Funny that. Last year, Richard Gasquet beat Andy the Elder after being down two sets and a break. This year, Richie Red Shoes loses to Andy the Younger after being up two sets and a break.
The crowd was the loudest I've ever seen for a tennis match, and Andy the Younger encouraged their loudness.
You can't write this stuff.
I've got much more to say about today's action than this, but I had a farming "emergency" that needed to be dealt with, so I'll update this to include my usual daily quips later.
Till then, talk amongst yourselves.
The man means business. A subdued Safin beat Stanislas Wawrinka convincingly, despite dropping the third set in a tiebreak. If he can stay this focused and composed...
30-year-old Arnaud Clement, Wimbledon quarterfinalist. Say it again.
Thailand's 31-year-old Tamarine Tanasugarn, Wimbledon quarterfinalist. Say it again. (I told you she had a draw she could work with.)
32-year-old Rainer Schuettler, Wimbledon quarterfinalist. Say it again.
When the AP can run an article asking if Wimbledon was trying to send Serena and Venus Williams a message by putting them both in the Graveyard, then you know there's trouble in Paradise. I understand that the sisters are big draws, perhaps the big draws, for audiences in the States, but just because US networks wanted raitings doesn't mean Venus, especially, as defending champion should have been playing her fourth round match on Court 2.
I'll probably rant about this in full in a Wimbledon postscript. But for now, all I'll says is that the sisters took care of business on the Graveyard Court, winning all three of their matches without dropping a set. Serena didn't even drop serve in singles or doubles.
Monday, June 30, 2008
Elena Dementieva RUS (5) vs.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
So the Brits, hidebound and hemmed in by tradition, schedule no play this Sunday. This helps maintain the fiction that the tournament is thirteen days - Monday is officially Day 7- for who knows what reason. I'm sure some of us could get into a debate about the relationship between Wimbledon and the Summer Solstice but this is a tennis blog.
Moving on the chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), one Mr. Roger Draper, has backtracked on the stated goal of LTA president Stuart Smith original goal of Britain having five players in the top 100 of the sport by 2008. That goal has now been pushed back to 2010. Sometimes people make interesting statements when their backs are against the wall. Consider this one from Mr. Draper.
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.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Arnaud Clement of France, one of the veterans on the men's side who survived week one.
I was thoroughly bored by the tennis today, what of it I saw, anyway. Admittedly, it had as much to do with the need to do some serious farming (I'm tired as a mule) and yesterday's classics, which are still fresh in my memory.
So today's recaps belong to all of you.
Tell us what you saw and drop links if you like.
See you on Middle Sunday when we will post our desires/predictions for week two.
Friday, June 27, 2008
As much as we can have true tennis classics on the slowed-down lawns of SW19, today was the day. On Centre Court, a resurgent Mario Ancic, the last player to defeat Roger Federer on grass in the same venue in 2002, electrified the crowd against the dogged Spaniard David Ferrer, who, for all of his grit, had few answers for the old-school, serve-and-volley, chip-and-charge play of the giant Croatian also known as Baby Goran (Ivanesivic), the first and last Croat to hoist the Wimbledon trophy. Mario outlasted David 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-3). And he never lost his serve. Against one of the best returners in the game.
At the same time, Marat Safin was in devastating form against the unheralded grass court lover Andreas Seppi of Italy, pushing him aside 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4. This was nothing short of a tremendous match on Court 1.
I thoroughly enjoyed both of these classics. The players battled each other as they battled the darkness falling over London after 9:00pm London time. (Note to the AELTC: either start matches earlier in the day, or invest in some damn lights. There's no reason the players should be fighting as though they're on a playground in some poverty-ridden, inner-city. Not with all the pomp and circumstance and money that girds the most hallowed event in one of the world's most elite sports.) Simply put, there was no better tennis on display at this year's Wimbledon so far than that from the racquets of the above warriors.
I was so full when the men finished, that I almost forget that Serena Williams, my girl, beat back Amelie Mauresmo, a fading light in women's tennis to be sure. Forgot that Ana Ivanovic, the new world No. 1 and Roland Garros champion, was picked apart by Jie Zheng, a Chinese woman who refused to be impressed by the game of a woman who won her Slam too soon, rose to No. 1 too soon, and who clearly, in all her giggly girlishness and manufactured fist pumps, is simply not ready to own the mantle of the world's best. Nathalie Dechy ought to have been playing the determined Chinese woman, but that's not the way the script played out. No matter. Ana will need to mature emotionally and mentally if she is to repeat her recent success. Otherwise, she'll turn into another Svetlana Kuznetsova, who also won her first Slam before she was ready.
Bobby Reynolds put up a good fight, but he as no match for Feliciano Lopez, the only Spaniard of the current crop who actually prefers grass, slow as it has become in London, to any other surface. There are no more American men in the Wimbledon draw after the third round. If I didn't know better, I'd think we were in Paris and crushed red brick was swirling into the eyes of the players, blinding them to the task at hand.
