LONDON – Sixteen thoughts from the
16 15 completed matches at the All England Club on Manic Monday, the single best day in tennis…
• Kevin Anderson made a strong bid to pull off the upset of the men’s draw, winning the first two sets against Novak Djokovic, the top seed and defending champion. Djokovic then stormed back to take the third and fourth set. And then….the match was called, a staggering decision given there’s a) a roof b) rain in forecast for tomorrow. Very interesting. Stay tuned for the fallout….
• Few sports do family psychodrama as well as tennis does. But the notion of Serena Williams having her bid for the Grand Slam scuttled by her big sister would have been too much to bear. Serena prevailed over her big sister in straight sets, a match freighted with awkwardness, as these affairs inevitably—and understandably—are. For all the mixed feelings that come with beating Venus, Serena ought to be pleased to have played her best match of the tournament—her best match in weeks, in fact. Four rounds down, three to go.
• Seven-time champ Roger Federer was scarcely tested against Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, breezing in straight sets—and all the more so after RBA turned his ankle. He gets Gilles Simon next, who has never beaten him in a major.
• Like all players, CoCo Vandeweghe had her bag checked by security when she walked into the AELTC. Fortunately the guards didn’t note the fearsome weapon she arms herself with: her serve. Booming the ball, dictating play and elevating her performance in tiebreakers, she outlasted Lucie Safarova, 7–6. 7–6.
• Last time Richard Gasquet played Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon, he squandered nine match points and lost in the fifth set. Today he had two match points elude him in the third set. He recovered, though, and won in the fourth, striking a blow for substance over style. Gasquet played and comported him like a 29-year-old playing in his sixth Manic Monday here; Kyrgios played and comported himself like the 20-year-old he is. That included a juncture in the second set when his best efforts were questioned.
• The most important weapon in contemporary men’s tennis isn't the serve, it’s the return. Don’t believe it? Look at the rankings, then note how closely they track the best return rankings. Murray animated this today, beating Ivo Karlovic 7–6, 6–4, 5–7, 6–4.
• Garbine Muguruza is a star in the making, one who is steadily getting more comfortable with expectation and with grass court tennis. She’s now backed up a solid French Open with a terrific Wimbledon, beating Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets. Muguruza dictated play, from first ball to last ball, knocking out the highest-seeded player remaining in the bottom half of the draw.
• Flatly, Timea Bacsinszky is among the best stories in tennis this season. Deeply unhappy, she quit tennis in 2012 to begin a second career. She then decided to try and give the stick-and-ball industry another chance. Last month, she reached the semis of the French Open. Today, she outlasted the funk-a-delic Monica Niculescu—whom she had never previously beaten—and is into the round of eight.
• Aga Radwanska is doing a fine job turning around a disappointing year. A finalist here in 2012, Radwanska played unflustered tennis, serving out both sets and beating Jelena Jankovic, 7–5, 6–4.
• Tip of the backwards baseball cap to Denis Kudla, the last American man standing going into Monday’s matches. The power of Marin Cilic, however, was too much today. Kudla competed gamely but was bounced 6–4, 4–6, 6–3, 7–5.
• Maria Sharapova has been oddly quiet this event—both in on-court volume and presence. Amid speculation of a Grand Slam and the rash of WTA upsets, little light has shown on the 2004 champ. That might change. She’s yet to drop a set and her serve in particular ought to be a source of encouragement. Today, she beat Zarina Diyas to set up a date with Vandeweghe on Tuesday.
• What’s the most misleading statistic in tennis? Ask Victoria Azarenka and she’ll tell you that it’s her ranking. She came here as 23rd seed, an unseemly, intolerably large number for a former No.1. She’s slowly proving that she belongs in the top five. She has yet to drop a set here and simply overpowered Swiss teenager, Belinda Bencic. Next up: Serena.
• There won’t be a Grand Slam winner on the men’s side. But the chances for a clay-grass winner are still alive. Stan Wawrinka has backed up his French Open title with a deep showing that includes all straight set wins through four rounds. In a battle of one-handers, he gets Gasquet next. Wawrinka has never made it to the semifinals here.
• One of the keys (forgive the pun) to becoming a champion is winning on the days when you don’t have best stuff, when you’re missing your spots and don't feeling confident in your movement. Through four rounds—against no opponent ranked in the top 50—Madison Keys hasn’t played close to her potential. But she’s figured out how to win, carving exit strategies and serving well when she has to. She’s surviving not thriving—and ultimately, it could serve her better in the long run.
• With countryfolk Genie Bouchard and Milos Raonic out of the draw, Vasek Pospisil has used the occasion to make a statement. Into the second week of major for the first, time, Pospisil made the most of it, came back from a 0-2 deficit to beat Viktor Troicki. He knows get a Centre Court date against Andy Murray.
• The efficient Gilles Simon, fittingly last on our list, reached the fourth round, beating a surprisingly-listless Tomas Berdych in straight sets.