By Jane Voigt
Tomorrow is one of the biggest days in tennis … the round of 16 at Wimbledon. Sixteen men and sixteen woman have earned the privilege to play on Monday. However, the saying that the tournament begins in the second week has more meaning this year, given the quirky nature of this Championships.
Bits and Pieces from week one: Wimbledon, 2013
Monday, June 24, Day One – Sara Errani became the first seed casualty, going down to Monica Puig of Puerto Rico, 62 62. The 20-year-old was playing in only her second Major of her young career. Errani, seeded No. 5, foreshadowed the afternoon’s collapse of two-time champion, Rafael Nadal, also seeded No. 5, to Steve Darcis. Nadal had never lost in the first round of a Major in 35 appearances.
Mike Dickson, The Daily Mail tennis correspondent, tweeted that Nadal’s press conference was ‘dignified’ and that he ‘played down fears that it’s going to be another long lay off like last year.’
The first Monday was a slippery one, too. Victoria Azarenka screamed louder than anyone had ever heard from the No. 2 seed as she hit the grass. Her unrestrained cry was probably more from shock and fear, than injury, as a magnetic resonance image revealed later that no soft-tissue tears or broken bones were an issue. However, she would drop out of the tournament on Wednesday, before her next round.
ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe commented on Azarenka’s fall. “Fear is a huge factor. It comes into your reaction right away.”
Roger Federer bageled Victor Hanescu in one of only three sets needed to clinch his first match of the tournament. With Nadal out, the media-hyped quarterfinal between the Spaniard and Federer had vanished. Federer, after losing on Wednesday, told the press they were irresponsible for promoting that possible match.
Federer was off and looked good against the Romanian. The No. 3 seed committed six unforced errors in his 55th consecutive Major on his 10-year anniversary of winning his first Wimbledon title.
Tuesday, June 25, Day Two — Serena Williams took to Centre Court, her record at Wimbledon, 67-8. It ranks fifth for most match wins at The All England Club following Martina Navratilova (120), Chrissy Evert (96), Steffi Graf (74), and Venus Williams (71).
The oldest woman in the draw at 42, Kimiko Date-Krumm, showed 18-year-old Carina Wittoeft how it’s done in her first match. Date-Krumm thumped the qualifier 60 62. In 1995, KDK was ranked No. 4, the year Wittoeft was born. On Saturday, Serena defeated Date-Krumm by the same score, 62 60. What comes around, goes around.
Laura Robson continued the carnage of seeds. She defeated Maria Kirilenko, seeded 10th. The English press projected Robson as the next best thing aside from the up-coming birth of the Duchess of Cambridge’s. Robson would win. Robson would crush the competition. Little did we know she would persevere to the second week.
Wednesday, June 26, Day Three — Whacky Wednesday will be etched in the history books. Within an hour, Azarenka, John Isner, Steve Darcis and Radek Stepanek, had withdrawn or retired from matches. Later, Marin Cilic pulled out with a knee problem and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga retired against Ernests Gulbis up two sets, and Yaroslava Shvedova withdrew. Then Maria Sharapova lost to a qualifier, having fell four times during the match. But Roger Federer’s loss to Sergiy Stakhovsky sealed this day’s mysterious makeup. The ‘dream quarterfinal’ Federer ridiculed the media about was washed up, for sure. The Swiss Maestro’s 36-consecutive quarterfinal appearances at Majors had ended.
Federer’s press conference was characterized by one journalist as ‘consoling’ in that he consoled them. However, he did slide in a slightly leading comment. “If I’m the Newport tournament director I’m on the phone with a wild card.” The Newport tournament begins the day after Wimbledon.
With Federer and Nadal gone, the bottom half of the draw was no longer loaded. In fact, the two players that had carried the sport for a decade were not to be seen around the grounds. A sense loomed that an era could be coming to an end.
“According to the International Tennis Federation,” reported The New York Times, “the seven retirements and walkovers in singles were believed to be the most on the same day at a Grand Slam event in the Open Era.”
As players continued to struggle with the slippery grass, the tournament said nothing. A couple of the British broadcast journalists suggested that the wet spring and sudden summer were at cause.
Later, though, a statement was issued by Richard Lewis, chief executive of the All England Club.
The court preparation has been to exactly the same meticulous standard as in previous years, and it is well known that grass surfaces tend to be more lush at the start of an event. The factual evidence, which is independently checked, is that the courts are almost identical to last year, as dry and firm as they should be, and we expect them to continue to play to their usual high quality. (The New York Times)
John McEnroe put the day in his perspective, saying, “Craziest day I’ve ever seen at Wimbledon with these injuries. It’s incredible.”
Friday, June 28, Day Five — Laura Robson thrilled her country with another win, although she said her timing was ‘a bit off.’ Stakhovsky, the man who sent Federer on his way, lost to lefty Jurgen Melzer. Dustin Brown, who defeated Wimbledon champion, Lleyton Hewitt, also lost. But, Grega Zemlja became the first Slovenian to advance to the third round at Wimbledon. He had defeated the heavy favorite, Grigor Dimitrov, seeded No. 29, over five sets and two days.
And for the first time since 1911, no American man had made the third round at Wimbledon. In the Nadal/Federer quarter of the draw 7 of 8 seeds were gone. Andy Murray’s chances of a run to the semifinal increased by the minute, as did Laura Robson’s. She had won again, showing an inspiring capability to come from behind in the most stressful of places.
Andreas Seppi, came up with a 5-set win over Kei Nishikori, too. The Italian and 23rd seed has a perfect 5-set record for the year.
Saturday, June 29, Day Six — Madison Keys fought her hardest in a loss to Agnieszka Radwanska over three sets. In her first-ever Wimbledon main draw, the powerful 18-year-old American demonstrated abilities beyond her age at a high-profile tournament. She served huge, stayed with Radwanska during her slice-and-dice tactics, and slugged 67 winner to only 51 unforced errors while Radwanska hit 23 winners and 10 unforced errors.