But American women's tennis has something to celebrate in the exquisite play of Bethanie Mattek, the woman who made headlines when she appeared in gypsy basketball garb on Centre Court against Venus Williams in 2006. She demoralized defending finalist Marion Bartoli with a game so solid, so deceptively powerful, the French woman who considers Wimbledon her favorite tournament could never get comfortable in her own exquisite game. Despite the 6-1, 6-4 scoreline, this was the best women's match of the day. Some of the games lasted for double-digit minutes, a trademark in most matches featuring the moody Marion.
Keeping with the sex talk so prominent in this forthnight, I couldn't fail to report that Chris Fowler and Darren Cahill had an extended conversation about Raja's opponent Marc Gicquel who, last year in Halle, took a tennis ball in the balls and had to pullout from his next match. Fowler even wanted to know if Cahill had ever experienced such excruciating pain by tennis ball. Cahill admitted that he had and when Fowler asked him how long he wanted to talk about the subject, Cahill answered: "Only as long as you do, Chris."
No disrespect to Raja's fans, but this is what the boredom of so many of his early-round Slam matches conjures up in those employed to cover them.
With so many of the top seeds falling like dominoes, there's a lot of talk of who's actually going to survive this thing and make it to the final weekend. Agnieszka Radwanska, Eastbourne champion, is doing her thing under the radar and might be the author of some more big headlines. But if any of the remaining Big Babes are still around and bring their A-games, the gutsy Pole won't have a chance. (For the darkest of darkhorses see Sugiyama Ai, who's celebrating her record-setting 57th consecutive appearance in a Slam event. I know, I know. I just wanted to give her her props.)
Remember Marcos Baghdatis? The Greek-Cypriot with the big gut and bigger smile who wowed the world in Melbourne in 2005? Well, the ut isn't so big right now, while his face is all business has he soldiers on. He has declared grass his favorite surface and his current form and draw tell me I shouldn't be shocked if he's playing on the final Sunday.
You heard it here first.
Photos of the Day
Misha Zverev, who retired against Stanislas Wawrinka
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Who the hell is Bobby Reynolds and why the hell aren't you leading with today's big upsets?
With Andy Roddick's painfully predictable upset at the hands of Janko Tipsarevic and James Blake's perfectly predictable upset at the hands of Rainer Schuettler and Jesse Levine's reasonably predictable loss to Jurgen Melzer today, Bobby Reynolds, who advanced yesterday, remains the last American standing in the men's draw.
Bobby Reynolds. The challenger circuit journeyman with the cute face and high tenor voice.
Here's some of the shit I shouted (or wrote) during the Andy debacle:
Go, Andy!!!! Give away your serve with two beautiful forehands after taking out your frustrations on the chair ump for your inability to break serve!!!
It amazes me that he took pace off his shots after he won his first Slam because he was criticized as a one-dimensional ball basher who couldn't beat Federer.
And now he's merely a counterpuncher with a big serve.
And a lot of doubt.
Connors restored confidence in Andy's backhand down the line. It became a weapon shortly after they hooked up. It was the single most improved shot that won him Cincy and got him to the US Open final that year.
Now, he doesn't hit it much at all and therefore, he can't break serve.
Andy's tennis problems are about as simple as he is.
Flail, flail away, Andy.
Breakpoint conversions: Andy, 0-7. Tipsy 2-2.
Clearly, Andy is far better at breaking his own serve than his opponent's.
I find it entirely silly that Andy is now waging a grunting battle with Tipsy because he got thrown off earlier in the match when Tipsy grunted loudly after striking a return and Andy claimed to be distracted so he hit a double fault and ended up dropping serve later in that game. Even the fans are laughing at this grunting battle, though it sounds so... well... sexual. Maybe that's why they were laughing.
It would serve Andy right to lose this match for blowing all those break points in the first set. I know Tipsy saved a few, but Andy played like a coward. Losing so few points on serve, he needs to chip and charge or something. But no, he dinks and waits for errors. It's so annoying.
But there was nothing more shocking than those two club-level returns on 75-mph (!) second serves on his two consecutive set points at 5-4 in the fourth set.
What the fuck was that?!?!?!?!?
He has turned into Amelie Mauresmo right before my eyes. But then again, she actually won this thing.
I've been window shopping for a new favorite since Melbourne.
Andy's always gracious in defeat but if he claims, like he is wont to do, that he didn't do anything wrong on his breakpoints, then he's delusional and he should pick another career.
I like Tipsy. And he took everything Andy gave him and played some great tennis on his own. But if he doesn't play tennis in his next match, win or lose, I'll hate him forever.
I don't have much to add now. Maybe I'll find some excuses for Andy in the coming days, but I doubt it. Choke, choke, choke. Choke, the chicken. And since I'm reminded right now of all those illicit grunts during the match, I think this picture sums up the position of Andy's caREER right about now.
Vlad (over at TAT): You know, I always thought grass can play tricks with your mind. Therefore, all these results...
