Where to begin?
Wednesday at Wimbledon was a bloodbath never before seen at the All England Club — between former champions and former No. 1s exiting, coupled with a record (at any Slam, ever) seven injury retirements in one day, you half expected the lawns to start running red.
Former No. 1 and seven-time champion Roger Federer exited on Day 3. Former champ Maria Sharapova. Caroline Wozniacki. Victoria Azarenka. Ana Ivanovic. John Isner. And that’s just the beginning.
Federer failed to reach his first Slam quarterfinal in nine years when he was shocked by No. 116-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-5, 7-6(5).
“I’m still in disbelief that actually happened,” said Stakhovsky, who mixed in some masterful serve-and-volley on the lawns that seem quicker (and slicker) in 2013. “Beating Roger on his court where he is a legend is special. He’s the greatest player, the biggest name, and a decent man everyone admires. I couldn’t play any better. I played my best tennis and still it was almost not enough to beat Roger Federer.”
Federer remained classy and upbeat while retaining his sense of humor in defeat.
“It doesn’t feel like the end of an era for me because I still have plans to play for many more years to come,” said the Swiss. “Some [Slam] finals haven’t hurt this much. At least having lost I didn’t have to go through a trophy ceremony with this one.”
Other Top 10 seeds out Wednesday were No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga retiring against Ernests Gulbis after the third set citing a knee injury, and No. 10 Marin Cilic gifting France’s Kenny De Schepper a walkover citing a knee injury.
No. 2 seed Andy Murray was amazingly the only Top 10-seeded player in action through to the next round, defeating Taipei’s Yen-Hsun Lu 6-3, 6-3, 7-5. He will next meet No. 32 seed Tommy Robredo.
“[Robredo] had a good win today against [Nicolas] Mahut, who has been playing well on the grass,” Murray said. “He’s very, very experienced. He’s extremely fit. He won three matches in a row at the French from two sets to love down. He fights right until the last point. He’s been in the Top 20 in the world for a number of years. He knows how to win tennis matches. So it’s a tough match for me.”
Other seeded casualties were No. 18 John Isner retiring in the first set with a left knee injury against France’s Adrian Mannarino, and Spain’s Fernando “Hot Sauce” Verdasco beating No. 31 Julien Benneteau in straights in a match that was actually finished without anyone leaving on a stretcher.
The Nadal-killer Steve Darcis was another injury casualty Wednesday, failing to take to the court in granting a walkover to Poland’s Lukas Kubot, citing a right shoulder injury.
Unseeded former champ Lleyton Hewitt looked like he was potentially ready to do some damage during Week One before running up against the hot-handed serve-and-volleying Jamaican-turned-German qualifier Dustin Brown, who walked away with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-2 win.
“I cried like a little girl,” laughed Brown about his reaction following the match. “I’m just happy and emotional and everything. I have a lot of friends here, my coach is here, my girlfriend is here. I’m very happy about everything. It’s just been a very long way. I’m just happy that I actually got through the match.”
The shriek-fest that was Sharapova and Portuguese qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito saw Sharapova fall three times on the grass in a 6-3, 6-4 loss where she was out-hit and out-shrieked.
“I don’t think I’ve ever fallen three times in a match before in my career, so that was a little strange,” said the No. 3 seed Sharapova, who was treated for her knee after one fall. “But that’s certainly not an excuse. I think today I’ve seen a lot of players fall and take a few hits and a few injuries. So I think that’s just part of the game, part of what we have to deal with.”
The No. 9-seeded Wozniacki tweaked her ankle in a fall during a 6-2, 6-2 loss to Czech qualifier Petra Cetkovska, and No. 12 and possibly too-thin former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic was likewise out-played by Canadian rising teen Eugenie Bouchard.
“We only heard about the court change 15 minutes before the match,” said Bouchard on her match being moved to center court, winning in roughly an hour. “I was actually quite excited. It was crazy to play in front of a big crowd like this. I’m really happy…I think any day I can beat anyone. It’s just about playing the way I know I can play.”
In other Top 10 action, No. 2 Victoria Azarenka withdrew from the tournament with a right knee injury before facing Flavia Pennetta, and No. 8 Petra Kvitova received a free pass into the third round from Yaroslava Shvedova, who withdrew from the tournament citing a right arm injury.
ESPN in their coverage did an excellent analysis of players with poor grasscourt footwork falling, showing players taking giant lunging steps and attempting to slide on the grass as if it were red clay, compared to players taking smaller steps and having no issues on the grass.
“There has been a high number of withdrawals at The Championships today and we sympathize with all the players affected,” said Richard Lewis, chief executive of The All England Club in a statement covering their asses. “The withdrawals have occurred for a variety of reasons, but there has been some suggestion that the court surface is to blame. We have no reason to think this is the case. Indeed, many players have complimented us on the very good condition of the courts.”
Other women’s upsets on the day were Serb Vesna Dolonc taking out No. 16 Jelena Jankovic, Italian riser Camila Giorgi edging No. 22 Sorana Cirstea in two tiebreaks, and Italian Karin Knapp outlasting No. 27 Lucie Safarova after losing the first set.
Seeds avoiding the prevalent upset bug in three-set victories were No. 17 Sloane Stephens over German wildcard Andrea Petkovic 8-6 in the final set, No. 19 Carla Suarez Navarro rebounding from a 6-1 first set loss to defeat Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, and No. 25 Ekaterina Makarova outlasting Spain’s Garbine Muguruza.
