It has been a while and there was a lack of inspiration during the clay season where the same movie has been seen so many times that the script is known by heart ad nauseaum even to people who are blind and deaf.
Wimbledon is a strange beast, in many ways the place is outdated in concern to facilities, no play on the middle Sunday thinking it's still Sabbath thou shall not work on a Sunday. The all white clothing rule, even the grasscourt tennis which has died on the ATP tour due to the surface costs and we know the ATP doesn't always represent the best interests of the players and the game.
In addition the above Wimbledon is the one tennis event everyone knows for all it's anachronistic ways. This leads to the influx of casual fans who think tennis only lasts 2 weeks of the year forgetting there are other Grand Slams and events during the year. Another thing as well it provides great amusement when there are players who are absolute grass court gimps trying to play on the surface. As poor as the grass gimps are, usually the worst performed people at Wimbledon are the journalists who really give the profession a bad name, yes even worse than usual. Will highlight some of the gems throughout this entry.
Darcis the Shark puts the bite on Nadal
Rafa Nadal two time Wimbledon champion has always been vulnerable in the early rounds of Wimbledon, it's once he gets through the first week where he becomes much harder to defeat as the grass becomes harder and the bounce becomes higher. There was a whole lot of rubbish about how low he was seeded at number 5. Head cheerleader John McEnroe, who has come up with some classics as "Nadal because of his achievements in the game deserves to take more time in between points than the rule allows" and that he has the best volleys in the game. The outrage he was on Court 1 and just the incessant whining.
It counted for nothing in the end as Nadal who had a poor preparation was exposed by the little man Darcis who was hitting backhand down the line winners for fun, serving well to keep Nadal off balance and had the belief he could win the match, which is the main thing when a lower ranked player who plays to their best, has the chance to close the deal they tend to not have the testicular fortitude to close it out. Thankfully Darcis whose nickname is the Shark, nothing to do with his teeth.
His defeat of Nadal set the tone for the first week at Wimbledon. The delicious irony whereas according to a significant section of Nadal fans he has never lost a legitimate match because he was injured was Darcis had to withdraw with a should injury. It was disappointing he couldn't play the Polish Feliciano Lopez the can-can dancer Lukasz Kubot in the next round. Nadal offered no excuses and neither did Toni, the way it should be. The positives for Nadal is that he should be able to defend his points next season.
Are you down with the Brown
Nadal losing in the first round set the tone of the first week. For those who follow me on Twitter or read this infrequently updated blog know that there is an admiration for Dustin "Dreddy" Brown. He had a different way of getting on the tour and he is true to himself. Grass and fast carpet are his best surfaces but there aren't enough of these events on tour for him. He qualified and played Lleyton Hewitt who took out Wawrinka in the 1st round.
Brown loves a big stage where he can entertain with the flashy strokes, drop shots, angle volleys, huge serve and the unpredictability along with the brilliant hair is part of the charm watching his matches. It was fun and painful watching this match with Australian commentary which for this match was Woodbridge and John Newcombe in his full cheerleading outfit. Of course they want Aussies to win, that's fair enough as well but when commentating at least make an effort to call the action. The fun part was listening to them in awe of the performance.
Dustin Brown Interview
Hewitt is tougher than $2 steak battling all the injuries he has had, he can still play well but just not as often. He has always been vulnerable to big hitters when they are playing well and with the quick low ball toss Hewitt couldn't read the serve. This plus Dreddy had nothing to lose which makes things easier of course when not expected to win. It wasn't all brawn with Brown which made it better and his reaction at the end very respectful considering it was his biggest win. Yes, he lost to Mannarino in the next round but great tournament for him.
As unexpected as Hewitt losing to Brown was and the huge upset of Nadal by Darcis what was to come was even bigger in that context. Defending champion and the man who is always the crowd favourite Roger Federer losing in the 2nd round to Sergiy Stakhovsky. Only delusional people think Federer is anywhere near his peak form, it's just his peak was so high and it says a lot about his ability that even when in decline he is still one of the best players around.
Federer these days has lost a step, normally his ability and aura get him through that. His first round he was toying with Hanescu but Stakhovsky who has been in poor form this year is another one like Brown who has suffered from surface homogenisation.
Stakhovsky played a blinder of match and summed it up perfectly playing Federer that it's not just about the tennis player, it's the legend as well. Serving so well and volleying like Sampras and most importantly he believed he could win the match. Stakhovsky who is very active on Twitter & he doesn't bullshit which is something to be admired. He said there were issues with the ATP and he put his name forward for the Player Council and he has been vocal in getting a better percentage of prizemoney for the early rounds where the lower ranked guys mostly lose therefore representing the interests of his section strongly, but this tends to be overlooked since it's not a good story.
Naturally there are clowns in the press & rabid fangirls & fanboys who thought Stakhovksy disrespected Fed when it was clearly not the case. These people who are gloryhunters or player fans instead of enjoying the sport for what it brings as well as liking their favourite players is one of the worst things when it comes to tennis.
This leads onto the majority of tennis media and commentators reading from the same hymn sheet and not doing any research. There are lower ranked players with weapons who play to their best level and the better player is slightly off they can be beaten. They refuse to give them credit or if they do it's begrudging. It's like these guys have come from another galaxy or maybe the Starship Enterprise. Ivo Karlovic sums it up well Ivo Karlovic
Dustin Brown after his loss to Mannarino adds Q. Yeah, I meant the tennis you're playing against Lleyton Hewitt and the tennis you see around you, guys in the top 100, top 50. Do you see a big difference between their game or your game?
