By Jane Voigt
Serena Williams couldn’t get herself together before or after rain shut down play against Alize Cornet. Meanwhile out on court something-or-other, away from the big names, et al, Nick Kyrgios and Jiri Vesely were deep into it before the pitter-patter sent them scurrying to the locker room.
Some 40+ players joined the rain-dismissed for the next four+ hours. Only marquee matches on Centre Court, with its lovely roof made from 100% recycled materials, entertained ticket holders of those expensive seats.
That was the dull part of the day.
Rafael Nadal lost his first set against Mikhail Kukushkin, then whaled on the man to win 67(4) 61 61 61. Next … Maria Sharapova rolled American Alison Riske 63 60, shrieking women in a closed court not at all what the Brits fancied. Finally Roger Federer dazzled with a 3-set thumping of Santiago Giraldo, 63 61 63. The 7-time champion has not dropped a set all week.
Then the good part of the day began, as action pumped up the house of Wimbledon post cloud cover.
‘Nine Lives Nick,’ as the Australian press has nicknamed their own Nick Kyrgios, defeated his contemporary Jiri Vesely, 36 63 75 62. The 19-year-old wildcard thrilled a small crowd while sending the Aussie fan contingency into hysterics, as he served bullets, smothered forehands, and muttered to himself through to the win and a date with Rafael Nadal on Monday. Kyrgios will pocket £117,000 for his efforts to date, his biggest cash intake at a tournament.
The patriotic fan base had commentators a bit riled, as they pumped up their favorite player. “Patriotic fanatics following their man home and away,” muttered one. But it helped the young Australian concentrate, move with a hop from point to point, plus serve lights out and smack stinging forehands. This combination is what Nadal will have to prepare for.
Kyrgios is a big guy with a lot of talent and firepower, especially on the forehand and serve,” Joe Nardini, Jr., contributing guest correspondent, wrote in an email to DownTheTee. “Guys like that give Rafa a lot of trouble, especially on grass. If Nick doesn’t psych himself up too badly, he could be trouble for Nadal.
Kyrgios showed quite clearly in his 5-set win over Richard Gasquet that heart helps in the end, as he advanced to this round after coming back from two sets and nine match points. That, plus aces. He tops the ace leader board, so far, with 76. Second on that list, Milos Raonic with 73.
Serena Williams did not play with heart today, or enough energy and bonafide technique to edge a woman who has become one of her biggest opponents: Alize Cornet. The Frenchwoman and No. 25 seed became only the second woman to defeat Serena in back-to-back tournaments since Nadia Petrova in 2009-2010. The scoreline was 16 63 64.
“I tried; it didn’t work out,” a downtrodden Serena told the press.
The natural pick to win her 18th career Major seemed flatfooted, uninterested, and at the same time on the verge of tears.
Her press conference was a dismal litany of stream-of-consciousness, “I thought I was swinging freely… I don’t think I can put my feelings in context … I worked well coming in to event … Gotta keep going … I served well the first two matches, but today my first percentage was down … I worked hard on my serve … I don’t know what happened today.”
Obviously confused and stung from the loss, her performance at Majors this year adds up to one of her worse on record: Australian Open – out in R16. French Open – out in R2. Wimbledon – out in third. The last time she’d lost in the third round of a slam was at Roland Garros in 2008.
Last year Serena lost in the fourth round at The Championships, then went on to win the U. S. Open. Maybe that’s what we should keep in mind when she says, “I’ll have to work harder.”
But for now, what Serena needs is a good dose of sister Venus, which Serena will get in women’s doubles. Seeded No. 8, they play Monday.