Rough Start Ends Well at SW19

By Jane Voigt

June 23, 2014 — For all the majesty that is The Championships Wimbledon, today’s start was less than ideal.

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The feeds from ESPN flaked out, pixelating and going blank for much of the first hour-and-a-half of play. As a result the reception on DirectTV’s Wimbledon channels, which uses the gigantic sports’ channel feed, blinked on and off as well. Online at ESPN3, the same. When the broadcasts went live, they weren’t really live because points had been accumulated. Everything was out of sync. 

Additionally Wimbledon’s web site didn’t list all court scores until you reloaded the page or figured out you had to click “2” at the bottom of the page to see additional scores. Thus … fans couldn’t keep track of scores unless they opened another site, which plenty of people did. 

ESPN’s talking heads, namely Brad Gilbert, Patrick McEnroe, and Chrissie Evert, came in as sharp as a tack — visual and audio. In fact when people tried to select another channel, which inevitably was whacky, there sat Chris, Brad and Patrick instead. An ESPN television miracle. They chatted up a storm as match points mounted unbeknownst to a majority of fans. (Ms. Evert was shocked that Yanina Wickmayer thumped Samantha Stosur — 63 64 — although the Aussie broke off her relationship with Coach Miles Maclagan a couple days ago and just wasn’t at her best mentally.)

Stephens v Svitolina AO GE-8

While all this stumbled along, or not depending on your vantage point, Sloane Stephens (right, photo credit tennisclix.com) drained the life out of American fans with her insipid on-court attitude and sub-par tennis. 

The American No. 18 seed couldn’t find the court, certainly appeared that she didn’t care if she found the court, lost the first set in 35 minutes, went up in the second set tiebreak, lost the edge, and landed flat on her face, 62 76(6). 

Stephens has worked her way to the second week of the last six Grand Slams. So today was a milestone of sorts. She was 25-0 against players ranked below her at slams, too, until today. After Wimbledon closes its gates, she could find herself outside the top 20 for the first time in months.

Maria Kirilenko, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist from 2010 and on the mend from injuries, spoiled Sloane’s day. But Sloane was on a collision course with this crash. She does not have ten years, as she said at Family Circle Cup, to come up with the history-making tennis goods. Saturday, 19-year-old American Madison Keys won her first WTA career title in Eastbourne while Sloane has zero titles. Keys believes time is short. So do her contemporaries, which are Sloane’s as well.  

As the day progressed, though, news brightened right along with electronic connections. 

Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams defeated a tricky Maria-Teressa Torro-Flor, 64 46 62. Media Director of the WTA Kevin Fischer tweeted, “In Open Era only 3 women have more Wimbledon match wins than Venus Williams: Martina Navratilova 120, Chris Evert 96, Steffi Graf 74, and Venus 72.”

Victoria Azarenka (No. 8) beat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, 63 75, after five months of rehabilitation on a sore foot. 

“Sir” Andy Murray opened the men’s draw to overwhelming audience cheers as he took to Centre Court — his court now — to defeat David Goffin 61 64 75. Novak Djokovic (No. 1) was all over Andrey Golubev, 60 61 64, in the Serbian’s debut. With no grass tournament prep, Djokovic made a loud statement of his intentions for the fortnight. 

And, finally, CoCo Vandeweghe took on Garbine Muguruza (No. 27) in the American's first match after winning her first career title in the Netherlands Saturday. Vandeweghe’s 48-hour turn-around made her victory a bit sweeter, too, in addition to the fact that Muguruza rose to prominence in Paris when she defeated Serena Williams and then went on to the quarterfinals. 

Fittingly, the day ended as rain sent groundsmen scrambling to cover the courts. At least The Championships Wimbledon are not responsible for the U.K.’s weather. 

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013