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  • Novak Djokovic's disappointing retirement, Sam Querrey's triumph, court assignments, fifth-set tiebreakers and more Wimbledon questions on men's quarterfinals day.
By Jon Wertheim
July 12, 2017

LONDON – Four quick thoughts from four matches and then right to the questions….

1. Roger Federer is not only into the semis for 12th time—beating Milos Raonic in three lavish sets—but, unquestionably, he is now the player to beat.

2. Sam Querrey becomes the only active American male to reach a Grand Slam semifinal, beating a wounded Andy Murray in five sets. The storyline here in the U.K. will be the hip injury that forestalled Murray’s title defense. But all credit to Querrey for winning his third straight five-setter and playing with poise against a compromised opponent today.

3. Marin Cilic, the tournament’s forgotten man, reached his first Wimbledon semifinal, ending the run of Gilles Muller, the Nadal slayer, in five sets.

4) In the most disappointing result of the day, Novak Djokovic’s woes continue as he retired from his match against Tomas Berdych on account of an injured right elbow. For a guy who came here a year ago winning four straight majors, he’s now 0-for-his-last-five.

Tennis
Sam Querrey upsets No. 1 and defending champ Andy Murray at Wimbledon

Mailbag

Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at jon_wertheim@yahoo.com or tweet him @jon_wertheim.

Jon you've been pretty quiet on the topic of court assignments. Do you think the women are getting short changed on Centre Court and No. 1 Court? I know the Big Four "earned" the right to play on the show courts but I think it affords them an unfair advantage. I'd love to see Roger, Novak, etc. relegated to Court 18 and hear what they have to say. On the flip side I have to wonder if the women would fill the stands on the show courts. I'd love to hear your perspective. 
Kris, Norwalk, Conn.

• Really torn here.

Last week, quite by coincidence, I walked up Wimbledon hill behind Karolina Pliskova and her team. Not only was she still in the tournament but she was the favorite with the oddsmakers. She also was likely to leave Wimbledon with the top ranking. (This of course happened—sort of—on Tuesday when she ascended to the top spot on account of Simona Halep’s loss.) Anyway, for or so minutes she passed dozens upon dozens of people. And not just people but, presumably, many tennis fans, this of course being Wimbledon. Want to guess how many stopped? Want to guess how many even did a double-take or looked back once she passed?

Imagine the converse. Imagine the men’s favorite with the oddsmakers (Federer) or the men’s third seed (Nadal) or the men’s presumptive No. 1 at the end of the event (Murray) making the same walk and going unmarked for five minutes.

This is not to pick on Pliskova. This is to point out the different players have different profiles. And that equal prize money is one thing; equal court assignments is something else. Many events are run with the aim of turning a profit. Wimbledon goes to great measures to stress that it’s run principally to serve fans. In both cases, shouldn’t popularity matter more than gender?

Hi Jon, the Muller/Nadal match surely is most eloquent argument one could make to counter the constant advocacy for a fifth-set tiebreaker coming, on a regular basis, from a certain commentator. Happily, the powers that be mostly agree with me, since the U.S. Open is the only place it happens. In my humble opinion, I don’t think any 10-12 minute tiebreaker could possibly deliver the nail biting drama that we saw during “extra innings" yesterday. I realize that the wear and tear issue is a biggie, and I know you (I think) are in favor of best of three the first week (no tiebreaker in the third set please….haha), but how do you feel about the fifth-set breaker?
Gavin Spencer, NYC 

• Here’s the solution: best-of-three sets rounds 1-3. Best-of-five second week. Early on, we save players some physical wear and tear and we keep the schedule moving. Second week, we have best-of-five so the Slams are invested with full heft, differentiating them from other events.

I’m okay playing out the third set and doing away with the tiebreaker. The sport looks ridiculous when we have these cartoon scores like 29-27, never mind 70-68. But those instances are rare. The 15-13 Muller-Nadal match was perfect and, I agree, suffused with a level of drama you couldn’t capture with a tiebreak.

Deal?

Tennis
Wimbledon is truly a treasure, but its classic strawberries and cream snack is not

You are very complimentary of Simona Halep after the French Open and again yesterday when she choked against Konta. Can I ask why? To me she is just another WTA player who can’t hold her nerve.
S.F., San Diego

• Some of this is personal, some tennis-related. She goes about her business with an awfully high level of professionalism and pragmatism. We had her on the Tennis Channel set the other day and she talked openly about Paris, the disappointment of losing that final, the fact that she watched a video of the match, hard as it was. No woe-is-me. No silly superstition. Just accountability. “I came up short and I need to own it.” She was similar in defeat yesterday. See for yourself here.           

I also like Halep’s game. She moves well. She punches above her weight. She understands patterns. Yes, she tends to play passively when matches tighten. But there’s integrity to the way in which she’s going about trying to solve this riddle.           

What a titanic tussle between Jo Konta and Simona Halep in the Wimbledon quarterfinals! With so much on the line (and just two points away), Halep misses her opportunity once again—not just to make her second career semifinal at Wimbledon, but to claim the No. 1 spot. Instead, the talented Karolina Pliskova will sit atop the rankings on July 17.

What does it say about the state of women's tennis that our new world No. 1 will be crowned following a disappointing exit at a Slam many picked her to win? The answer might be: not much. But the last time a player claimed the No. 1 spot for the first time on the heels of a loss was Dinara Safina in April 2009—a time when the women's game was experiencing some growing pains.
Andy Schlesinger, Brooklyn, N.Y.

• The rankings, of course, are based on a year’s worth of results. So while yes, it’s ironic and anticlimactic that Pliskova ascends to the top during the tournament she left so unfashionably early, we ought to remember that rankings are not based on one event.

