for Djokovic is that World No. 2 Murray also has a large share of points to defend, and particularly with his early loss at Wimbledon, Nadal has to log exceptional performances at a number of the bigger events throughout the remainder of 2013. Assuming he doesn’t fall apart, Djokovic is still the favorite to finish atop the rankings.
(July 11, 2013) Jerzy Janowicz just played the best tournament of his career. He reached the semifinals of Wimbledon, the best result of his career. He reached a career-high ranking of World No. 17. He has a massive serve, good ground game, and already moves well enough to be a top player. The whole tennis world is expecting great things from Janowicz in the near future.
But I’m not ready to expect much from him just yet.
Am I being unfair? Am I being ridiculous? After all, the entire tennis world just saw him take Wimbledon by storm. We saw him produce tennis on a high level. Why wouldn’t I expect us to see it on a consistent basis?
The answer lies in that very question. Janowicz has developed the game to be a great player. He has the talent to be a great player? So why is he only now breaking in to the top 20?
Yes, every player has to start from somewhere. Every player gets better and better until he can reach the top of the game. But Janowicz has had this talent and ability for more than just two weeks. He played this well in reaching the final of the Masters tournament in Paris last November. So why was Janowicz not able to reach a single semifinal in the 7 months between those two tournaments?
I will be fair. Janowicz also played very well in the Masters tournament in Rome, beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet before falling to Roger Federer. Even that doesn’t change the point I am trying to make.
Janowicz is a top 20 player right now, but he has done that by playing great tennis for three weeks out of the past year. He currently has 2,154 ATP ranking points. A combined 1,345 of those came from Paris and Wimbledon. He would not even be in the top 50 without those. If you ignore Rome as well he would fall out of the top 100 at the end of this week.
So what is my point? Paris, Rome, and Wimbledon did happen. You can’t just ignore them. But the fact is that they say something. Janowicz made himself from a fringe top 100 player into a top 20 player in 4 weeks. But if Janowicz is going to reach the top 10 or top 5, or even No. 1 someday like people are expecting of him, he will have to compete at his best level for more than 4 weeks out of the year.
He has shown us that he has that level. He has shown us that he can sustain it for most of a tournament. But he is going to have to do it for a much larger chunk of the season. Otherwise, where he is now may very well be the highest he can get.
Just past its halfway point, the year 2013 has featured twists and turns, tastes of the familiar and the unfamiliar, and plenty of memorable matches to recall. This first of two articles counts down the seven most memorable men’s matches of the first half. Not necessarily the longest, the closest, or those that featured the best tennis, each of them connected to narratives broader than their specific outcomes.
7) Grigor Dimitrov d. Novak Djokovic, Madrid 2R, 7-6(6) 6-7(8) 6-3
During the first few months of 2013, Dimitrov progressed slowly but surely in his ability to challenge the ATP elite. First, he served for the first set against Djokovic and Murray in Indian Wells and Miami, respectively. Then, he won a set from Nadal on clay in Monte Carlo. Dimitrov’s true breakthrough came at the next Masters 1000 tournament in Madrid, where he withstood an extremely tense encounter against the world No. 1. When Djokovic escaped the marathon second-set tiebreak, the underdog could have crumbled. Instead, Dimitrov rallied to claim an early third-set lead that he never relinquished. Having won the Monte Carlo title from Nadal in his previous match, Djokovic showed unexpected emotional frailty here that undercut his contender’s credentials in Paris. (He did, however, avenge this loss to Dimitrov when they met at Roland Garros.)
6) Sergiy Stakhovsky d. Roger Federer, Wimbledon 2R, 6-7(5) 7-6(5) 7-5 7-6(5)
Ten years before, almost to the day, a youthful Roger Federer had burst onto the tennis scene by upsetting seven-time champion Pete Sampras at the All England Club. An aura of invincibility had cloaked Federer at majors for much of the ensuing decade, contributing to a record-breaking streak of 36 major quarterfinals. That streak forms a key cornerstone of his legacy, but it ended at the hands of a man outside the top 100 who never had defeated anyone in the top 10. Federer did not play poorly for much of this match, a symbol of the astonishing upsets that rippled across Wimbledon on the first Wednesday. Rare is the occasion when he does not play big points well, and even rarer is the occasion when an unheralded opponent of his plays them better. Stakhovsky needed the fourth-set tiebreak almost as much as Federer did, and he struck just the right balance of boldness and patience to prevail.
