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Wimbledon Midterm Grades: The Grass, Weather and Draw Are Finally Settling Into Place

If this column were to mimic Wimbledon 2021, it would get off to a rough start, struggle to find its footing, and then round into form. The first days at the first Wimbledon since 2019 featured too many grass stains and too many injuries, as players—most notably Serena Williams—struggled to find traction on the surface. But the grass settled, the weather settled, the draw settled and this looks like a fairly conventional major. Which is to say, Novak Djokovic is your prohibitive favorite to win the men’s draw. The women’s draw is tantalizingly open. And, after (the last) Middle Sunday to exhale, we vault into Week Two.

Before that, our midterm grades:

wimbledon-midterm-grades

A

Novak Djokovic: Picking him against the field looks increasingly likely with each passing round.

Ash Barty: Top women’s seed is keeping her head while those around her are losing theirs.

Ons Jabeur: En route to reaching the second week, she takes out nine majors worth of champs, Venus Williams and Garbine Muguruza. In the latter match, the Tunisian won 16 straight points to boot.

Seb Korda: Never mind the rankings, he is the top American man right now and will play his fourth round match the day he turns 21. “Net Korda” made 124 approaches in his first three matches.

Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov: Canadian duo surge into Week Two.

Carla Suarez Navarro: Playing on Centre Court, she takes a set off Ash Barty. Athletes make their own decisions, but why the hurry to retire when you’re still capable of this level?

Indian Wells: It’s official. It’s on. In October. Men and women. Singles and doubles. And more than $15 million in prize money.

Serena and Venus Williams: A deeply disappointing campaign for Serena, playing just six games on account of a slip on the wet grass. (The extended impromptu ovation spoke plenty about the high regard in which she’s held.) Venus won a match and lost a match. Consider: This marked the first time this millennium Wimbledon was without a Williams by round three. Remarkable.

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A-

The hosts: Strong first week for the hosts. Three men—Andy Murray, Cam Norrie and Dan Evans—reach round three, though none advanced from there. Jack Draper took a set off Djokovic, and revealed himself as an undeniable prospect. As is Emma Raducanu, an 18 year-old into Week Two.

B

Nick Kyrgios: For such a complicated guy, this plot if pretty simple. You can’t train as a part-time player (his characterization) and expect to come through physically. Entertaining as ever for five days. Then, his body gave out and he retired with an abdominal injury an hour into his match on Saturday. So it goes…

Women contenders: The majority of the top-10 seeds have been expelled already. Former champs Venus Williams and Garbine Muguruza are out. But sleepers such as No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka and Madison Keys suggest plenty of opportunity for a non-surprise champ.

Frances Tiafoe: Scores the best win of his career, upsetting Stefanos Tsitsipas in round one with a blend of power, speed and crowd work. Wins another match. Then retreats disappointingly against Karen Khachanov in round three.

Yoshi Nishioka: Japanese lightweight (141 pounds) beats John Isner in five sets. But summoned to play the next day, he was compromised and lost 6–1, 6–0, 6–2.

Middle Sunday: A mid-tournament day off for the last time. It’s easy to understand why an event would want to maximize weekend sessions (ergo revenue) but this was a quaint tradition that has died.

C

Stefanos Tsitsipas: A month ago, he was the hottest act in tennis. Now, he’s lost six straight sets. Owing to a combination of his uncertainty on grass, his Paris hangover, and the brilliance of Tiafoe, Tsitsipas lost in round one and is back to seeker mode.

Sonia Kenin and Bianca Andreescu: Seeded fifth, Andreescu lost her first match 6–2, 6–1 to Alize Cornet. Seeded fourth, Kenin lost her second match to Madison Brengle in just 45 minutes, committing a ghastly 41 errors in that time.

Slip and slide: The view here: It was not about negligent groundskeeping, but rather the nature of grass and the players’ lack of familiarity—no play in 2020, only two weeks of tuneups. But there were too many wince-inducing moments, players tumbling on the slick greensward, sometimes with serious consequences.

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