A day later, still trying to make sense of the drama at Wimbledon
WIMBLEDON, England -- If the producers of The Hangover franchise were going to torture us with another installment, they would have rolled cameras at Wimbledon. After yesterday's convulsive session -- pick your title: Wimblegeddon, Crash Wednesday, Red Wedding -- there was an inevitable sense of letdown today. Serena Williams looked almost mortal as she advanced with 6-2, 6-3 win over Caroline Garcia. The American teenager Madison Keys continued her ascent with an impressive straight set win. On the men's side, when Bobby Reynolds lost to Novak Djokovic, it marked the first time since 1912 -- 101 years -- that no American male reached the third round.
But mostly Tennis Nation continued to try and make some sense of yesterday. Let's join the fray and go right to the questions today.
There are lots of angle to take with Roger Federer's defeat. But what did you make of him scolding people for assuming he would play Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals?
-- Mike, London
• I kinda sorta get Federer's point. There are other talented players and making these predictions overlooks and diminishes a lot of talented, hard-working colleagues. It was collegial and still another indication of one of Federer's many admirable qualities: he really does look out for the less fortunate.
But you also just wanted to say, "Dude, come on." These are two guys who are among the top five players in the sport's history. Together, they have won almost 30 Grand Slams. One is the defending Wimbledon champ and the other just won the French Open. They have been rivals for almost a decade and played perhaps the greatest match ever at this venue. When they end up in the same quarter of the draw, who wouldn't anticipate that match? Who wouldn't discuss this possibly? Had anyone talked about the other players in that quadrant? Did anyone hear, "Hey, look out for Steve Darcis! Oh, and Sergiy Stakhovsky is ranked No.116 but he's dangerous, too!" Those who did first drew guffaws, then were chased around by guards from the sanitarium brandishing butterfly nets, chastised for being disrespectful to the two giants.
I said the same thing about Nadal but Federer really distinguished himself in defeat. Want to know how to lose with grace, perspective and a pragmatic optimism? Take a look here.
I still can't recover from Black Wednesday! All those injuries and upsets have made for more intriguing story lines to develop not just for the fortnight, but also after that. In the bottom half of the women's draw, who has the best shot to reach the final? Petra Kvitova? Marion Bartoli? Sloane Stephens?
-- Ahmed Mahmoud, Cairo
• I'm trying to take a break from the Prediction Game, since it's beaten us all up pretty well this week. But, yes, there will certainly be some new faces in Wimbledon's Final Eight Club. As reader Freddie Muller of Johannesburg, South Africa notes: "Only two of the 16 women seeded to make the third round managed to do so. It looks like the ol' 2011 WTA again. Then looked at the men's draw and saw the same thing: a grand total of two made the third round."
And the great Helen of Philadelphia adds, "So here's what's crazy about the remaining men's bottom half. One of these four guys is going to be a Wimbledon quarterfinalist: Lukasz Kubot, Benoit Paire, Adrian Mannarino or Dustin Brown. And one of these four guys is going to be a Wimbledon quarterfinalist: Nicolas Almagro, Jerzy Janowicz, Jurgen Melzer or Sergiy Stakhovsky. One of those eight will also be a Wimbledon semifinalist. One of these four guys is also going to be a Wimbledon quarterfinalist: Ernests Gulbis, Fernando Verdasco, Juan Monaco and Kenny de Schepper.
Wouldn't Federer in even 2011 have figured out a way to get past Stakhovsky? Is it time to seriously reassess his career prospects, or just look hard at the schedule, like Serena?
-- Nitin, Hyderabad, India
• Let's ask Roger Federer, as he answered this very same question in his press conference yesterday:
Q. Are you surprised you couldn't figure it out and figure out a way to win?
Federer: I'm very disappointed about that, that I couldn't find a way, like I did against Jo-Willy at the French. I thought I had my opportunities, had the foot in the door. When I had the chance, I couldn't do it. It's very frustrating, very disappointing. I'm going to accept it and move forward from here. I have no choice.
Is George Bastl to Pete Sampras like Sergiy Stakhovsky is to Roger Federer?
-- Shawn Frost, New York
• Not bad. And Bastl ain't done, yet.
The idea that Nadal is just a bad matchup for Federer is nuts. If it was nothing more than a bad matchup, then Roger should be able to adjust and come out on top.