5) Andy Murray d. Roger Federer, Australian Open SF, 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 6-7(2) 6-2
Murray ended the first half of 2013 by thrusting not a monkey but a King Kong-sized gorilla off its back. He rid himself of another onerous burden when the year began, nearly as meaningful if less publicized. Never had Murray defeated Federer at a major before, losing all three of their major finals while winning one total set. A comfortable win seemed within his grasp when he served for the match at 6-5 in the fourth set, only to see a vintage spurt of inspiration from the Swiss star force a fifth. All the pressure rested on Murray in the deciding set after that opportunity slipped away, and yet he composed himself to smother Federer efficiently. Murray’s third consecutive appearance in a major final illustrated his improving consistency, a theme of 2013. Meanwhile, his opponent’s sagging energy in the fifth set revealed another theme of a season in which Federer has showed his age more than ever before.
4) Rafael Nadal d. Ernests Gulbis, Indian Wells 4R, 4-6 6-4 7-5
Although South American clay had hinted at the successes ahead, neither Nadal nor his fans knew what to expect when he played his first marquee tournament since Wimbledon 2012. Even the most ambitious among them could not have foreseen the Spaniard winning his first hard-court tournament since 2010 and first hard-court Masters 1000 tournament in four years. Nadal would finish his title run by defeating three straight top-eight opponents, but the decisive turning point of his tournament came earlier.After falling behind the dangerous Ernests Gulbis, he dug into the trenches with his familiar appetite for competition. To his credit, Gulbis departed from his usual insouciance and stood toe to toe with Nadal until the end, even hovering within two points of the upset. But Nadal’s explosive athleticism allowed him to halt the Latvian’s 13-match winning streak in a series of pulsating exchanges. He ended the match with his confidence far higher than when it began.
3) Novak Djokovic d. Juan Martin Del Potro, Wimbledon SF, 7-5 4-6 7-6(2) 6-7(6) 6-3
Here is a match that does belong on this list simply because of its extraordinary length, tension, and quality, even if it ultimately lacks broader implications. Neither man had lost a set en route to this semifinal, and its 283 blistering, sprawling minutes showed why. Refusing to give an inch from the baseline, Djokovic and Del Potro blasted ferocious serves and groundstrokes while tracking down far more balls than one would have thought possible on grass. The drama raced to its climax late in the fourth set, when the Argentine saved two match points with bravery that recalled his Indian Wells victories over Murray and Djokovic. Triumphant at last a set later, the Serb emitted a series of howls that exuded relief as much as exultation. We will not know for the next several weeks what, if anything, will come from this match for Del Potro, but it marked by far his best effort against the Big Four at a major since he won the US Open.
2) Novak Djokovic d. Stanislas Wawrinka, Australian Open 4R, 1-6 7-5 6-4 6-7(5) 12-10
Just halfway into the first major of 2013, everyone concurred that we already had found a strong candidate for the match of the year. The second-ranked Swiss man lit up the Melbourne night for a set and a half as Djokovic slipped, scowled, and stared in disbelief at his unexpectedly feisty opponent. Once Wawrinka faltered in his attempt to serve for a two-set lead, though, an irreversible comeback began. Or so we thought. A dazzling sequence of shot-making from Djokovic defined proceedings until midway through the fourth set, when Wawrinka reignited at an ideal moment. Two of the ATP’s most glorious backhands then dueled through a 22-game final set, which also pitted Wawrinka’s formidable serve against Djokovic’s pinpoint return. The underdog held serve six times to stay in the match, forcing the favorite to deploy every defensive and offensive weapon in his arsenal to convert the seventh attempt. Fittingly, both of these worthy adversaries marched onward to impressive accomplishments. Djokovic would secure a record three-peat in Melbourne, and Wawrinka would launch the best season of his career with victories over half of the top eight and a top-10 ranking.
1) Rafael Nadal d. Novak Djokovic, Roland Garros SF, 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-7(3) 9-7
The stakes on each side loomed a little less large than in the 2012 final, perhaps, with neither a Nole Slam nor Nadal’s record-breaking seventh Roland Garros title on the line. One would not have known it from watching a sequel much more compelling than the original, and one of the finest matches that this rivalry has produced. Somewhat a mirror image of their final last year at the Australian Open, it featured a comeback by one man from the brink of defeat in the fourth set and a comeback by the other from the brink of defeat in the fifth. Nadal led by a set and a break and later served for the match before Djokovic marched within six points of victory, but one last desperate display of will edged the Spaniard across the finish line. Few champions throughout the sport’s history can match the resilience of these two champions, so the winner of their matches can exult in a hard-earned triumph. While Djokovic proved how far he had progressed in one year as a Roland Garros contender, Nadal validated his comeback with his most fearless effort yet against the mature version of the Serb. Only time will tell whether it marks the start of a new chapter in their rivalry, or a glittering coda that illustrates what might have been.
