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Whether In Defeat or Victory, The Stars Have Come Out at Wimbledon

This year’s Slam reminds us that for every defeat, there is a victory. And even though the second week won’t have Serena or Federer, there are some must-follow storylines ahead.

WIMBLEDON, England—After the first round of Wimbledon 2022, neither Venus nor Serena Williams could be found in the women’s singles draw. For the first time since the 1990s, Roger Federer was not in the men’s draw.

The world’s No. 1 and No. 2-ranked players, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev are not here, either. (The latter is injured. The former is from Russia, a nation unwelcome at these championships because of the country’s invasion of Ukraine, which led to the ATP and WTA Tours withdrawing ranking points from the event. Top-ranked Iga Swiatek didn't last the week, as her 37-match winning streak was snapped in the third round. Coco Gauff and Emma Raducanu are out, as well.

For all these absences, it has been a present Wimbledon. Defending champion Novak Djokovic might never be in better form to win. Ons Jabeur, tennis’ favorite indie band, carries on. So does Rafael Nadal, who has won the year’s previous two Slams. And the Nick Kyrgios show has been renewed to carry on into the second week.

It is all a metaphor for tennis, a reminder that for every defeat, there is a victory. There is no demarcating Middle Sunday (another loss), but as we make the turn, herewith Sports Illustrated’s midterm grades.

Grade: A

Novak Djokovic thanks the crowd at Wimbledon.

Novak Djokovic is looking to lock up his 21st career Grand Slam singles title. 

Novak Djokovic: The de(de)(de)fending champ looks on pace for another title. He christened Centre Court and turned in a rough first hour of play, in which he dropped a set. Since then, he’s been practically unstoppable. And, to clarify, we mean Novak Djokovic, not his son, Stefan, who also hits a mean ball.

Ons Jabeur: With Swiatek and Gauff out of the tournament, Jabuer emerges as your women’s favorite. She would make history. And a larger slice of the sports public would be exposed to a game and personality that is entertaining in equal measure.

Nick Kyrgios: He is spitting. He is admitting to tanking matches. He is being accused of being a bully. He is also bringing his bottomless and volcanic bursts of talent to bear, storming into the second week.

The Triple-Digit Club: Three sub-.100 players are still alive. Tim van Rijthoven (a Dutch wild card), Heather Watson (who nearly beat Serena Williams here in 2015) and Tatia Maria (who knocked out No. 5 Maria Sakkari.)

Wimbledon upgrades: Resembling the best players—who realize that to stay on top they need to continue innovating—the tournament continues to add to large and small touches, like the new Centre Court door, new viewing areas and website upgrades.

Alize Cornet: Playing in her 63 straight major, the Frenchwoman upset Swiatek in one of the biggest wins of her career.

Kristen Flipkens: One of the more popular players calls it a career after her second-round loss.

The Tennis Podcast: Read all about it.

Groundskeeping: Not the Lee Cole book, though it is excellent. There has been conspicuously few complaints about the surface this year.

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Venus Williams: She’s 42, playing mixed doubles (with Jamie Murray) and generally loving life.

Grade: B

Serena Williams: Losing in the first round is not the result she wanted (“I think you know the answer to that,” was her response when asked about her expectations), but there were positive takeaways given she hadn’t played a completed match in more than a year.

Andy Murray: Not the result he wanted, either—a second-round defeat against John Isner. But it wasn’t a defeat owing to age or physical compromise, just an inability to make a dent against an industrial-grade serve.

Casper Ruud: The No. 3 seed and finalist at this year’s French Open lost early. Good on him for sticking around to play doubles. His partner: Will Blumberg of Greenwich High (and UNC) fame.

The Russian ban: Some agree with it. Some don’t. But it’s striking how little it’s been discussed. This is hardly limited to tennis. For the ferociousness of modern outrage, it sure is short-lived. We sure are easily distract…wait, I have an alert. Yellowstone is filming in Arizona?

Stability: Tennis seems—I would contend is—as fractured and conflicted as ever. Ranking points are withheld from the biggest event … by two tours operating separately … at a major that unilaterally banned players because of their country of origin. Then, you look at golf and think, “What a model of accord and unison we have built.”

Grade: C

COVID-19: Two recent Wimbledon finalists, Marin Cilic and Matteo Berrettini, withdrew after positive tests—and a collective breath is held that there aren’t more. A theory circulating here is that the tournament spent its capital on the Russian ban and believed it couldn’t add another imposition on the players by testing or asking them to socially distance or wear masks in the locker room.

Canada: After two rounds, there are no players left from the Great White North, otherwise a tennis powerhouse.

Errors in the control room: The idea that a director would cut to a crowd shot as Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas were walking to the net to shake hands after their cage-fight of a match is the equivalent of, “I’ve got Neil Armstrong landing, but let’s go to Camera 4 where the igneous rocks are.”

The seedings: Anett Kontaveit is totally deserving of her No. 2 ranking, but as a COVID-sufferer who has never been to a major semifinal, should she have been the No. 2 seed? Ruud is totally deserving of his No. 5 ranking, but should he have been the No. 3 seed given he never won a match at Wimbledon? Totally subjective seeding is a recipe for disaster, but an objective formula factoring in past grass success makes sense.

Beatriz Haddad Maia: She crushed it in the warm-up events, received the 23rd seeding … and then lost in the first round.

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