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Wimbledon midterm grades: Serena falls; Big Four in good shape

Roger Federer and the Big Four of men's tennis are still alive at Wimbledon, while Serena Williams was shocked by French veteran Alize Cornet.  Photo:

Roger Federer and the Big Four of men's tennis are still alive at Wimbledon, while Serena Williams was shocked by French veteran Alize Cornet.

In the shadow of the World Cup, in the shadow of Glastonbury, there was another international competition, another festival featuring performers and their stringed instruments. Wimbledon 2014 was cruising right along.

Then Saturday afternoon came and Alize Cornet took out Serena Williams. That sound you heard? Maria Sharapova’s screams of euphoria for the second straight Grand Slam. We’ve drummed out the vampires, if not the umpires, and the top two women’s seeds. After Sunday off, Week Two continues on Monday.

Here are our midterm marks. If anyone wants to grade-grub, please see professor Julius Nyang’Oro.

A

The Big Four: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray all look like potential repeat winners.

Alize Cornet: The plucky French veteran beats Serena Williams for the second time in 2014. The first time was in Dubai, which was a preparation for serving out a match at 5-4 in the third set on Court One.

Novak Djokovic: Deserves special commendation for this display of sportsmanship in his match against Radek Stepanek.

Little Three: Credit to Jim Courier for this label. Kei Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic -- purportedly Generation Next in men’s tennis -- are all still alive heading into the second week.

Caroline Wozniacki: Returning to the region of He Who Shall Not be Named, the Dane looks sharp – with a nice draw ahead.

Czech Ladies: In addition to Kvitova, Lucie Safarova, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova  and qualifier Tereza Smitkova all head to Week Two.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Badly in need of improved results, he got them, outlasting Sam Querrey in an epic match and reaching week two and a date against Djokovic.

Prize Money Increases: There’s so much money sloshing around here, good for the players for getting in on it. Journeymen and (women) players win two rounds and come into $120,000. For the stars, it might be change under sofa cushions. For many, it’s deeply significant.

The Wimbledon app: You wish they were all this good.

B

2001 U.S. Open champions: Deep in their 30s, Venus Williams and Lleyton Hewitt are still at it, relishing the fight. Both lost third round matches that went the distance, but good for them.

French Open Breakthroughs: Garbine Muguruza and Taylor Townsend (a wild card) exit in round one. Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard are still among us.

Ernests Gulbis: Erratic Latvian loses in round two, unable to replicate his success in Paris. But before leaving, he did give us this press conference gem about vampires.

Victoria Azarenka: The former No. 1 goes out in the second round, but the rust that accumulated during her extended injury layoff looks to be coming off, and the hardcourt (her favorite surface) beckons.

Shaquille O’Neal: It's good to see him in attendance. Probably a breach of protocol to give the steward a 20-pound note and say “get me one of those ice creams.”

C

Top Two Women's Seeds: Li Na’s results remain on lockdown. The Aussie Open champ played with mystifying passivity in her loss to Zahlavova Strycova, her second straight early loss at a major. Meanwhile, in the year she was to eclipse Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams now heads to the U.S. without haven’t played deep in a Grand Slam, much less won one.

Fabio Fognini: Never mind the record fine of $27,500 he incurred for an outburst. His absence of effort in his fifth set against Kevin Anderson was a disgrace.

Sloane Stephens: The justification for her stagnating results was that she comes to play in the big events. But when she loses easily in round one, it’s time for some soul searching.

Gael Monfils: “Tanking” is a serious allegation But let’s just say that his effort sometimes made Fognini look like Nadal.

The 32 Draw: Yes, the payoff comes in Week Two, with so many stars remaining. But should the No. 32 player really be assured of not meeting a better opponent until the third round?

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