Wimbledon So Far
June 25, 2011 -- Blue skies and sunny dispositions from fans made the first Saturday at this year's Wimbledon Championships a brilliant way to close out the week.
Over the seven days we've seen great matches, upsets, and Centre Court's sliding roof getting a workout. It's a match saver, for sure, but an unexpected thrill under the roof is the crack of the balls. Comparing the sound to a rifle shot seems out of place in a docile community like SW19. However, it is a ridiculous explosion of noise that keeps fans ultra alert.
What has been the positive news for the British? Andy Murray ... he remains in the draw. But his demeanor thereof remains over-the-top testy. Players are perfectionists, but the Scot should get over himself. No one can make brilliant shots all the time. But by Andy's infantile gestures and foul-mouthed rants, which the entire world can decipher, he thinks he can. Buck up Andy. Play ball.
Speaking of bad behavior, The All England Club stated early in the week that it wasn't very happy with the noise on court -- the screeching. Little has come of its bold comment, though. Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, and Rafael Nadal continue their audio assaults. If the private club, comprising of 500 members, decided to develop a policy it should consider including other annoying quirks -- the number one being Rafael Nadal's bottom tugs that are quickly followed by his hands to his face.
Nadal has gone on record, saying, "I've tried to stop many times, but I can't control it." But, really, for the hallowed grounds of tennis to remain silent about that rude gesture while condemning women, and the screeching announcement was aimed at women, it might want to step back and consider its manners and what they mean to the world that peers onto its lawns for a fortnight each year.
Here's one new policy tournament officials did announce ... Five-year olds are now banned from all show courts.
Tracy Austin, while calling the match for the BBC between Kimiko Date-Krumm and Venus Williams, was heard to have said that computers weren't around when Date-Krumm first came on the scene. Date, as she was known in 1989, may not have had a laptop but she probably owned computer equipment. Maybe Austin meant to reference the use of computer equipment back in her day.
Americans have nothing over the Brit's style of diction and syntax. One BBC commentator said, "A ball from another court rather cheekily bounced into our court," as he called the match between Caroline Wozniacki and Virginie Razzano. That ball captured its own sweet identity right then and there.
Wimbledon has many names. The tournament calls itself 'The Championships Wimbledon' and 'The Championship.' The majority of broadcasters call it 'Wimbledon.' The credentials carried by players read 'The Lawn Tennis Championships' with a simply put 'Competitor' written directly underneath. Who knew this major had another identity?
All of us have known this next anecdote for some time, but when a British journalist made it public today a light went on. He insightfully said that English has become the universal language of encouragement, as he watched Julia Goerges, a German, clench her first and yell, "Come on." In all fairness, Spanish, too, has its place of inspiration -- 'Vamos.'
Big-ticket news items from the week included the Williams sisters return to tennis after serious injury rehabilitations. Serena's emotional outbreak after her first-round win took the world by surprise, and Serena by surprise, too. "I never cry with joy for anything."
After all the fuss about Serena back in the house of tennis, she was relegated to Court 2 for her second-round match. Court 2 is a show court, but the rub comes from a couple directions. The walk from the ladies' locker room is somewhat of a trek. Along the way, she was tossed about by fans who naturally wanted to get as close as possible to the champion. Unlike at the U. S. Open, where security guards are built like The Hulk and keep fans at bay, the British police seem more polite. They don't look as if they'd put a fist in your face if you reached out and grabbed Serena's right arm -- the one that's earned her 13 Grand Slams.
The biggest disappointment for American tennis fans had to have been Andy Roddick's departure on Friday. Feliciano Lopez had never beaten Roddick in seven attempts. But the Spaniard's serve and serve-and-volley game came together big time to the disappointment of many.
On the bright side for Americans, Mardy Fish will play into the second week for the first time in his career. He turned pro in 2000 and will be 30 in September.
Wildcard Sabine Lisicki provided the best comeback from match points down in her surprise victory over the #3 seed Li Na. At 3-5 on Lisicki's serve she worked herself into a hole: 0-40. Her time at Wimbledon seemed short. But the young German hit four awesome serves -- two aces and two unreturnable serves -- each over 120 MPH. She went on to win the match 8-6 in the third. With her victory today over Qualifier Misaki Doi, Lisicki marched into week two.
Tennis is indeed an international sport. Wimbledon competitors hail from every country imaginable. But this junior girl from Madagascar gets the award for best new name on the horizon -- Zarah Razafimahatratra. If she becomes a big star on tour commentators and journalists will have to push the limits of their collective brain power to manage not to malign what well could be a perfectly ordinary name from the island off the east coast of Africa.
It's a bit early to project winners, but let's take a stab at it anyway. On the women's side the dark horse could be Marion Bartoli. She beat Justine Henin in the 2007 semifinals, yet lost to Venus Williams in the final. Since then, Bartoli's game hasn't changed too much -- although her shadow-stroking regime seems to have grown longer and more rigorous. She won in Eastbourne last week, a grass court warm-up tournament, defeating Petra Kvitova on a blustery afternoon by the sea.
Today the 9th seed Bartoli held off match points from Flavia Pennetta, winning the match 9-7 in the third. Bartoli's game suits grass. She stays low, lives off pace, and has a new gritty determination. She will play Serena Williams on Monday. This will be Bartoli's biggest test.
On the men's side, one of more obvious picks for champion isn't at the top of a majority of pundits' lists -- Novak Djokovic. They won't crawl out on the skinny branches of predictions because Djokovic never has won a grass court title. Only two players in the Open Era (since 1968) have won Wimbledon, having come in with no tournament titles on grass: Michael Stitch in 1991 and Andre Agassi in 1992.
So much for leaps of faith coupled with one of the most impressive match records in the history of the game. We'll see. But if one man could do it, it's Novak.
John McEnroe announced today that he would meet U. S. Open golf champion Rory McIlroy tomorrow at Wimbledon. The three-time Wimbledon winner will play tennis with McIlroy. The two share similar backgrounds: bright sport's stars at a young age and the Irish heritage. Plus, said McEnroe, "I remember that hair."
Finally, Saturday turned up the biggest upset on the men's side as Qualifier Bernard Tomic of Australia defeated Robin Soderling the #5 seed in straight sets: 61 64 75. Tomic's victory puts him in the second week of Wimbledon for the first time, along with Qualifier Lukasz Kubot of Poland. Kubot defeated Gael Monfils today 63 36 63 63.