The WTA has been taking a lot of slings and arrows lately but I’d say a) your undisputed champion goes on hiatus—see the UFC’s lightweight division now that Conor McGregor is boxing—and there’s bound to be some chaos. B) the WTA may have a star vacuum but from a competitive match standpoint, the product has been terrific. Halep-Kerber. CoCo-Wozniacki. Ostapenko-Venus. Halep-Konta. These battles have been great.

I know its fairly early down under, but should we holler at Tomic and ask him to take a gander @ Nadal playing now? [I wish I say this in jest]
Deepak, Seattle

• How bad has it gotten for Tomic? Even his dad is calling him out.

Not that Konta wouldn't have won anyway, but shouldn't they have replayed that last point? Players get penalized if they inhibit their opponent. Shouldn't they get penalized if their fans inhibit their opponent? Especially since the crowd had been warned multiple times? This is going to set a BAD precedent. I feel for Halep—this was poor sportsmanship and marred an otherwise competitive match. And this clearly affected Halep. Call me a sore sport but I hope Venus gives her a clinic and wins in two. So not fair.
Name misplaced

• If you missed it, on match point of the Konta-Halep match, a hyper-exuberant fan shrieked during the point. But here’s the thing: the shriek came as Konta was about to hit the ball. (The fan mistakenly thought Halep’s previous shot had flown long.) So if anyone was hindered, it was Konta.

In a perfect world, fans control themselves. In another perfect world, Konta offers to replay the point, which would grant her Wimbledon immortality, regardless of whether she won or lost the match. (“Not only did she win; she first conceded a point.” or “She lost the match but she won countless fans with an unprecedented display of sportsmanship.”)

But no hindrance was called. The replayed point was in order. Konta won. Halep didn’t protest much. And we move on.

Tennis
Legal impact of Venus Williams being cleared after fatal car accident

During the recent Wozniacki-Vandeweghe match, ESPN commentator Jason Goodall made a statement that Wozniacki's boyfriend David Lee deserved much of the credit for her improved play recently. I thought this comment was extremely sexist—I doubt he would ever say that a male player's improved play was due to his new girlfriend. I also thought this comment was insulting to Wozniacki, implying that she can only play well if she has a boyfriend.

Curious on your thoughts Jon. Love reading the Mailbag each week.
Emily D., Boston, Mass.

• I didn’t hear that but I think it’s a reasonable assertion. A) Wozniacki herself has spoken about this. B) Lee is not simply a vague boyfriend, but he’s been with her at several events including both summer majors. C) He was a good junior player so he actually has something to contribute in terms of tennis d) That he is an accomplished professional athlete also supports the supposition.

If a male athlete were struggling, found romance with a female athlete and suddenly saw results improving in correlation, commentators would be inclined to dispense some credit.

If Lee could convince Wozniacki to hit the damn ball—to play like a power forward and not a stretch—he’d really come in for acclaim.

Jon, hi! Thanks for this enjoyable column! I wonder what's your take on this: an empty Centre court with roof and lights, but still daylight and yet a game gets postponed for the following day with "security reasons" cited. Are we missing something here? Other than common sense...
M. Jalo, Rio de Janeiro

• This question applies—I assume anyway—to the tournament’s decision to postpone the Djokovic-Mannarino match on Monday, never mind that Centre Court sat empty while we all waited for the Nadal-Muller match to end 15-13.

The reader is right. This was an unforced error. Not severe—Djokovic returned Tuesday and cruised easily—but an error nonetheless. And wouldn’t it had been nice if the organizers had simply said, “We have thousands of decisions we make this tournament and we whiffed on this one. We strive for perfection but we screwed this up. We apologize to the players first and the fans well. We endeavor to do better next time.”

Sure enough, “next time” came Tuesday. CoCo Vandeweghe and Maggie Rybarikova started on Court One but then moved the Centre when the rain came.

Tennis
Thoughts on Wimbledon women's quarterfinals, Novak Djokovic's fourth-round win

Hi Jon, I enjoy your column and your appearances on television. In today's column you wrote the following statement: Kim Clijsters in 2005 was the last WTA player to win a major then reach the quarterfinals of the next one.  Did your editor remove the except Serena, Venus and Vika clause?
B Downs, Chicago, Ill.

 • Right on. It should have read: “Kim Clijsters in 2005 was the last WTA player to win her FIRST major then reach the quarterfinals of the next one.” I got a lot of tweets saying “What about Serena?” which left me confused, as she won the 1999 U.S. Open and lost in the fourth round of the 2000 Australian Open. Now I get it. My bad.

Today's junior matches at Wimbledon included a girls match: Sun vs. Day and a boys match: Added vs. Greif.  Does Mary Carrillo cover juniors? Because it sounds like a prank to give her pun material.
S.R., Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

• Added Greif—the e/i inversion notwithstanding—might be the best pairing I’ve ever seen.

Shots, Miscellany

• USTA Foundation, the national charitable organization of the USTA today announced that for the fourth consecutive year it has partnered with longtime US Open sponsor Chase to award 10 National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) chapters with a $10,000 grant each. This donated money will go toward year-round tennis and education programming that engages kids in the A.C.E. curriculum (Academic Creative Engagement).

• The USTA today announced that J. Wayne Richmond, currently General Manager of the US Open Series, has been promoted to the newly-created position of Managing Director, Major Events. In addition to continuing to oversee the US Open Series, Richmond’s duties will now include overseeing U.S. Team Events and the USTA Pro Circuit. Richmond and the respective business units of each of these three areas will be located at the USTA National Campus at Lake Nona in Orlando. Richmond will continue to report to USTA Chief Executive, Pro Tennis, Stacey Allaster.

 • Rod Lowe of Toronto has LLS: Andy Gibb and Sascha Zverev

Snapshots from the men's quarterfinals

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