-- Brandon, Chicago
• Nadal is a good match-up for Federer, then? I'm not sure what you're saying. A bad match-up is often organic -- short of Federer hitting a two-handed backhand or switching his grip or becoming a claycourt dervish or growing a few inches, there's not much he can do to counteract Nadal's. We're not talking about switching to a zone defense from man-to-man here. I also think that from an X's and O's perspective, this has never been a good match-up for perspective. And, from that, it became mental as well.
This is not so much a question as it is a request for help. Many years ago (at this point), back when Roger was still in his prime, there was an author who wrote a magazine article about him that was one beautiful incredulity after another. I cannot recall the author's name, but he is fairly well-known and well-regarded as a a writer of fiction and of his observations. He used all three names in his by-line and unfortunately the poor man committed suicide a few years later. I am sure you are familiar with this magazine article and the author who wrote it, and perhaps your memory is better than mine. Any help you can render in this will be much appreciated, just as I appreciate and look forward to reading your observations on the goings on in the tennis world we love so much. Thank you for any help you can offer in this.
-- Eric Teperman, Jackson Heights, NY
• Here you go, Eric. It would probably do us all some good to read this.
Can you shed some (white, of course) light on what Roger Federer was not allowed to wear his orange-soled shoes, but there was no problem with Maria Sharapova's bright shorts under her dress? And don't even try to tell us the All-England men didn't notice!
-- Linda Jenson, Tucson, AZ
• We could also cite Serena's colored undergarments and Bethanie Mattek-Sands' hair. I think it's obvious: Wimbledon is filled with abhorrent sexism against men.
Ever seen a day like this at any major, in any era? I wonder if the folks at Nike are going into damage control mode. Their stars are gone except for Serena. You have to think that's not a coincidence.
-- Adam, Wisconsin
• Conspiracy! Funny, I had it pegged to The Illuminati. I think the best explanation came from the reader who suspected that Toni Nadal had spread Mallorjcan olive oil on the courts. Also Charith of Bangalore, India wrote, "Michele Bachmann officially blames the SCOTUS ruling on DOMA and Prop 8 for the unholy Wimbledon carnage."
One more note on Steffi Graf. The "no drama, no arrests" remark is appropriate only to the extent that we ignore her father, who ran some kind of tax-evasion scheme and served jail time for it. All of this happened when Graf was an adult and surely had an interest in what happened to her prize money. This was a huge story back here in the Land of Pretzels; don't know how it was received abroad.
-- Tim, Hamburg, Germany
• As the old Land of Pretzels proverb goes: Don't visit the sins of the father on the child.
Speaking of conflicts of interest, what is your connection to Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf? It seems as if every other week, you are posting a press release about some (relatively insignificant) activity they are involved in, while also lamenting the fact that retired players take up too much of the conversation. This week it was a defense of Graf's contributions to tennis. (I've no idea what that has to do with Wimbledon). Incidentally, most tennis experts agree that Graf was decidedly uninvolved as the number one player and not an attribute to the WTA off court. I'm not trying to be offensive, but I was curious; I'm not the only one who has noticed this.
-- Patrick Preston, Chicago
• Full disclosure. I have an anonymous reader who sends me multiple emails every days pertaining the Graf and Agassi. It's, at once, vaguely creepy and vaguely endearing. She clearly has Graf and Agassi on a Google alert because I get Facebook posts, news articles and other marginalia. For the vast majority, I hit delete. But every now and than there's an interesting item that I'll link. (If you suspect the purpose of my addressing this is to encourage the anonymous to reader to contact me less frequently, that would be correct.)
Okay, big day in tennis. But aside from all that, did anyone else hear Chris Evert say she "had never heard of Michelle Larcher de Brito? Any goof who's filled out a Racquet Bracket has seen her name.
-- Paul R., Boston
• A few of you mentioned this. I think Chris didn't hear of Larcher di Brito over all the ambient shrieking.
When was the last time neither Federer nor Nadal were in the quarterfinals of one of the Grand Slam events?
-- Bridget Falk, Rockville Centre, NY
• ATP's Greg Sharko says: never.
RZ of Los Angeles: It's not all bad for Roger Federer. Forbes has named him the most powerful athlete.