DUSTIN BROWN: Like I just answered, I don't think there is a difference. The only difference is that most of the people don't get to see people play at challengers. The last year when Rosol beat Rafa, everybody was like, Oh, my God, the guy was hitting the ball. We know that. The guy does that every week. He's on the big stage, he does the same thing he does week in, week out at the challengers. Suddenly everybody is like, Oh, my God, look at this guy.
But that's why I said, there's no difference. He plays the same way when he plays a challenger in Uzbekistan, and at this point last year, it was on Centre Court at Wimbledon and he played against Rafa. So now the whole world saw. Everybody was going crazy.
But like I said, it's the same way he plays all the time. It's the same way I play. It's the same way Adrian plays. I'm pretty sure that a lot of the guys, as you can see, there were so many qualifiers that got through. Struff got to the third round and he lost today also. These are guys that week in, week out we're playing against at challengers.
Grass isn't a dangerous surface, yes when it's green and fresh it's slippery but that's to be expected. That's part of the challenges when changing from clay to grass is the very different movements. There were a few retirements and walkovers most of them legit, then we have Michael Llodra. This guy has had more retirements than Ric Flair. He lost the first set to the "South Tyrolean Sex Machine" Andreas Seppi 7-5, then decides to give up. He could't complete the singles, yet he was fit enough for doubles later in the day. It's pretty simple the ITF and ATP need to bring in a rule if a player retires from singles then they can't play doubles on the same day.
Grega Žemlja created history as the first Slovenian man to reach the 3rd round of Wimbledon, this is the second occasion where he has reached the 3rd round of a Slam. Blaž Kavčič achieved it at the Australian Open, he would need two retirements on grass to reach the 3rd round of Wimbledon. Surprisingly it has happened at Roland Garros on the clay where Kavčič and Bedene excel.
Žemlja's win over "Baby Fed", "The Poor Mans Federer" Grigor Dimitrov was an outstanding effort. Dimitrov who is the centre of the spat between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, what can one say he likes chocolate and vanilla. Dimitrov served very well in the match and had numerous break chances which Žemlja saved with a combination of big serving, oustanding defence and aggressive play.
Grega Žemlja sends Dimitrov and Sharapova home
Dimitrov had the fangirls and fanboys on his side. At the moment he is more sizzle than steak, this could easily be turned around. Yes, he has talent, but that only gets you so far and sometimes players have to scrap and fight to get through which improves them as players. It was bad luck that it was suspended at 9-8, it was surprising in a way that Žemlja won it since he isn't known for his fast starts. He had a big second half of 2013, but unless he doesn't win another match this year he should have another solid year after a bad start with illness.
There are some things that are a given in the tennis world. John Isner will serve aces, Rafa Nadal will waste time in between point and Andreas Seppi will play a 5 set match at a Slam and thankfully Wimbledon didn't disappoint in this regard.
After an excellent start to the year for Seppi with his first 4th round showing in Melbourne, he has been below par and during the clay season where he normally plays quite well. In spite of this at Roland Garros he played 2 5 setters which he won. He isn't known as "Slow Start Seppi" for nothing and his win in the last against Kei Nishikori was well deserved.
Nishikori is considered some super talent and gets a lot of hype considering he hasn't achieved anything appropriate to the hype he receives. He is a fast court David Ferrer with better hands at the net, besides his speed around the court and outstanding forehand Nishikori is known for his medical timeouts. He took advantage of sleepy Seppi in the 1st set, then once Seppi started to wake up and move the ball around better with less errors he got into the match.
Too Smooth Andreas Seppi
Seppi plays a poor 3rd set buster making errors when he isn't playing well he has a tendency to smother the forehand as he doesn't get the racquet head speed on the ball. Nishikori starts getting tired and Seppi being his usual solid self. Then at the start of the 5th set Nishikori with his acting skills gets a medical timeout to get a back rub to waste time and break Seppi's momentum. Unsurprisingly Nishikori was moving well enough in the 5th set but Seppi was able to break once and served it out easily, thankfully his concentration wasn't broken with the dodgy timeouts.
Here are the promised stupid journalism from Wimbledon.
Q. A bit more broadly on sport in Australia at the moment. Today here, Woodward said about Australian sport that it seems not to know which direction it's going, the various storms over the last few weeks. Now you're out of Wimbledon. Do you think Australian sport is losing its way?
LLEYTON HEWITT: I'm out of Wimbledon. That's all I've got to say.
Q. But more broadly?
LLEYTON HEWITT: That's all I've got to say.
Q. That was not the most satisfactory way to win in terms of him having to quit. Give us your impression of how it was going to that point. Do you feel you were getting back in the game anyway?
ERNESTS GULBIS: Did you see the match?
Q. Have you ever thought about winning Grand Slam?
ERNESTS GULBIS: Come on.
Q. This year.
ERNESTS GULBIS: I thought about it, yes. (Laughter.)
Q. You have chance?
ERNESTS GULBIS: Who knows?
Q. Anything else you want to say? Anything else you have on your mind? You want to thank somebody?
ERNESTS GULBIS: I want to thank you for couple great questions.
"Q. Would you rather play well and win 4 and 4, or play poorly and win 2 and 2?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Next question, please."
So far Wimbledon has been refreshing in that in the last 16 there are a variety of playing styles, it would be great if Murray or Djokovic didn't make the final but that's a dream. There are all court players like Haas, Youzhny, massive servers Janowicz, de Schepper and Berdych, solid baseliners with power del Potro and Djokovic. Tomic whose funky forehand and junk is perfect for grass and it's harder to expose his movement. Kubot and Melzer represent the serve/volleyers, Ferrer, Verdasco, Dodig, Mannarino and Seppi round out the list.
Excellent for the tournament to see some different names, so some people might realise that there is a world outside the top 4.