Federer's first-round escape, my Wimbledon favorite and more mail
As the defending Wimbledon champion, Roger Federer, in keeping with tradition, opened Centre Court on this, the first day of play at the 2010 event. His opponent was
By the time Federer walked off the court at around 4:30 London time, the World Cup match was deep into the second half. And Federer narrowly had averted the greatest upset of the Open Era -- really, try and name a bigger one -- outlasting Falla 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-0.
Federer hasn't won a tournament since Australia, but there's been a sense that he's lost a little intensity at the run-of-the-mill events (understandable at this point in his career) and will still emerge at the majors. That didn't happen at the French Open. And it certainly didn't happen through three sets today. He didn't play with conviction from the baseline. He didn't capitalize on break points (a problem all year). He didn't attack as much as he usually does on grass. His forehand seemed to lack punch.
And give Falla credit. Tons of it. He not only took the match to Federer, but also showed some real grass-court savvy, some real shot-making and some real nerves. How this player has never cracked the top 50 or won a solitary title is a mystery.
Then at two sets and 4-2, Falla faltered. It was as if he'd suddenly woken up and remembered whom he was playing. And the moment was lost. Federer found the range. Falla's body started betraying him. Two of the more underrated components of Federer's game -- his heart (was
• We could frame this convincingly either way. Player A has won Wimbledon six of seven years; he is the defending camp; he is men's tennis' all-time leader in major singles titles (16) and had already claimed one this year. Who in their right mind would pick against this guy? Wait, Player B not only won the previous Major, but he is ranked No. 1. And he not only beat Player A in their last head-to-head encounter (and their last one on grass), but he's riding a seven-match Wimbledon winning streak! You'd be nuts not to pick
I ended going with Nadal. But if Federer should win again, it would surprise virtually no one (despite his shaky effort on Monday). Most of us, though, are in agreement that, in a perfect world, we get another Federer-Nadal final. It's been too long (18 months or so) since the two best players have met in a Grand Slam final.
As I wrote last week, I think the tune-ups confirmed two truths that have been easy to overlook in recent years. 1) The transition from clay to grass is not as easy as "Feder-al" makes it seem. Sure, Nadal lost to Lopez at Queens Club, but I wouldn't read too much into that, given that he'd played the French Open 72 hours prior. 2) There are a lot of good players out there. Federer comes out a little flat?
• Very nice. With Nadal out of Wimbledon in 2009, Federer took the honors.
• Lots of you hitting me with your alternative picks. Here are Joel's. Let's see how we do.
• I love your sign off, but I disagree with the premise. First, apart from the surface obviously -- which is the biggest material difference -- the French is the lone major that doesn't use replay technology on line calls. Rain doesn't automatically halt play. There are three Sundays worth of play. And the crowd remains amused by "the wave," which went out of vogue in most places in the mid-80s. As for the Australian, until last year it was the only event that offered a retractable roof.
But to the larger point: I like these quirks among the Slams. The same way golf courses are designed differently or the dimensions of Fenway are different from the dimensions at Yankee Stadium, I rather like the absence of standardization. It gives each Slam a distinct feel. And again, consider the surfaces. Once you're playing one event on crushed brick and another on grass, the absence of a tiebreaker or a special formula for seeding are rather minor touches, no?
• Maybe as a fan of football -- i.e. a sport that entails men attired in helmets and pads colliding violently with each other -- you expect it. In tennis -- where combatants not only fail to make contact with each other but also are divided by a net -- it's shocking when a good two dozen players, otherwise eligible, are insufficiently healthy to enter the biggest event of the year. (Is this really what it's come to: comparing tennis' injury problems to the NFL?)
• But he came of age in Carmel, Ind. (which is sort of like the Malibu of Indianapolis). Illinois just got the spoils.
Speaking of Illini tennis,
• New York readers: HSBC, "The world's local bank" and official Wimbledon sponsor, brings an authentic tournament experience to NYC with "HSBC presents Wimbledon 2010 at Rockefeller Center." To celebrate the first day of Wimbledon on Monday, June 21 from 12-1 p.m. ET, former world No. 1-ranked players
• In case you missed it, here's
• More Wimbledon tips:
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