Wimbledon opens curtain for new stars, rivalries to dominate game
Updated: Monday July 5, 2004 10:34PM
Andy Roddick may have fallen short in the men's final but the graceful manner in which he accepted his loss should have won him plenty of fans.
Odd Andersen/Getty Images
In a nutshell, Wimbledon provided both the men's and women's games with just what they needed. With veterans retiring, the Williams sisters declining and injuries ravaging the fields, the WTA got a new star to enter the cosmos: Maria Sharapova. She's young, she's bilingual, she has a transcendent appeal and, above all, she competes with almost feral intensity. On the men's side, after years of enduring crippling parity and hearing complaints about one-dimensional bangers, the ATP now has an undisputed No. 1 in Roger Federer and a game No. 2 in Andy Roddick, who comes with a contrasting game and style. All in all, a pretty darn good tournament for the sport of tennis.
That Sharapova can bludgeon the ball was no revelation. That she can summon her best tennis down 2-4 in the second set of the Wimbledon final was stunning. Can anyone else recall a fearless Monica Seles taking on the theretofore indomitable Steffi Graf as he watched Sharapova play unflinching tennis against Serena Williams?
Think it's safe to note that the "Russian Revolution" is no longer a case of quantity over quality?
Congrats to the folks at Speedminton for showing a great deal of prescience and signing Sharapova to an endorsement contract. You have to believe her agent might be fielding some additional inquiries between now and the U.S. Open.
Neither Venus nor Serena is the defending champion of a Slam for the first time since 1999.
We knew that Federer had every shot in the book -- and a good many that aren't. But his mental strength was a sign of a real evolution. Whether emerging sharper from the rain delays, playing a superior tiebreaker, or serving a bomb on match point, his unflappable nature complemented his preposterous shot-making.
Federer has set the coaching profession back 50 years.
Todd Woodbridge set a Wimbledon record, teaming with Jonas Bjorkman for his ninth men's doubles title. The defending champs beat Julian Knowle and Nenad Zimonjic in the final.
Woodbridge nearly won the mixed doubles, too. Teamed with Alicia Molik, the two couldn't convert six match points in the finals against Wayne and Cara Black.
Speaking of Cara Black, she teamed with Rennae Stubbs to win the women's title. The pair beat Liezel Huber and Ai Sugiyama in the final.
In the boys' event, France's Gael Monfils (remember the name) won yet another title, beating Miles Kasiri from England in straight sets.
In the girls' tournament, Katerina Bondarenko from the Ukraine defeated Ana Ivanovic from Serbia and Montenegro.
The gracious Americans
Roddick may have come up short in the final, but it's pretty hard to watch how he comports himself and not come away a fan. At a time when the phrase "Ugly American" has never been more in vogue, the U.S. could have a lot worse representatives at international events.
Jon Wertheim will answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag each Monday.
Likewise, the Williams sisters, so often cited for their arrogance, could not have been more gracious in defeat. And consider this missive we got from Sean Kavanaugh of Knaresborough, England: As an American who has been living in England for the most part of the last 25 years, I would like to congratulate the Williams sisters as the best public relations act to come out of America for quite a while. Their interest in England's (short) participation in the European Cup in the run-up to Wimbledon, together with their appreciation of the competition they're vying for has won them many fans in the UK. It's not often these days we can admire sports figures. Well done, mom and dad.
On the other hand, a few of you made this point about Serena, and I don't disagree: It would be nice if she were of bit more politic in her post-match remarks. She beats Amelie Mauresmo 6-4 in the third set of the best women's match of the tournament. She makes 65 percent of her first serves, belts nine aces and zings a welter of winners. Do she really need to lament: "I played terribly. I just had heart ..."?
In answer to at least a dozen questions we received on this: No, we're not ready to give up on Venus.
Roddick notwithstanding, Wimbledon was a pretty disappointing tournament for the American men. With the exception of Paradorn Srichaphan, there is no top player in greater need of a solid Grand Slam than Mardy Fish. Robby Ginepri looked sharp for a few rounds but had few answers against Sebastian Grosjean while Taylor Dent again had no answer for Roddick. On the plus side, James Blake appears to be mended from his spring collision with a netpost and is entered in this week's Campbell's Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, R.I.
And before we leave Wimbledon for this year
Youth was the prevailing storyline by the end of the tournament but age dominated the first week of the women's draw as 47-year-old Martina Navratilova won her first-round match. Navratilova did herself proud on the doubles side, too, reaching the semis alongside Lisa Raymond.
If you don't, at some level, feel for Tim Henman, consult your cardiologist immediately.
If the tennis deities have any sense of fairness, Amelie Mauresmo will win a Slam before her dance is up. (Ditto for Kim Clijsters.)
Anyone else miss the Dutchess of Kent?
In the end, no one really remembers the rain delays. But the sooner that roof gets built, the better.
Anyone else (besides Doyle Srader of Texas) notice that the men's quarterfinalists came from eight different countries?
Patsy's Pizza hound, Justin Gimelstob got jobbed trying to qualify for singles, but his trip to England was still worthwhile. Teaming with Scott Humphries, he reached the quarters in doubles, beating Bob and MikeBryan in the process.
Another Slam, another round of applause in order for Paola Suarez. A month after reaching the semifinals at Roland Garros, she cruised to the quarterfinals on grass. If the WTA gave out "Most Underrated" awards, Suarez would be a runaway winner.
Heading to Wimbledon, Florian Mayer -- a player of such a low profile he lacks a head shot on his atp.com bio -- had won $180,404 for his career. Depending on what day you do the exchange, he won about $110,000 over the last two weeks.