Check back in a day or two for a companion article on the seven most memorable women’s matches.
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.
It may still be the grass court season, but Nike has already released what several of their key male athletes will be wearing come fall, including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro.
Rafael Nadal: The Spaniard will be adding a pop of color to Nike’s lineup, sporting the Nike Men’s Fall Premier Rafa Crew in Sonic Yellow with Armory Navy accents. The same modern scooped V-neck he donned at Wimbledon will stick around. A sublimated graphic print on the chest, as well as a laser-perforated graphic on back keep the shirt design fairly subtle — the though the “X” on the front alludes to superhero status. The top will be paired with the Nike Men’s Fall Premier Rafa Woven Short in Armory Navy.
Roger Federer: The Swiss maestro will attempt to go for his sixth US Open title in a newly-refined polo, the Nike Men’s Fall Premier RF US Open Polo in Light Armory Blue. A contrast self fabric collar and subtle side panels make this one of Federer’s most elegant looks, and the pale grey/blue palette adds just enough color to not oversimplify the top. He’ll combine it with with the Nike Men’s Fall Premier RF Twill Short in White.
Not to be forgotten, Federer also has his own line of practice RF tees, including the Nike Men’s Fall RF Trophy V-Neck T-Shirts in Armory Navy or Wolf Grey (left and middle). The Nike Men’s Fall Graphic T-Shirt (right) will also bring a light-hearted smile for all Nike athletes donning the shirt. It comes in Armory Navy (pictured below), Sonic Yellow and White.
Juan Martin del Potro: The Tower of Tandil has regularly taken a low-key approach to his outfits, and the fall season is no different. He’ll be wearing the Nike Men’s Fall Advantage UV Crew in Light Armory Blue (pictured below), Dark Armory Blue and Sonic Yellow, as well as the Nike Men’s Fall Gladiator 10″ Plaid Short in Light Armory Blue (pictured below), Vintage Green, Geyser Grey, and Armory Navy.
Other tops that could potentially be worn by the rest of the Nike athletes also have some great designs, including the Advantage UV Graphic Crew (left), Advantage UV Graphic Polo (middle) and Rally Sphere Stripe Polo (right).
(June 28, 2013) As a follow-up to their inventive and humorous incognito ads with Roger Federer and Serena Williams, Wilson Tennis is now showcasing their “generation next” players, including ATP players Milos Raonic and Andrey Kuznetsov, as well as Laura Robson and Madison Keys who are both through to the third round of Wimbledon.
Typical teenagers can be seen hitting the concert scene on a Friday night, but every fan knows tennis players work around the clock perfecting their game. So it’s no surprise that these four rising stars ditch normal Friday night plans, and instead hit the practice courts — even at night.
Wilson Tennis keeps it youthful and fresh in their newest video, showcasing the fun side of the younger players with their quirks, giggles and funny gestures any age can have a lighthearted laugh at.
The video is part of the BE NEXT campaign that Wilson Tennis started a few weeks ago with Federer. The campaign also includes a contest giving fans the opportunity to meet Federer at the US Open. Other prizes include a Wilson racquet, footwear, apparel, bags and more.
To enter the Wilson BE NEXT contest, go here: www.wilson.com/benext
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
A wild Wednesday swept through the All England Club. We glance back through the avalanche of upsets that rendered some sections of both draws almost unrecognizable as a major.
Roger rolled: 36 straight quarterfinals at majors. Seven Wimbledon titles in the last ten years. None of his legendary opponent’s credentials mattered to the 116th-ranked Sergei Stakhovsky, who became the lowest-ranked man to defeat Roger Federer in a decade. His moment of truth came in the fourth-set tiebreak, as crucial for the underdog as it was for the favorite considering the momentum that Stakhovsky had built by winning the second and third sets. Federer had started to reassert himself late in the fourth, and he surely would have secured the fifth set if he had reached it.
Unlike Alejandro Falla in 2010, and Julien Benneteau in 2012, Stakhovsky made sure that the Swiss did not survive the crossroads. A barrage of unreturnable serves early in the tiebreak, a clutch backhand down the line, and a sequence of magnificent lunging volleys brought him to match point on his serve. Sure enough, Federer saved it with a pinpoint passing shot. But Stakhovsky kept his composure through what felt like an interminable rally with the champion serving at 5-6 in the tiebreak. Finally, a Federer backhand floated aimlessly wide as time seemed to stand still on Centre Court, where things like these never happen.