The Siberian Banshee Taken To Woodshed
Folks are calling this the upset of the tournament. After all, Maria Sharapova has won this thing while Novak Djokovic and Andy have not. All three of them had easy draws. On paper. But you gotta play the matches and when the paper came to live, they all failed. Andy flatout choked (chicken); Djoke was simply outplayed. Maria was arguably more favored in her match and few suspected she'd have any trouble getting through.
But the Alla Kudravtsava, the Russian young woman ranked No. 150 who almost beat Venus Williams in the first round last year decided she was up for the challenge against another Wimby champ and this time she would win.
The butch-femme Siberian Banshee is out of the tournament. Maybe she and Andy can take solace in each other.
Andy's engaged and Maria is, well....
Moving right along.
At least Venus Williams won. Patrick McEnroe has his work cut out for him as the new general manager of elite player development for the USTA.
Maybe he should start by inviting Bobby Reynolds....
Nevermind. Reynolds is a journeyman. Donald Young is the Tin Man. Jesse Levine is the Tin Man. Sam Querrey wants another Porsche. John Isner is a serve. Wayne Odesnik likes clay but not much else.
But who would have thought that Bobby Reynolds would be the last American male standing at Wimbledon? In the third round?
Tipsy and Andy
Her father, Alexander Kudryavtseva, cheers
Brooklyn Decker, Andy's fiancee, broods
The long goodbye
Rafa dives and slides to victory
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Marat Safin returned from the dead and dismissed world No. 3 Novak Djokovic in straight sets 6-4, 7-6(3), 6-2 to cause the biggest upset of tournament so far.
Djoke was considered a favorite to take the title, as he made sure to tell us before the first ball was struck. But even though he was runner-up at Queens, grass just isn't a surface he particularly "gets" yet.
Yes, he made the semifinals at SW19 last year. But from what I saw he was let off the hook several times before the semifinals by Nicolas Kiefer, Lleyton Hewitt, and Marcos Baghdatis. I guess some would say his mental toughness carried the day. I say he lucked out.
Djoke has never faced a player who returns serve like Marat did today. Both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have good returns, but Marat attacks his returns like Andre Agassi did. (I'd love to have seen Djoke and Agassi play.) Djoke was demoralized and forced to hit more double faults than usual. Which is exactly how the match ended - on a double fault.
And Djoke had the nerve to call Marat mentally unstable before the fawning press corps. I know Marat jokes about his own mental issues, but I'm of the opinion he's the only player who ought to joke about such things in public, and certainly no player who just experienced a major upset at his hands. I don't care how much the press corps laughed.
Today, Marat was stable, composed and deadly. And he served brilliantly. Early in the match, he figured out that Djoke likes returning flat serves. So Marat kicked and kicked and kicked his first serve everywhere in the box and didn't allow Djoke to get in a groove on his returns.
Marat was only faced one break point in the match, which he lost. He broke Djoke four times and earned 12 break points.
And lest we forget, the mercurial Russian hates playing in the kind of wind that gusted through London today.
Thanks, Marat, for getting rid of this grifter on grass.
Thanking Her Lucky Stars
And kissing the net chord.
New world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic was up 5-2 on French veteran Nathalie Dechy. A blink later, Ana was down a set, having lost a tough tiebreak.
I don't use the word "deserve" when talking about winners and losers of tennis matches because the person who wins deserves to win.
Ana played like an upstart for most of the match. Nathalie played a brilliant match and could never catch a break on a crucial point. Not the least of which was Ana's second match point when her tight forehand hit the net and trickled over. Ana responded like an embarrassed little girl, pulling the her cap down over her face.
And speaking of caps. After one of those brilliant points, Nathalie slammed a backhand volley winner at the net just as her cap fell off. The point was hers. Ana wasn't at all obstructed by the cap fall. But the chair umpire ordered them to replay the point.
Should Ana have ceded the point? Several ATP players would have, while I have a hard time seeing a WTA player do the same. I'm sure there's a few out there, but I can't think of any off the top of my head. Rip me if you want. Folks know I'm a feminist. But gracious sportsmanship is lacking on the WTA tour, Justine Henin's retirement notwithstanding.
But it was already overtime in the decisive set and had Ana given Nathalie the point, she would have been down 15-30. Six points away from defeat. She gets a pass.
There were many other moments in the match where lady luck was on Ana's side, but Nathalie stayed the course and battled deep into the third set. When Ana finally escaped, they had a nice moment at the net.
And then Nathalie wept.
Face in towel, the fans applauded softly, continuously, allowing the Frenchwoman her grief. When she finally came up from under it, they roared loudly and gave her a standing ovation.
It was one of those special moments when you are just as satisfied with the fans as you are with the match.
That's how they do it in London.
John McEnroe (after his golden boy, the Djoker, was slammed by Marat):
Photos of the Day
Rowdy fans removed during the Lleyton Hewitt match
Bobby Reynolds, first American into the third round
Fernando Gonzalez felled by Bolelli
Serena Williams before winning her match