The Battle of 70-68
The biggest story of the first week has to be John Isner and Nicolas Mahut’s surreal three day struggle. The level of play did not reach the heights of the previous three men’s championship matches. However, play is the operative word that has me marveling what they did and also lauding it as a historically significant occasion. Whether it is tennis, some other sport or playing tag in one’s neighborhood, I imagine all of us played various games as children that only ended when the sun went down. Mahut and Isner did this while playing a sport at the professional level on the most hallowed grounds of tennis. Playing until the sun goes down is a shared memory deeply seeded in all of us and this match touched on that. Isner and Mahut made me proud to be a tennis fan and more importantly a tennis player.
Roger and Rafa Struggle
The top two seeds have faced tough tests in the early going at Wimbledon. Federer has looked a bit flat footed. Nadal has struggled with big serves. I think either one could win this title, but the idea of either player dominating for months on end across surfaces seems improbable.
Quick Views on Other Contenders
Robin Soderling continues to hit the ball obscenely hard. Andy Murray perhaps decided he left his best tennis on the courts of Miami, Queen’s Club and other tune-up events in 2009. Maybe his post-Aussie Open meltdown simultaneously relieved some pressure while also leaving him fresh for another deep run at Wimbledon. Novak Djokovic wearing his warm-up suit to meet the Queen of England impressed me. Due to his form in 2010 and his tough draw, Nole seems to be the least talked about high seed in the men’s field. He has an uphill climb, but wearing warm-ups to meet the Queen has to give him some positive Karma. Andy Roddick had a tough draw to reach the round of 16, but he looks like a good bet for the quarterfinal round. Roddick will likely have to play three matches at a high level to have a chance to claim this title. I think Roddick will need help from the draw to achieve the last of his career goals. Lleyton Hewitt likely won’t win four consecutive matches as an underdog. Still, the one time mongrel has grown into a semi-beloved old curmudgeon of the men’s tour.
“Where have you gone Steffi Graf? A nation of tennis fans turn their lonely eyes to you”
The French Open champion and runner-up both lost in the first round on the women’s tournament. I don’t want to come across as anti-women’s tennis in the least. I was far more interested in the 1992 Monica Seles – Steffi Graf three set war at the French Open than I was in Jim Courier dismantling Petr Korda the next day. Instead of Graf battling to overcome Martina Navratilova and take firm control of the women’s tour at Wimbledon 1988, Navratilova looking like an ageless wonder in 1990 or Graf crushing Monica Seles at Wimbledon 1992, tennis fans are now subjected to “grunt-gate” debates and a field of shaky players. Serena Williams is the best champion of the post-Graf-Seles era, but Serena does not paste the tour on a weekly basis the way those two did. Venus Williams is a thoughtful person who is a threat on grass, but when did she last threaten at the other three majors? The Belgians came back from sabbaticals, but neither seems intent on setting the standard for the tour. Until, the women’s game produces a player who does set the standard for the tour on a weekly basis while also striving to unseat Serena’s status as the favorite at every major, there is no compelling story to follow.
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