The Wise and Experienced - Roof or No Roof
June 29, 2009 -- Venus Williams was the tall lanky California girl with beads in her hair just a few years ago. Now she is the oldest woman in the quarterfinals of the women's singles competition. On the men's side, the elders are making noise: Lleyton Hewitt, Tommy Haas, and Juan Carlos Ferrero. These guys were hot between 2002 and 2005. Now they are poised to make history, as they move into the quarterfinals in the men's singles competition.
Juan Carlos Ferrero is a Grand Slam champion. He won Roland Garros in 2003. His best performance at Wimbledon came in 2007 when he made it to the quarterfinals, like he did today. Since then, Mr. Ferrero hasn't made it past the 4th round of any major and has more frequently bowed out in the first and second rounds. Injuries have been a good part of his tumble in the rankings. Like other players have said, though, when injuries send you to the sidelines you don't forget how to play tennis. His win today over Gilles Simon, 76 (4) 63 62, validates the comment.
Ferrero is the first wildcard since Goran Ivanisevic in 2001 to have reached the quarterfinals. That year, Ivanisevic won the title.
"I would like to repeat what he did," Ferrero said. "But, you know, of course it's a little bit difficult yet to say. I'm pretty happy about the wild card, and, you know, happy about the game that I'm playing."
Tommy Haas is the oldest man left in the draw at 31. This year, his title at Halle (outdoor grass) and his run at Roland Garros to the round of 16 where he had Federer on the ropes, have revived the German and filled him with confidence and belief. He dominated a steady and powerful Igor Andreev today, defeating him in straights 76 (8) 64 64.
"If you would have told me maybe even two months ago that I was gonna maybe get to the quarters of Wimbledon, I wasn't gonna be that sure about it," Haas began. "This is so far a fantastic run no matter what happens from here on out."
The last time a player of his age won Wimbledon was in 1975 when Arthur Ashe took home the honor. Mr. Ashe was 30 at the time.
Lleyton Hewitt was a very happy man today. Why not? He pulled off a miracle, coming back from two sets down to beat Radek Stepanek 46 26 61 62 62. He celebrated his victory down on one knee with a triple-fist pump a la 2002. Who's bad?
But, Hewitt struggled throughout the match with a thigh injury that popped up at the end of the first set. His win today gave him more confidence. His recovery from the injury will be crucial.
"Hopefully I didn't do any more damage to it, you know, from that first twinge when I first felt it, yeah, late in the first set," Hewitt said. "We'll do all the same treatment we were doing. Obviously we can work on it today and tomorrow. I'm sure I'll be very close to a hundred percent by Wednesday."
Andy Roddick is another player who has grown up in front of our eyes. He made his mark early and scaled the ranking ladder quickly. In 2002 he reached the top-10, the youngest male player to do so since Michael Chang in 1992. In the 2003 U. S. Open semifinals he came back from two sets and match point down against David Nalbandian to then go on and defeat none other than Juan Carlos Ferrero in the final -- Andy's only Grand Slam title.
Andy Roddick played like a youngster today. He turned what could have been a long match into a three set drubbing, defeating Tomas Berdych 76 (4) 64 63. Andy served 24 aces -- the fastest at 141 mph -- and not one double fault. When his first serve went in, he won 89% of the points. Berdych never had a break point chance, either. And, although Roddick is considered an aggressive baseliner, he won 22 of 27 net approaches.
"I guess I was kind of in control of it the whole way," Andy began. "Overall it was a pretty good performance over a guy who is, you know, definitely an in-form player coming in."
Mr. Roddick will play Mr. Hewitt on Wednesday. They have a 5 to 6 match record. Andy won the last four matches most recently at Queen's when he defeated Hewitt in two tiebreak sets. Both players are looking forward to their encounter. It could be the end of Hewitt's fairytale run, given the game Roddick's bringing to the court.
"I have loads of respect for Lleyton, you know, what he's been able to accomplish," Andy said. "Everyone knows he's certainly capable of playing very, very, very well on this surface. It will be a tough one."
The ageless Roger Federer defeated Robin Soderling early in the day 64 76 (5) 76 (5). Although Soderling promised to beat Federer at the awards ceremony at Roland Garros this year, he did not. Federer is now 11-0 against the Swede.
If Mr. Soderling wants to beat Mr. Federer he has to improve on the big points. Soderling won 91% of points off his first serve -- an amazingly high percentage. For as big as he serves he only had 3 double faults. However, his technique was poor at times when it should have been almost perfect. On a return of a second serve from Federer, Soderling whacked a 102 mph forehand into the bottom of the net. In the second set tiebreak, he had a sitting forehand and hit it late and, therefore, wide. Bad bounced aside, he cannot make big mistakes and expect to squeak past Federer.
If the closing of the roof over Centre Court sent an eerie feeling down your spine, then join the thousands inside the arena who felt the same. In close-to utter silence with wheels moving ever so slowly the translucent cover made its debut. Once locked in place, the crowd erupted in cheers.
Fittingly, world's #1 Dinara Safina was on court, playing former Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo. The Russian won the match 46 63 64 -- the first official match win under the cover. She will face Sabine Lisicki, the upset winner of the day over #9 seed Caroline Wozniacki 64 64.
Miss Lisicki has served well throughout the tournament. She has handled the moment-to-moment pressure with grace and conviction. She will pressure Miss Safina and may just upset her, too. Lisicki has now defeated #5 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, #9 seed Caroline Wozniacki, and #29 seed Anna Chakvetadze. One more seed is not out of the question.
"The key was the very first match where I was actually two points away of losing the match and I turn it around," Lisicki began. "After that I really started to playing better and better. Today I actually went out there and I felt pretty good. I'm hitting the ball very solid."
Andy Murray remains the country's hero, at least for now. Just think what his name would have been in the English press had he lost to Stanislas Wawrinka tonight, the first-ever complete match under the brand-new multi-million dollar roof, the apparent heir to the Fred Perry throne. Not a pretty image. However, the determined Scot pulled it out in five sets 26 63 63 57 63, filling Centre Court with an uproar of applaud and cheering that vibrated off every surface in the place.
Twenty-two year old Andy Murray will play one of the elder statesmen on Wednesday: Juan Carlos Ferrero. They have played once, this year at Queen's in the semifinals. Murray won in straight sets. With the wind of Great Britain filling Murray's sails, along with his confidence, he will be tough. However, fast is fast and Ferrero can compete with Murray foot-speed to foot-speed. Experience will count, too, which edges Ferrero's chances upward. Good thing, though, that Ferrero had a straight set win over Gilles Simon today -- 76 (4) 63 62 -- because complete recovery will be essential to his performance.
Earlier Columns from this Event:
June 28, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Sunday... A Day of Rest
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