Thoughts on Wimbledon Day 5: Rafael Nadal powers into fourth round
LONDON – A year ago here, the tennis world pondered the demise of Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard hadn’t won a major title since 2014. He had just turned 30. He had lost in the first round of the 2016 Australian Open. At the French Open—his clay playground—he had withdrawn with a wrist injury. All that physical tennis was finally exacting its price, it seemed.
Well, here we are a year later and Nadal is doing a convincing impersonation of a top player at the peak of his power. He won his 29th consecutive set in Grand Slam play on Friday, beating Karen Khachanov of Russia 6-1, 6-4, 7-6. Nadal is moving well, zinging his shots, hitting his second serve over 100 miles an hour.
Suddenly, everything is turning up Rafa. If he makes the final, he can surpass Andy Murray as World No. 1. But first—Gilles Muller, the hard-serving Luxembourgian, in the fourth round. (Though if we’re being honest: which Luxembourgians don’t serve hard?)
Read on for more thoughts on third round play on Friday on Wimbledon Day 5.
Defending champ Andy Murray gets by Fabio Fognini to reach last 16
There’s a reason why top players like the best-of-five format. The underdog can get hot for an hour—or the favorite’s level can drop for a stretch—and there’s ample time for a market correction. A longer match = a greater sample size = a greater chance of a regression to the mean.
We got a vivid display of this principle on Friday evening on Centre Court. Andy Murray did not play his best against Fabio Fognini. He lost the second set 6-4. He trailed 2-5 in the fourth. But with the cushion of a longer match, Murray had time to find his game and the better player won.
Happy with his fight if not his form, Murray took it 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5. The defending champ gets Benoit Paire next in the fourth round.
Britain's Johanna Konta continues career-best run at Wimbledon
One of the inefficiencies of sports betting markets: fans make wagers based on emotion, not reasons. Want to win a bet? Pick against the Dallas Cowboys. Why? Because the ‘Boys have the largest army of besotted fans, and the betting lines are distorted accordingly.
With Karolina Pliskova eliminated from the draw yesterday, Johanna Konta, the top British player, emerged as the favorite in the women’s draw. This seemed to be a classic case of emotions overwhelming data, British fans siding irrationally with the local favorite. Coming into the event Konta had won a grand total of one match here. In her previous match she nearly lost to Donna Vekic before prevailing 10-8 in the third set. Yet on Friday, Konta looked like, well, a favorite, looking comfortable on the grass and in front of the home crowd, beating Greece’s Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-1. The sixth seed faces Caroline Garcia on Monday.
Last year, Croatia teenager Ana Konjuh held match points over Aga Radwanska, only to slip on a ball twist her ankle and lose.
The tennis fates starting paying off the debt. Konjuh took down Dominika Cibulkova 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 boldly serving out the match. She now faces Venus Williams, who won a slug-a-thon against Naomi Osaka.
After maternity leave, Victoria Azarenka is back in full swing at Wimbledon
It's been a rough event for players returning from injury. Madison Keys (wrist) was bounced in round two, struggling through a three-setter again Camila Giorgi. Madison Brengle snuffed out The Great Petra Kvitova (hand) Comeback Story. Juan Martin del Potro (wrist) beat Thanasi Kokkanakis (shoulder)—and then del Potro lost.
But for the player coming off a maternity leave, it’s been a dazzling event so far. Victoria Azarenka is into Week Two with her familiar blend of power and poise. Mama’s got a brand new bag. On Friday she simply outfought Heather Watson, winning a three-setter and setting up a tasty Monday showdown against Simona Halep.