Maria mastered: Off the WTA radar for years, former prodigy Michelle Larcher de Brito had gained most of her publicity from distinctively elongated yodels. She entered the main draw as a qualifier, though, which meant that she had accumulated more grass matches than her heralded opponent. Former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova has stumbled early in the draw there more often than not in recent years. Slipping and skidding around the site of her first major breakthrough, she never found her rhythm or range from the baseline in a loss that recalled previous Wimbledon setbacks to Alla Kudryavtseva and Gisela Dulko.
The finish did not come easily for de Brito, as it never does against Sharapova. The girl who long has struggled with her serve deserves full credit for standing firm through deuce after deuce as five match points slipped past until the sixth proved the charm.
Vika victimized: Injuring her leg during her first-round victory, world No. 2 Victoria Azarenka never reached her scheduled Centre Court rendezvous with Flavia Pennetta on Wednesday. Azarenka withdrew from Wimbledon while blasting the All England Club for creating unsafe playing conditions. She now needs only a retirement or walkover at Roland Garros to complete a career injury Slam, and she will hand the No. 2 ranking back to Sharapova after the tournament.
Jo-Wilfried jolted: Also on the retirement list in a day filled with injuries, world No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga handed Ernests Gulbis a ticket to the third round after losing two of the first three sets. A semifinalist at Roland Garros and at Queen’s Club, Tsonga had seemed one of the tournament’s leading dark horses at the outset. But Gulbis, the most dangerous unseeded man in the draw, eyes an open route to a quarterfinal against Andy Murray.
Caro curbed: An Eastbourne semifinal aside, Caroline Wozniacki has struggled without respite since reaching the Indian Wells final in March. Another early loss thus comes as no great surprise for someone who lost in the first round of Wimbledon last year. Wozniacki secured just four games from Petra Cetkovska, not the first upset that the Czech has notched on grass.
Tall men toppled: Their opponents had nothing to do with it, but the tenth-seeded Marin Cilic and American No. 2 John Isner added themselves to the exodus of retirements. While Isner did not harbor real hopes for a deep run, Cilic reached the final at Queen’s Club barely a week ago and had reached the second week of Wimbledon last year. Of the top-16 seeds in the bottom half of the men’s draw, only Murray and Nicolas Almagro remain.
Serbs swiped: More comfortable on slower surfaces, former No. 1s Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic departed in straight sets on Wednesday. Ivanovic’s loss came at the hands of rising Canadian star Eugenie Bouchard, who may rival Laura Robson (or Larcher de Brito?) for the breakout story of the women’s tournament. The proudly patriotic Jankovic may take some comfort in the fact that her misfortune came at the hands of a fellow Serb. Her conqueror, Vesna Dolonc, is the only Serb left in the women’s draw.
Hewitt halted: The 2002 champion soared to a straight-sets victory over the 11th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka in the first round, only to tumble back to earth against flashy Jamaican-turned-German journeyman Dustin Brown. Lleyton Hewitt’s defeat leaves Novak Djokovic as the only former champion and only No. 1 in the Wimbledon men’s draw.
And more…: The seeded casualties did not stop there. Fernando Verdasco bounced No. 31 Julien Benneteau in straight sets, No. 22 Sorana Cirstea lost two tiebreaks to Camila Giorgi, and No. 27 Lucie Safarova let a one-set lead get away against another Italian in Karin Knapp. Nadal’s nemesis, Steve Darcis, also withdrew from Wimbledon with a shoulder injury.
Hanging on tight: In the women’s match of the day, No. 17 Sloane Stephens narrowly kept her tournament alive against Andrea Petkovic by surviving an 8-6 third set. Stephens will have a real chance to reach her second semifinal in three 2013 majors with both top-eight seeds gone from her quarter. Also extended to a third set were No. 19 Carla Suarez Navarro and No. 25 Ekaterina Makarova, the latter of whom overcame rising Spanish star Garbine Muguruza. Meanwhile, men’s 20th seed Mikhail Youzhny needed five sets to survive Canadian youngster Vasek Pospisil as hardly anyone escaped at least a nibble from the upset bug.
Rising above the rubble: But a few contenders did. Extending his winning streak to seven, second seed Andy Murray notched another routine victory as he becomes the overwhelming favorite to reach a second straight Wimbledon final. Murray’s pre-final draw might pit him against a succession of Tommy Robredo, Youzhny, Gulbis, and Benoit Paire or Jerzy Janowicz—hardly a murderer’s row, although the Gulbis matchup might intrigue.
