by Helen W
Herewith a highly-personal and eclectic review of the Wimbledon Week 1 men's draw.
Naturally Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal head the list, but I'd like to highlight some of the lesser-known players or unexpected standouts. But before I do, mention must also go to Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet -- are they finally going to play up to their talent?
Yes, the 22-year-old lefty qualifier lost in the first round. But his opponent, in his first-ever Slam match, was no less than Rafa. He lost in 3 tight sets 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 and stood tough for the entire match, belying his 122 ranking.
Who is Ernests Gulbis? Almost everyone believes that he is a future top-ten player. In losing to Rafa (7-5, 2-6, 6-7, 3-6) he became the first player to take a set off him in since heaven knows when. And like Beck before him, he rose to the occasion, playing great tennis.
No American man made it to week 2, but 26-year-old journeyman Bobby Reynolds, currently ranked 102, was the only one who made it into the third round, before going down to Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
I used to dislike Kiefer as a player who would do anything to win, including cheat. See this article for an account of an ugly racket-throwing incident in a match against Sebastian Grosjean. But after the latest of his numerous injuries, Kiefer seems to have had an epiphany, and has relinquished his win-at-all-costs attitude and replaced it with a more generous outlook. These are the kinds of stories that always warm my heart.
Anyway, Kiefer also went down to Nadal in straights 7-6, 6-2, 6-3 but showed his amazing shotmaking in the tight first set. In the third , down 5-0, he raised his hands in mock celebration when he finally held his serve, then electrified the crowd by breaking Rafa (for the first time in the match) in the next game. He held his next serve before Rafa slammed the door and left the court, happy that he had managed to complete his match before dark and could now get football finally out of his head on Sunday.
Remember him? At age 32 he is the oldest man left in the draw. Up until Wimbledon his record for the year is 4 - 13 (ouch). But in 2003, he advanced to his first career slam final at the Aussie open (lost to Agassi), and finished the year ranked 6 in the world. In 2004 he was briefly ranked 5, after which his ranking declined and has never recovered. His last final was Monte Carlo in 2004. His next opponent is Janko Tipsarevic, so I predict that his run at Wimby will end there, but congrats to the veteran for getting into week 2.
Remember him? Year after year we hope that his life as a headcase is finally behind him. Will this be the year? Well, for the first time in yonks, by his own admission, he has won 2 matches in a row. Perhaps the recent successes of little sis have inspired him? He has told the press that he has been training very hard to get back into top form.
His first surprise at Wimbledon, and it was a shocker, was taking out Novak Djokovic in straights (6-4 7-6 6-2) in the second round. Some fans were unkind enough to suggest to Djokoer that he should first win, then talk. Others commented on how lucky Roger was, with Marat doing the job of taking out his biggest threat for him.
But I digress. Was Marat's win just a fluke? Would he go back to headcaseland in the very next match? Happily, no. He played an enthralling match against Andreas Seppi last Friday (one of the best days of tennis I can remember), where as darkness fell he eventually prevailed 7-6, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4. A fantastic effort by both players -- no-one lost this match, Marat won it against a worthy opponent who gave his best.
See above. This year the 24-year-old righty is ranked 30 in the world, and has reached the semis in Hamburg and the quarters at Nottingham.
I'm sure most tennisheads remember Tipsy taking Roger to 5 sets at the Australian Open. Well, now we know for sure that that was not a fluke -- he took out Roddick 6-7, 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 in the second round on Centre Court Wimbledon, at the same time as Schuettler was taking out James Blake 6-3, 6-7, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. He then proceeded to take out Dmitry Tursunov in straights, and his next match is against Schuettler, so I predict he will make the quarters.
Finally completely over his case of mono, and sporting his new law degree, Ancic played a thrilling match against David Ferrer, where he eventually prevailed 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 on Centre Court on the same day as Marat played Seppi. And again, it was a match of the highest calibre, which was won, not lost.
Besides Murray and Gasquet, the following players also deserve a nod:
- Marcos Baghdatis
He of the electrifying smile has reached the fourth round. However, he has had a relatively easy draw so far. Is he back in form? His next match is against Feli, and I predict he will make it to the quarters.
- Marin Cilic
At 19 years old, Croation Marin Cilic is the youngest player left in the draw. His next match is against Arnaud Clement (at age 31, the second-oldest player left in the draw), and I predict he too will make it to the quarters.
- Arnaud Clement
Currently ranked 145, Clement has taken out 3 higher-ranked players (Jonas Bjorkam, 128; Benjamin Becker, 116; Jurgen Melzer, 72) to reach the 4th round.
- Fabrice Santoro
This is probably the last Wimbledon for The Magician. He requested, and was granted, the honour of playing on Centre Court for the first (and last) time at Wimby, where he entertained us all going down in straight sets (6-3 6-4 7-6) to Andy Murray in his first-round match. (He and doubles partner Marc Gicquel also went down in their first-round match to Max Mirnyi & Jamie Murray.)
Errors don't get pix. Any guesses?
Surprise! (Not). Where has his forehand gone? Oh never mind.
Surprise! (Not). Just as Roddick's play desolated Craig & Tangerine, James's play desolated me. I adore Blake, for taking sportsmanship to another level. But the heartbreak! Oh never mind.
For most of us, this was definitely a surprise, and for many of us, a happy one. Maybe he won't be No. 1 in the world at the end of the year, as so many of his fawning followers (JMac is that you?) have so confidently predicted.