Thoughts on Wimbledon Day 4, including Jana Cepelova's upset of Garbine Muguruza and the charge of the American players.
LONDON – On a non-rainy day from Wimbledon…..
a) Here's a Wimbledon-themed podcast with Paul Annacone.
b) Five Things We Learned Today:
• Well, about that “Garbine Muguruza is about to displace Serena” trope. Muguruza, the second seed, was dispatched in less than an hour by qualifier Jana Cepelova. Let’s do what we always do here. A) Praise Cepelova, who met the moment—as she did last year, when she beat Simona Halep B) Question Muguruza, who needs to figure out how to back up one success with another and devise escape routes on days when she’s not her best. C) Note that this is what separates Serena from the competition. She may not win every event, but she sure ain’t losing in early rounds of majors to players ranked 122 spots lower
• The charge of the Americans continues. Today’s winners include Venus Williams, Jack Sock, Madison Keys, John Isner, Sloane Stephens, Donald Young, Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson. One of the stranger results: American qualifier Julie Boserup beat No. 7-seed Belinda Bencic, who had to retire.
• Roger Federer faced 772nd-ranked Marcus Willis in round two. His round three opponent will be a Brit of higher caliber. Dan Evans, No. 91, looms. Evans looked terrific today, beating Alex Dolgopolov in straight sets.
• Unpopular position: Bernard Tomic isn’t all that bad. Tennis’ favorite whipping boy, Tomic hasn’t maximized his talent. Tomic hasn't always competed admirably. Tomic’s off-court improvement is lacking. All that granted, how many players would love to trade places with him? All but 20 or so. The 19th- seed here, Tomic won again beating Radu Albot and needs only to beat Roberto Bautsita Agut to reach week two.
• Spare a thought for Heather Watson. A promising British player, Watson had a chance to beat Serena Williams on Centre Court last year and couldn’t close. Today she had three match points against Annika Beck and couldn’t close, falling 12-10 in the third.
c) A little Q/A…
Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at email@example.com or tweet him @jon_wertheim.
Impressive stat: Djokovic's 30 wins in a row at majors. Any data (men/women) on wins in a row at majors where the player actually participated? Seems like that would be a interesting way to put this accomplishment into perspective across eras where certain majors may have been of waning significance.
• I’m not sure I get this question, but I do think I get—and agree with—on your point. Who’s won four Slams in a row? Only Djokovic, Don Budge and Laver (twice) have put together a streak like this. Not Federer, not Sampras, not Agassi, not Nadal. And on Friday, Djokovic will attempt to win his 31st straight Slam match, which would Laver’s high streak and trail only Budge’s streak of 37. This gives Djokovic a credential none of his contemporaries have. File this away for the next GOAT discussion.
I write this while watching Marcus Willis play Federer. The broadcast showed a years-old clip of Willis playing a Challenger match when he was at least 20 pounds heavier than he is now. I was not surprised that this clip was the source for some laughs among the commentators. But then I remembered Taylor Townsend's debut on the tour a couple of years back, and discussion of her fitness was taboo. Is this just an extension of society norms, that overweight male athletes are the source of humor while overweight female athletes are to be discussed with sensitivity?
—Jason Rainey, Austin
• The short answer is “yes.” Yes, there is, unquestionably, a double standard here. Yes, some of this is a reflection of “society norms.” But I think context important, too. Willis is a 25-year-old male who himself poked fun at his nutrition and is now fitter, a tournament darling. That’s a much different set of circumstances from a 16-year-old female who was being humiliated by her federation and denied funding on account of her fitness. (Which we all recognize as a euphemism.) There is also an unquestionably a dimension of race here. In-group/out-group dynamics, too.
When this was an issue several years ago, no one was contending that Townsend was in peak condition. The criticism—rightfully leveled—was that the USTA was clumsy and insensitive in handling situation and conveying the message.
How can big W allow 1st and 3rd seeds advance to third round when some haven't finished their first match?
• A few of you asked about that. This is what happens when you have a roof. The stars play so fans—on the stadium court and in front of their tvs/devices—can be accommodated. It’s unfortunate. It’s another way in which stars get a competitive advantage. But what’s the alternative?
How does Wawrinka always have the exact amount of facial hair?
• I recall this piece by the mighty Rohan Nadkarni which might contain my all-time favorite physical description of an athlete.
If Djokovic gets calendar slam, would he be SI sportsperson of year? Or does it definitely go to LeBron now?
• The write-in campaign for Marcus Willis is just beginning. (Seriously, let’s see how the Olympics play out before even coming up with a short list.)
Nice upset special, picking Pironkova to Bencic. Oops.
• I’m telling you, these picks inspire more trolls and nasty communiqués than anything else I write. I missed that one. I got Mahut d. Ferrer. Until sports are scripted, predictions will part of the experience. Suggest we resist the “smart” label when prognostications come to fruition; I also suggest we resist nasty tweet and email when picks don’t pan out.
I’ve been a reader for most of the current century and love your column. How has Brexit and the consequent economic backlash affected the actual value of Wimbledon prize money?
—Tim Harkins, Ridgeville, S.C.
• Current century? You’re making me feel like Vin Scully. Or Venus Williams. Seriously, your support is appreciated. Total candor: the backlash has been minimal. Some jokes about the soft exchange rate and the prize money increase being undone. But especially as the markets have rebounded, I can’t say Brexit’s impact has been palpable. Iceland’s play in Euro2016 on the other hand…
Can you please send some of that @Wimbledon rain to us in drought-parched California.
• Sold to the man in the front.
• What makes Novak Djokovic the perfect player?