Wimbledon Day 2: Bernard Tomic's puzzling stance on loss; Olympic bids
WIMBLEDON, England -- Assorted thoughts after Day 2 at Wimbledon, where rain suspended 12 singles matches, the roof oddly stayed open and the grounds were abuzz with Olympics news.
Happy to lose. Tennis players are losers. That's not an accusation, that's just a fact. They lose points, they lose games, they lose matches and they lose tournaments, and they do it with shocking regularity. In every tournament they enter there's the hope of a win (or an expectation even) but after years of playing this sport, all players will tell you that they have to be prepared to lose and, rather cruelly at times, they have to be prepared to explain their losses.
So logic would say that at some point, players would just get used to losing. Whether through experience and perspective or just self-preservation, at some point losses shouldn't be so devastating, heart-wrenching or unexpected. But sit in a post-loss press conference and you don't see blithe, nonchalant reactions. The first two days have seen losers' press conferences range from scathing self-flagellation (John Isner) to classy resilience (Venus Williams) to edge-of-tears disappointment (Laura Robson). After all, that drive for perfection and success is what forged these athletes into being the best in the world. They can put on a brave face time and time again, but the disappointment is still palpable every time.
Which is why it was jarring hearing Bernard Tomic say he's happy he lost to David Goffin 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in the first round. And to hear him further admit that he really hasn't been trying all that hard these past few months is just straight up disappointing.
"To be honest, I haven't been really working hard the last two months," Tomic said. "I mean, like on the way up I have been growing up playing and everything's got easy. I've gotten to where I have won very easily. It's amazing."
Tomic is a talent, for sure. He's already done enough in his short career to prove that. As a teenager, he's made the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the fourth round of the Australian Open. He's shown the ability to hold his own against the best the players in the world, including Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. But his is a tricky style that's built around his hands and his creativity and most definitely not on his physicality. Tomic admitted that he's been relying on his talent alone and leaving that other thing, effort, on the sidelines. A lazy teenager? What a shock.
"I think being a good ball‑striker, I've got good hands, but that's where I don't take my legs into play the last few months," he said. "Hands is one thing, but the effort that you put in. ... I've got to train, not use my hands."
The loss seems to be a wake-up call for the 19-year-old Aussie. At least that's what he says. And there's something to be said about the fact that his talent alone has gotten him into the top 30. But a stroll around the practice courts of any tournament, let alone at a Grand Slam, makes something abundantly clear: All of these guys can strike the ball. The guy ranked No. 2oo can wow you in practice with his raw shot-making and power. What differentiates No. 200 from No. 10 is the work ethic, and that's something Tomic seems to be suddenly realizing. But if the common eye can see it, how in the world has the light bulb just turned on now for Tomic? It's baffling to hear an elite athlete ever admit that work ethic is a problem. That's the one thing you can control. Then again, Tomic is a baffling guy, both in his game and his decisions.
"I like [that] I've lost. I think it's good for me," he said.
And then the rationalizing began.
"I'm lucky I'm getting hit with these things at this age now," he said. "I think it's great. It's better that I lost so I can wake up and find my tennis where it can be and where it can take me to the next few years.
"That's why it's important for me at a young age, for any player that's young, is to, I think, lose. You're only going to come back stronger if you keep losing."
Of course players learn from their losses. As Serena Williams said earlier in the day, her first-round exit at the French Open compelled her to quote that mantra, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," though she felt the need to attribute that bit of wisdom to Kelly Clarkson. (By the way, thanks for ensuring that everyone in the press room was left humming that ditty throughout the day. That was some unfortunate collateral damage.) But to come out and say it's great you lost or that you like that you've lost? Questionable stuff from a guy who remains a mystery.
Brian Baker moves on: When you see a player capture the public's imagination the way Baker did in Paris, sometimes all you can think is, "Oh, God. Please don't flame out." All credit to Baker, "flame out" doesn't seem to be in his vocabulary. After a somewhat surprising snub of his request to Wimbledon for a wild card, Baker worked his way to qualify for the main draw. Then in his Wimbledon debut at age 27, he defeated Rui Machado 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-0. You have to commend his ability to just put his head down and not get overwhelmed by what's happening right now.
"You know, when I'm at the tournament ... it's more of a businesslike approach," Baker said. "I'm not thinking, Oh, man, this is awesome. Get into the second round. It's more like, OK, how am I going to win this match? So don't get me wrong. I think it's cool, like what I've been able to do, and it's been a lot of fun. I'm enjoying the moment. But every time, like when these guys see me here and everything else, it's more like how am I going to win the next match."
Production for use. You spend millions for a retractable roof that is supposed to guarantee play on Centre Court and move along your schedule. And yet, when a sudden burst of rain forced an immediate stoppage of play on Tuesday, the roof was never closed. Had the roof been closed, organizers would surely have gotten the match between Caroline Wozniacki and Tamira Pazcek in the books. It wouldn't have affected the other 11 matches that were suspended, but it would have been good optics. As it was, Centre Court remained topless, matches were suspended and fans were stuck somewhere between a state of befuddlement and confusion. I know the thing ain't cheap to close, but sometimes you just have to save face.
Olympic-bound. The ITF finally announced the Olympic teams for the London Games, and the most surprising discovery was how many players had no idea. Quite a few players learned of the final nominations from the media and some had been sworn to silence until Thursday and had no idea whether they could comment on it despite the fact that the list went public. On the whole, I like what the ITF did with the wild cards and quite a few nations ended up backing down from their early decisions not to send certain players.
Some quick thoughts:
• Team America: As expected, John Isner, Andy Roddick, Donald Young, Ryan Harrison and the doubles team of Mike and Bob Bryan make up the men's team. On the women's side, it's Serena Williams, Christina McHale, Venus Williams, Varvara Lepchenko and the doubles team of Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond. Venus and Serena will be the other women's doubles team and Isner and Roddick will team up for the men. That should be an interesting serving duo on grass.
• French farce: Look, I understand the reasons why Marion Bartoli won't be going to the Olympics and I'm happy for Alize Cornet, who was granted a wild card as France's sole representative in the singles competition. But the fact that France is sending a team that doesn't include Bartoli, a former Wimbledon finalist, is just laughable. Politics got in the way here and both parties are to blame.
• Notable absentees: Aside from Bartoli, Tamira Paszek of Austria and Tommy Haas of Germany were unable to secure their federation's backing for a wild card.
• Bubble players in: A number of players were on the bubble due to their federations' strict qualification rules and it looks like reason prevailed. Belgium relented and is sending Olivier Rochus, David Goffin and Steve Darcis. Germany nominated Philipp Kohlschreiber and Julia Goerges, even though neither is in the top 24 or made a major quarterfinal in the last year. And Sofia Arvidsson, who blasted her federation on Twitter, will indeed be going for Sweden.
• The Indian drama isn't over: Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna will indeed be going as India's second doubles team. But Sania Mirza has put the Indian federation on blast for how the whole situation was handled. This post has been updated to include Ryan Harrison's entry on the U.S. Olympic team.