Matches to watch for Thursday on the lawns are (1) Novak Djokovic vs. American journeyman Bobby Reynolds, (1) Serena Williams vs. French riser Caroline Garcia, (23) Sabine Lisicki vs. the grass-adept Russian Elena Vesnina, the likely-grass-adept Simona Halep vs. (6) Na Li, two guys who neglected to ditch their childhood names in (13) Tommy Haas vs. Jimmy Wang of Taipei, American veteran James Blake vs. Bernard “The Tank Engine” Tomic, (17) Milos Raonic vs. Dutch riser Igor Sijsling, rusher-and-crusher Michael Llodra vs. (23) Andreas Seppi (upset lock of the day), and Madison Keys vs. (30) Mona Barthel.
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus, who beat Kim Clijsters at the 2011 French Open, has now after her first-round loss at Wimbledon lost a record 17 tour matches in a row. WTA officials say it ties the record of American Sandy Collins who lost 17 tour matches in a row from 1984-87…John Isner on men’s relationships on tour compared to the women (see: Serena vs. Maria): “I was just next to Roger [Federer] in the showers and we were talking about [pro wrestling] because he’s really into it, just like I am. We all get along pretty well. It’s totally different with the women.” — They don’t talk about pro wrestling? In the shower?…Jelena Jankovic laments the lack of friendships on the women’s tour: “I don’t understand that part and that’s why life on the tour can be very lonely because there are not a lot of friendships…there are players who don’t want to have anything to do with anyone and I think later in life they will have problems. You might be a successful player that people respect, but when you put your racket down what do you have? You have no friends and no one at all. Maybe your team is friends with you now because they work for you, but who will you have when they aren’t working for you anymore?”…21-year-old Czech twin sisters Kristyna and Karolina Pliskova said they switched boyfriends once when they were teens. Share and share alike…The National Obesity Forum is calling out Maria Sharapova for selling her “Sugarpova” candy. “Maria promoting her sugary sweets is OK but only if she makes clear that you can only eat sweets like that every day and look like her if you are playing tennis 15 hours a day,” said Tam Fry, a member of the National Obesity Forum, speaking to Reuters. — You’re on the National Obesity Forum and your last name is fry, which is rich…Serena Williams is continuing her apology tour for saying that the Steubenville rape victim, a 16 year old, got what she deserved because she was drinking. According to Rolling Stone, Serena told the reporter, “They [the high school football players who raped the girl] did something stupid, but I don’t know. I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously, I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.” The subtext there if you missed it: It’s the parents’ fault, she might be a slut anyways, and by drinking she set herself up for rape. Serena wrote on her website, “For someone to be raped, and at only sixteen, is such a horrible tragedy!”…The Tennis Channel is still considering an appear to the U.S. Supreme Court after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned a previous ruling that Comcast cable had discriminated against Tennis Channel by keeping it on a paid tier, while keeping the Comcast-owned sports channels like NBC Sports Network and the Golf Channel on basic cable. The Federal Communications Commission had originally ruled that Comcast was in the wrong and was putting Tennis Channel at a competitive disadvantage. “This could be absolutely devastating financially to the Tennis Channel,” said media analyst Derek Baine of consulting firm SNL Kagan. “This move, getting into more Comcast homes, was going to move the Tennis Channel up to the next level, but it is tough to get traction when you are an independent channel.”…The players say there is too much drug testing and complain about having to send in “whereabout” reports three months in advance, but ESPN says the ITF’s implementation of the drug testing program is a joke. Which is it? According to ESPN: “…tennis doesn’t have a lot doping cases because it doesn’t do a lot of testing. The International Tennis Federation ordered just 63 out-of-competition blood tests last year, compared to more than 3,000 that were performed in the sport of cycling. (When all tests were included, the 611 players were tested 2,185 times, or 3.3 times per player, compared to an average of nine times per rider in cycling.) But that’s only part of the problem facing a sport in which the players are more powerful than ever and able to demand pay hikes, such as the 40 percent raise that will go into effect at Wimbledon.”…American Madison Keys tells TENNIS magazine that the current generation of USTA Professional Development-training girls are much like the Agassi-Courier generation that pushed each other at the Bollettieri Academy: “We really are. I think it especially helps that we’re all training together, because we’re able to push each other every single day. We see each other all the time. There’s me, Jamie Hampton, Taylor Townsend, Vicky Duval and Melanie [Oudin]. And then there’s Grace Min and Shelby Rogers, and even Allie Will comes sometimes. I think it’s very rare that you find a group of girls who are competitive against each other but are all friends. We travel together and do things together. We basically come in as a pack.”…Former Swiss player Marc Rosset tells Reuters he doesn’t like — seeding 32 players at Slams: “The priority of tournament directors is to protect them (the seeded players) so they have a good match at the weekend. With 32 seeded players, there is no big match. You can’t have Rafael Nadal vs. John Isner in the first round of Wimbledon. We used to say the women’s tournaments would start in the quarterfinals. It’s becoming the same with men’s tournaments.”; or the standardization of surfaces: “If you take a final at Roland Garros or Wimbledon, it’s almost the same. Grass got slower as clay got quicker — so you always see the same players…[Pete] Sampras would not win seven titles on today’s [Wimbledon] surface and Nadal would not win Wimbledon on the previous grass. [Andre] Agassi who beat [Goran] Ivanisevic at Wimbledon (1992) was brilliant but since then they slowed the surface down.”
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