LONDON – Five thoughts from Wimbledon Day 5.
• The Tennis Fates owe Juan Martin del Potro in a big way. And they started chipping away at their debt today. The 2009 U.S. Open champion scored his biggest win in a loooong time, taking out No. 4 Stan Wawrinka in four sets. On account of that nagging wrist injury, Del Potro’s backhand is still lacking—and he openly admits it. But as long as he can crack that forehand, he will be a threat. Del Potro was more than a little emotional afterward—“I feel alive”—and you smile at this result. But the truth is: he can win this event.
• Serena Williams possesses a combination of power and speed unprecedented in women’s tennis, if not women’s sports. But her real gift is an ability to grind out matches and fashion escape routes. (See Muguruza below.) Serena was not at her best today. Far from it. But, as usual, she found a way to win, outlasting Christina McHale, 7-6, 2-6, 6-4. “I know no one can break me mentally,” she said after the match.
• In a similar vein….Venus Williams was locked in one of those classic old-versus-young matches against teenager Daria Kasatkina, who was two months old when Venus made her Wimbledon debut. Experience carried the day, if gingerly, Venus winning 7-5, 4-8, 10-8 in the third set. Williams the Elder has now reached the middle weekend here 14 times. Baller, as the kids say.
• In what less a tennis match than a five-set Vine, Nick Kyrgios won the battle of the shotmakers, beating Dustin Brown. “At the end of the day, it was a fun match,” Kyrgios said in understatement. Don't look now, but this guy is trending toward the Top 10. Feliciano Lopez awaits.
• A drizzly, fairly straightforward day was disrupted in the evening when Novak Djokovic lost the first set to Sam Querrey in a tiebreaker and then lost the second in a mentally vacant 6-1 second set. The match was—mercifully for Djokovic—called on account of rain. Djokovic was trailing Kevin Anderson 2-0 sets in the fourth round here last year before Djokovic rallied to win. So there's a comeback precedent. But the notion of Sam Querrey returning in the morning, one set from an all-time upset, is...well, something to ponder.
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I knew it! After watching Garbine Muguruza win the French, I was betting that she wouldn't make it out of the first week of Wimbledon and today she lost in straight sets to Cepelova. What is up with top women's players these days? Their inconsistency is maddening! Muguruza showed grit and power in beating a 21-Grand Slam winner for her first major and she can't even muster four games in a set against a player ranked No. 124 in the world? This has been a pattern for the women's game in the last few years. Thanks!
• We use this occasion—as we use so many occasions—to praise Lindsay Davenport. She had a feeling that a Mugu letdown was coming. To me, this was an absolutely mystifying result. Last year, Muguruza reached the Wimbledon final, played well against Serena and was, not unreasonably, anointed a star-on-the-make. She then proceeded to lose early and often for the next few months, splitting with her coach and struggling to handle to heightened demands and expectations. Fair enough. It’s a transition, no doubt.
But then this year Muguruza puts a dismal few months behind her and wins the French Open, not just beating Serena in the final but taking the match to her. You’re thinking: a new champ has arrived and this time around, she knows what awaits. Muguruza keeps her commitment to play a small event in Mallorca—in retrospect perhaps the wrong choice—and comes to Wimbledon to back up her French success. In her second match she falls in less than an hour to a qualifier and declares herself “tired.”
No bueno, as the kids say. Part of being a champion means performing at an elevated level. But another part is figuring how to win on days where your best stuff is absentia. You make adjustments. You rethink strategy. You right the proverbial ship. Muguruza did none of that yesterday.
Longtime reader, first time questioner, etc.
Just want to say I love the Mailbag. As a Londoner, I'm having a smashing time making my annual pilgrimage to Wimbledon to lap up lots of outside court action, slightly less sunshine and the odd celeb sightings (your frequent contributor Lindsay Davenport seems to spend more time walking the grounds than commentating, as I've spotted her a bunch of times). Question: Thursday's order of play was not published until 9.30 p.m. on Wednesday night. Considering I had a Day 4 Centre Court ticket, to my utter shock and horror Serena Williams' second round match was not scheduled as expected. What's that about? The logic I was given is that her potential third round opponent hadn't played their first round match by Wednesday, so it wouldn't be fair to let Serena march into the third round on Thursday. A) That logic would never fly if the situation applied to Andy Murray or Roger Federer, who perpetually are given ripe Centre Court spots regardless of the wider tournament progress. And B) Would Serena only discover on Wednesday night at the same time I did that she is not scheduled to play the next day, and wouldn't that ruin her preparation?
—Philip, in London
• Thanks for your kind words. And Lindsay is very devoted to walking, so that doesn’t surprise me. There’s been a lot of player complaining here. How was Carlos Suarez Navarro in the fourth round before Petra Kvitova played a point of her second match? But this is the curse of the roof. Centre Court stays on schedule rain or shine. All of this impacts the entire schedule.
So, I saw this item the other day, shortly after watching a Eugenie Bouchard match. I have to admit that I was a little taken aback by the dress she was wearing, and I was a little surprised that it made it though Wimbledon's clothing committee/rules. I'm guessing that you probably don't want to touch this one with a 10-foot pole, but I have to ask: do the players wearing this dress (and Nike) realize that it is mostly see through when shown on TV?
• As a friend of mine calls it, the “Happy-Birthday-Mister-President” dress. Like you, I am confounded by the Wimbledon dress code. The players must wear white, but the tournament towels looks like they were used to clean up a paintball game. The Nike dresses look like they were designed by Victoria, she of secret fame, yet Roger Federer was recently chastised for having a bit of orange on the underside of his shoe? I don’t get it. I guess we should just be glad they’re not Zebra-wear.
Is that a cannabis logo on Donald Young's shirt?!?
—Helen of Philly
• It’s oregano.
I don't think I have ever been happier for someone winning a second round match at a major, than I am right now for Del Potro. He keeps reminding me how much better this sport is when he plays. Seems like a really likeable guy too. I am not going to pencil him into next Sunday's final just yet, but this is big for his latest injury comeback. I feel for Wawrinka, but the random draw is not always so kind.
• Amen to that.
• Cahrith: Hey Jon, NO. The short answer is always NO. Simple as that. It is never okay to poke fun at overweight people—man or woman. Yes, you ARE most welcome to make fun/joke/mock/prank them, but the punch line should never be, HA! YOU'RE FAT! The punch line should always be more inspired. More than just “SO GAY!” More than just “ARGH! WOMEN!” Be brilliant with your jokes, people. Everyone is free to laugh at all groups, just know that you are laughing for the right reasons. Besides, there is little need to check with “societal norms” or religious guidelines to know what is and isn't allowed. We all come equipped with a moral compass. Use it.
Snapshots from Day 5