- Week One of Wimbledon is complete, and Jon Wertheim checks in from London to give his midterm grades.
WIMBLEDON, England — At age 37, Serena Williams aims for her eighth Wimbledon title while Roger Federer, also 37, fixes his gaze on his ninth. Novak Djokovic (32) has designs of defending his crown. Rafael Nadal (33) has designs of backing up his French Open title. And Andy Murray—Sir Andy Murray, to us—easing his way back from near retirement on account of a hip injury, came looking for a mixed doubles partner. He settled on Serena.
And yet it is a 15-year-old ranked outside the top 100 who has stolen the day. Coco Gauff of Florida may be younger than some of the ball kids ministering to her. But she can hit the hell out of tennis ball. And she can compete, too. Coco may have gotten a B on the science test she took last week; but she’s aced Wimbledon. While giving new zest to the phrase 15-love, we hand out midterm grades….
Coco Gauff: If it’s true that the Brits have a saying for everything, maybe they can hold here: What’s the opposite of “flash in the pan?” Gauff is fifteen—one-five! 15!—and she is here to stay. That’s based on tennis, ball striking and power and accuracy. But that’s also based on disposition.
The Big Three: Playing a variety of opponents under a variety of circumstances—Nadal d. Kyrgios being the most memorable—each advances apace to Week Two. Their emergence from three rounds, without a scratch, is thrown into sharp relief when other purported contenders lose early.
Ash Barty: The top seed and playing like it, having droppepd just 12 games in six sets. As we write this, she has won 15 straight matches. And—partnered with Vika Azarenka—she’s in the doubles, too.
Serena Williams: By her own admission, it was not her best first week, marked by movement not up to her standards. But she’s still here, she’s still a champion and, ultimately, little else matters. (And she gets bonus points for entering mixed, winning the Andy Murray derby.)
Unseeded Americans: Sam Querrey and Tennys Sandgren roll on. And two weeks before her wedding, Alison Riske turns in her best Wimbledon.
Czech mates: Petra Kvitova and Barbora Strycova cruise into week two.
Mixed doubles: Thanks largely—but not exclusively—to the Serena Williams/Andy Murray dream ticket, the forgotten event of the Grand Slams gets a major boost.
Marcos Baghdatis: Tennis gets a little less sunny with his retirement.
Nick Kyrgios: Repeat: it’s not binary. Some of his antics are outright indefensible. Some of what he does (and says) is outright endearing. A lot of you dismiss him as arrogant. I see the opposite: someone desperately uncertain about who he is and what he wants to become. The great irony here: we, as fans and observers, always care when he plays….in part because he doesn’t. What a fascinating dynamic.
Maria Sharapova: Falls in round one. Retiring when down 0-5—depriving a journeywoman the opportunity to take a career win outright—struck many as poor form. But this post-match assessment spoke volumes, eloquent volumes, about her whole mode of being.
The ATP Washington event: It will not, likely, have a new Wimbledon champ in the draw. But say this about the headliners that include Zverev, Tsitsipas, Tiafoe and potentially Kyrgios: they will arrive well-rested.
Taylor Townsend: The young American plays terrific, attacking grass court-tennis, winning a set then holding match point against No.4 Kiki Bertens. And then she retreats, missing a drop shot, and falling, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2.
WTA’s age eligibility policies: This was always a legally shaky proposition but a sound one in its intent. It will come under great scrutiny now that a 15-year-old has proven her bona fides. If you’re good enough, how should the limitations and guardrails be arrayed?
Jelena Ostpaenko: Recent Grand Slam champ out in round one in singles. But she has creative ways to win points in doubles:
Naomi Osaka: It was clear even before the tournament that she wasn’t in the right headspace. That was confirmed with her vacant first-round loss to Yulia Putintseva. The pep talk. “Sports careers rarely move in straight lines—they are open-ended odysseys. It’s been an exhilarating but exhausting year. Take some time. Go unplug everything but your Overwatch console. And when you’re ready let’s lean and embrace the problem-solving.” On a related note…
Sascha Zverev: We say it every major, it seems. When you have a reputation for under-performance at big events, it compounds like credit card interest until your debt is paid off. As someone once said of Calvin Coolidge, he fell considerably short of mediocre, losing his first match.
Wimbledon seeding policies: Now that there are no longer surface specialists— now that the variances among surfaces are slim; or, more charitably, now that players are so versatile—it’s time to do away with the seeding formula.
Bernard Tomic: Loses in 58 minutes with an effort that seemed something other than honest and is fined his entire tranche of prize money. This is quite a worrisome precedent, making subjective judgments about a player’s effort level…but because it’s Tomic and there’s a lengthy history here, it was met largely with a shrug.