In the wake of a difficult first-round victory, 2011 champion Petra Kvitova caught a break today when Yaroslava Shvedova withdrew. Kvitova becomes the only top-eight seed to reach the third round in the bottom half of the women’s draw. She could face a compelling test from Makarova on Friday, but her most significant competition might come from Stephens or Marion Bartoli in the semifinals. Struggling mightily for most of the spring amid coaching turmoil, 2007 finalist Bartoli has picked an ideal time to find some form again. She ousted Christina McHale in straight sets today and has become the highest-ranked woman remaining in her quarter.
(June 26, 2013) Sergiy Stakhovsky came into his second round match against Roger Federer with a game plan: He was going to turn back the clock on Federer’s career, and pulled off the biggest upset in recent Wimbledon history by defeating the defending champion, 6-7, 7-6, 7-5, 7-6.
Federer had been in the top four for exactly a decade. The last time he had been No. 5 in the rankings was coincidentally June 26th, 2003, right before he won his first Wimbledon. Since then, Federer has reached 36 straight Grand Slam quarterfinals, and the last time he failed to do so was at the French Open in 2004. That 2004 French Open was also the last time Federer lost to a one-handed backhander in a Slam.
Stakhovsky didn’t only turn back the clock on the stats and record book, though. He went back to the 1990’s with his style of play. It was a tremendous performance of serve-and-volley tennis. He attacked the net at every opportunity and it paid dividends.
The most incredible thing, perhaps, about the upset was that Stakhovsky was not pulling off incredible shots to beat Federer. Yes, he hit some highlight-reel volleys that will be watched for a long time. But those aren’t what won him this match. Stakhovsky won by serving consistently and by dominating at the net. Stakhovsky approached the net a whopping 94 times in this match, winning the point on 64% of those. Yes, maybe a dozen or so of those were insane volleys, but it was being there and playing consistently that got him this win.
It was a different type of loss than we are used to seeing from Federer here. Since 2003, Federer has lost to only three people at Wimbledon. Rafael Nadal beat Federer the same way he always does, by getting balls back in play and attacking that backhand with his heavy topspin. Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, though, did it by just beating Federer off the court. They brought attacking games and massive groundstrokes in 2010 and 2011, respectively, and each took Federer out in the quarterfinals.
Stakhovsky didn’t have that strong of a ground game though, and nobody expected another upset. It was apparent in many rallies when his forehand just couldn’t get past Federer’s defense. So he played the perfect game to make up for that. He served-and-volleyed. He attacked the net whenever he could. He played the perfect match on grass and used his grass-court strengths to cover up his other weaknesses superbly.
That, perhaps, is what we should take away from the match. That is what Stakhovsky did that no one else has been able to do for the last 10 years.
Stakhovsky is not as talented as Federer. He is not as good of a tennis player. But he brought a game plan that allowed him to beat Federer and executed it to perfection. He didn’t back down when he got behind. And he didn’t back down when he was in the lead. He brought out huge serves and clutch volleys on big points.
The match itself was entertaining from the start. It was strong grass-court tennis the way it is meant to be played. Stakhovsky said after the match that it’s always a challenge coming in against Federer because it’s like facing two opponents out there—the actual Roger Federer and Federer’s reputation and aura of greatness. Stakhovsky didn’t show it at all, though, holding serve and opening up some break chances.
Stakhovsky’s first real chance came when he had a break point at 5-5 in the first set. He had an open court but instead hit the volley right to Federer, who took the point and held. When Federer won the first set in a tiebreak, it did not seem like Stakhovsky could hold on. But Stakhovsky came back in the second, holding his serve over and over until he could take the second set in a tiebreak.
The third set looked like it was heading to a tiebreak like the first two, but Stakhovsky played a strong defensive game while Federer was a little loose and broke for a 6-5 lead. He held for the set and when he broke early in the fourth, we knew that we might be on the cusp of history here. Federer broke back for 3-3 though and Stakhovsky finally looked nervous. He managed to save set points and bring it to a tiebreak, though, and it looked like it was all-or-nothing. Stakhovsky took a minibreak for 4-2 and had a match point on his racket, serving at 6-4. Federer saved it with a great passing shot but an errant backhand the next point handed Stakhovsky the biggest win of his career.
Is this the end of an era for Roger? It is certainly the end of several historic streaks. But the end of an era? Federer says he plans on playing for many more years. And, since he won this tournament just last year, we’d be foolish to count him out so early.