Sunday... A Day of Rest
June 28, 2009 -- Each of the four Grand Slams has its own uniqueness, aside from the obvious court surface differences. The Australian Open claims Rod Laver as possibly the greatest tennis player in history, with two calendar-year Grand Slams and a center court eponymously named "The Rod Laver Arena" to embody his distinction. The French Open starts play on Sunday, where the others begin on Monday. The U. S. Open claims the largest arena for tennis viewing -- The Arthur Ashe Stadium -- where close to 23,000 can sit.
The Championships Wimbledon is special for many reasons; however, its policy of no play on the first Sunday exemplifies tradition and care, economics, and something reaching the spiritual in terms of religion and the sacredness of the grounds themselves.
The main reason play is suspended on the middle Sunday is economics. The Committee of Management, which consists of 12 All England Tennis and Croquet Club members and seven nominees from the Lawn Tennis Association, calculates that thirteen days is enough time to play all the matches 'of value.' Since the championships began in 1887, only three years have forced a change in scheduling: 1991, 1997, and 2004. The backlog of matches in those years overwhelming concerned the tournament directors, enough to plan a 'People's Sunday.' Tickets are sold on a first-come basis; and, people queue for them beginning the night before.
Work around the grounds and practice by players does not come to a halt, of course, on the middle Sunday.
Thirty ground staff upkeep the 19 courts used for tour play. Additionally, they oversee 22 grass courts in Aorangi Park, which players use for practice before and during the Championships. And like all the days of the event, every court is re-lined, rolled and mown daily during the fortnight. The grass must measure 8mm in height, a standard set in 1995.
An interesting note is The Committee of Management's comment about the courts' speed. This year, players have said that the courts are playing slow. Some have said that they are even slower than the clay at Roland Garros -- an eyebrow raising thought. However, the Committee states in its policy that it has never intentionally produced 'slower courts or ones suited for a particular type of game.' It does concede that a different bounce of the ball can be affected by the compactness of the soil and the weather prior to the start of the Championships and during it.
From a more subjective point of view, suspended play on Sunday only seems appropriate for The Champions Wimbledon. Who knows if this policy has any historic thread tied to The Church of England and its separation from Roman Papal authority, when the Pope refused to annul the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Its separation could also be attributed to nationalistic tendencies that believed the new church should remain under the authority of the English Monarchy.
Perhaps another motive behind suspension of play is attached to England's historic desire to stand alone as a means to distinguish itself and a means to create a higher set of values by the ones who influence and operate the All England Club.
The forty-two acre setting. The grass so immaculately maintained. The non-marketing brilliance and lack of billboard appeal. The English people themselves and their minimalist voice during matches. All these together place Wimbledon in its own category of Grand Slam.
Everybody Plays Tomorrow
Tomorrow is the biggest day of matches at any tournament for the year. Eight singles matches on the men's and women's side will spread themselves over time and courts. Fresh faces and past masters will participate, striving to reach the quarterfinals.
Roger Federer will again face Robin Soderling, the finalist at the 2009 Roland Garros. Roger is 10-0 against the Swede. It will be his toughest match to date, but the #2 seed will prevail.
Lleyton Hewitt will play Radek Stepanek, one of the artful men left in the draw. This is Mr. Hewitt's 10th appearance at Wimbledon; Mr. Stepanek has played here nine times. Hewitt's thirst and conviction to prove himself worthy of top-ranked play, plus his experience and 2002 championship status will out-rank anything the crafty Czech can throw his way.
Big serving will be the stroke du jour during the match between Andy Roddick and Tomas Berdych. Both have played well this fortnight, and their record is tied 2-2. Mr. Roddick, though, is much more consistent than Mr. Berdych. Consistency is the quality tennis players strive for. It will make the difference tomorrow.
Juan Carlos Ferrero made a huge statement yesterday, defeating the ever-so-hard-hitting Fernando Gonzalez. The former French Open champion hit authoritative groundstrokes deep into the court. He served exceptionally well, and looked fit throughout the three-hour match. If he has recovered sufficiently by Monday, he has a very good chance of taking out Gilles Simon, the #8 seed. Be prepared for a long match.
On the women's side, the 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo plays the #1 seed Dinara Safina. This pairing of experience and hungry youth will be interesting to follow. Mauresmo's all-court game and wide selection of shots will keep Safina guessing, and off balance. If Mauresmo can bring her into the net and spin the ball low with consistency, she has a very good chance to advance.
Caroline Wozniacki lost in the final at Charleston this year to Sabine Lisicki, the Kuznetsova slayer. However, Miss Wozniacki had played a grueling semifinal against Elena Dementieva the day before she lost to Lisicki, which certainly made a difference in her performance in the final. Wozniacki won Eastbourne this year, and got through a sticky match with Kimiko Date-Krumm in the first round. Her ability to close is better than Lisicki's, too. Wozniacki should prevail; however, if Miss Lisicki gets her serve working -- like upwards to 125 mph -- the tables could turn in her favor. Keep in mind that Sabine Lisicki had never won a match on grass until this year's Wimbledon.
American qualifier Melanie Oudin has a great chance to make this as much of a miraculous Wimbledon as did an 18-year-old John McEnroe in 1977, when he came through qualification and then lost in the semifinals to Jimmy Connors. Miss Oudin's opponent Agnieszka Radwanska is a crafty player with more experience, obviously. However, naivety has its advantages and Oudin could pull off a win if she holds her nerve in check and plays big.
Before the expected collision of the Williams sisters arrives, they, too, must win tough matches. Venus should beat Ivanovic. Serena should beat Hantuchova. If they do advance, and we're getting somewhat ahead of ourselves, Venus will then probably have a clear route to the semifinals; whereas, little sister Serena will probably face Victoria Azarenka -- one of the favorites to win and one tour player who can take the pace with pleasure. Azarenka defeated an injured Serena in Miami this spring. But this is Wimbledon and the squealy Azarenka has never been on this big of a stage.
Earlier Columns from this Event:
June 27, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Qualifier Oudin Ousts J. J., Lisicki Downs Kuznetsova
June 26, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: As The Draw Turns
June 25, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Hewitt Takes Charge as Murray Rolls
June 24, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Young and Old Compete at Wimbledon
June 23, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Sunny Wimbledon
June 22, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Wimbledon... The Perfect Grand Slam