Raining Seeds at Wimbledon
June 24, 2011 -- Maybe we should blame Sabine Lisicki for the washout of seeds today. She tossed the two seed Li Na yesterday, crushing the hearts of over a billion people in China.
And like Lisicki, today's spoilers simply outplayed their seeded opponents.
That doesn't make it any easier to watch a favorite American go down before the second week. Number eight seed Andy Roddick had been a three-time finalist at the All England Club.
Another seeded player that felt the sting of defeat was Vera Zvonareva, last year's runner up. The #2 seed lost to the young woman from Bulgaria who first turned heads last year in the quarterfinals when she beat 5-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams. Ironically in the next round, Tsvetana Pironkova lost to Zvonareva. The tide turned early this afternoon, as Pironkova kept Zvonareva to five measly games in their two-set match.
Good-natured Andrea Petkovic (#11 seed) didn't have the chance to show off her newest post-match hula-hoop dance out on Court 14, either. She ran into a red-hot Russian, Ksenia Pervak. Pervak shot a hole through that section of the draw in the first round, defeating her first seeded victim, Shahar Peer, on day one of The Championships. Now the 20-year-old Pervak is through to the round of sixteen in her debut at this prestigious major.
Yanina Wickmayer's luck could be on the uptick. She lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova in their two previous meetings, each a test for today's victory. And with it she moves into her first fourth round at Wimbledon. Two-time Grand Slam winner Kuznetsova, seeded #12, succumbed to the Belgium's big serve and penetrating deep groundstrokes. Wickmayer's athleticism and self-belief caught Kuznetsova on the defensive. No one wins a grass court match on the defensive.
Losing seeds in the first week of Wimbledon is the natural course of a draw. But when a favorite goes out early, a sense of sadness hits fans. Especially when it's Andy Roddick -- the heart of America's men's tennis for over ten years.
His game is well suited for Wimbledon's grass -- huge serve and killer forehand follow-up. He's an exemplary competitor, too. He's also 28. With the loss today his lackluster season became duller. Lopez, playing unseeded, performed to peak perfection, which was a reversal of prior inconsistent showings.
"He played very accomplished grass-court tennis," Darren Cahill said, as he called the match for ESPN2.
Lopez hasn't been that big of a threat on grass, although he topped Nadal at Queen's Club two years ago doing just what he did today: serving huge, coming in, and staying calm.
"I've never beat Andy," Lopez told the BBC after the match. "[It was] so important to beat him at Wimbledon ... something special."
Lopez admitted to nerves as he served for the match in the third, but no one could see it. His composure was complete as the last point passed to end the match 76(2) 76(2) 64.
"He served about as well as someone has," Roddick said, as reported by Christopher Clarey of The New York Times. "You know the stuff that's enabled me to beat him seven times, making passing shots under duress, making him play defense on his forehand, he did well today. There weren't a whole lot of patterns. He played an outstanding match."
Two years ago Roddick came as close as he'll probably ever come to winning his second Grand Slam title. He outplayed Federer hands down in the first two sets, lost a quirky tiebreak in the second and continued to play brilliant tennis through to a 16-14 fifth-set loss.
But last year an inspired Yen-Hsun Lu defeated Roddick in the fourth round. And now an exit after the third. Is Roddick on an ever-darkening path to some pasture with grass longer than the prerequisite 8mm Wimbledon lawns?
"At this point I've not decided to stop, so I'll keep moving forward," Roddick said, as again reported by Clarey.
Roddick understands that his season has been an average one. He also feels the disappointment of any loss. But that doesn't mean his career is over. The week following Wimbledon is Davis Cup. This year, the tie against Spain is played in Austin. Roddick could get some sweet revenge on the hot hard courts of his hometown, if Lopez is picked by Spain's Davis Cup Captain.
And about the man who stood in Roddick's way three times in the Wimbledon finals -- Roger Federer. Well Roddick and Federer are the only men on tour who have won a title each year over the last 10 years. That's a fine honor for both men and one that needs to sink in. Roddick, too, has held ground for those ten years while at the pinnacle of the rankings. Young guys threatened, but Roddick went back to the drawing board at every necessary turn to revise, up his fitness and stay a nose ahead of the pack.
Roddick might not intimidate opponents nowadays. However, he has no reason to believe the folks that will use today's defeat as fodder for speculation of demise.
"I'm a little tired of defending a career that will at least be reviewed by the [Tennis] Hall of Fame," Roddick told Doug Robson of USA Today. "Being where I've been in the game is a blessing in a million ways, and I wouldn't change it for a second."