Having suffered through another Henman defeat, Ingo of London asked an intriguing question: Is Henman the Tim Mayotte of his generation? There are quite a lot of similarities between the two -- both are serve-and-volley players, lack a big weapon and are generally considered to be nice guys. Their career best Slam showing is a semifinal (Mayotte once, Henman five times), and Mayotte ended his career with 12 singles titles while Henman has 11.
Lost amid Martina mania: Arantxa Sanchez Vicario stealthily played mixed doubles with Jared Palmer. Alas, they lost in round one.
Andre Agassi withdrew from Wimbledon, has no interest in the Olympics (or Davis Cup), may not play the U.S. Open. But he's scheduled to play ... World Team Tennis this summer? That said, if you get a chance, check out the World Team Tennis site. This is what you get when you cross pro tennis with a county fair.
And now for some non-Wimbleon thoughts
Check out this bit of poetry from the San Francisco Chronicle's Bruce Jenkins: "The thing about tennis is that, much like baseball, it cannot be killed. Its basic nature is much too pure. It's a way to destroy a sworn enemy without a single punch being thrown, or win friendly competition through dance-like elegance or the unseen forces of the mind. There are no places to hide or take solace, no options for timeouts or strategy sessions. At the highest level of tennis, as it relates to the public's interest, a few choice developments can overwhelm months of dreariness."
Russia (women) and Argentina (men) are clearly budding tennis powerhouses. But how about Croatia? Call it the Goran [Ivanisevic] effect, but the tiny Balkan nation has spawned a half dozen quality players, the latest, of course, being Karolina Sprem and Mario Ancic, this year's antidote for Henmania. Quick note about Sprem: We've all had a sophomoric chuckle at the expense of her last name. But enough already.
More Croatia -- lost during a busy tournament -- looks like Iva Majoli is calling it quits. As you may have read in Sportske Novosti, the 1997 French Open champ said, "There may be some exhibition matches or doubles, but my career is over ... I am practically back at the beginning and would have to work like a maniac to get back to the top. I realized I was not ready for that."
And even more Croatia: I've been corresponding with a number of you about Ivanisevic and how much his unfortunate use of the word "faggot," as well as his aggressive rhetoric during the Balkans crisis, detracts from his legacy. How about we leave it at this and then declare a truce: Love him or hate him, there will never be another Goran.
Kirsten Dunst (better known this week as Mary Jane) will be appearing in the forthcoming movie Wimbledon, which, our moles tell us, is not exactly on par with Citizen Kane. Speaking of tennis movies, we also caught this item in the Hollywood Reporter: New Line Cinema has purchased the tennis-themed Baby Got Backhand from screenwriter Colleen McGuinness. The pitch is based on McGuinness' personal experience of playing high school tennis in Long Island and winning the gold medal at the Empire State Games.
A new ATP Player Council, the representative body for ATP player members, was selected by player members at Wimbledon. The new Player Council elected returning member Rainer Schuettler as its president, and Peru's Luis Horna, a new member and the Bahamas' Mark Knowles, a returning member, as vice presidents.
Not to belabor the issue, but several of you sent links to the BBC site's report that umpire Ted Watts was involved in a previous match in which the service line was three feet too close to the net. When players complained, Watts was not accommodating. Check it out here.
As if facing the world's best players isn't enough of a challenge, Jelena Dokic has had to struggle with an increasingly tempestuous relationship with her father.
Ian Walton/Getty Images
If there's one player we ought to all be rooting on, it's Jelena Dokic. That her father is thoroughly repugnant is not, of course, news. But he established a new low last month when he accused her of doping. Dokic is unrecognizable from the player who routinely reached the second week of Majors not long ago; and her remarks last week were chilling. "I don't know what his aim is," she said. "If he's trying to -- sorry for the language -- screw me up, I think that's pretty sad, in a way, but I don't know. ... In an ideal world, everybody would like to have a family that's all together, and whether it's a brother or a sister, have a normal relationship. ... I think this is asking for too much in my situation ... I don't talk to him and I have nothing to do with him anymore. ... I cannot get much lower than what I am at the moment. We will see what happens, whether I go down or not. It's not easy to deal with these things, but I have to find a way."
Dreaming of Athens
A lot of you wrote in griping about Zina Garrison's picks for the Olympic team. Until we hear otherwise, we'll take everyone at their word and assume that Lindsay Davenport really begged off voluntarily. As far as taking Chanda Rubin over healthier colleagues, we can't take issue. At one point the only top 10 player without a clothing deal, Rubin always seems to get overlooked because she simply goes about her business without making waves or self-promotion. Consider her Olympic selection a function of accrued good will. Incidentally, Lori McNeil was named assistant coach.
Anyone else having a hard time getting jazzed about Olympic tennis? The Games start weeks after one Slam (Wimbledon) and days before another (the U.S. Open). Much as we like to see tennis accorded a global stage, let's leave the Games to the athletes who will never again have this kind of platform.
U.S. National Wheelchair Team Coach Dan James announced the U.S. Paralympic tennis team that will compete in the 2004 Paralympic Games, September 19-26 in Athens. The United States' top wheelchair athletes will face off against the world's greatest players representing 33 countries from around the globe. The team will consist of 11 players: four men, four women and three quad. The men's team consists of: John Greer of Kaneohe, Hawaii; Larry Quintero of San Antonio; Jon Rydberg of Oakdale, Minn.; Steve Welch of Arlington, Texas. The women's team consists of: Sharon Clark of San Jose, Calif.; Karin Korb of Atlanta; Julia Dorsett of Boca Raton, Fla.; Kaitlyn Verfuerth of Port Washington, Wis. The quad team consists of: David Wagner of Oro Valley, Ariz.; Nick Taylor of Wichita, Kans.; Kevin Whalen of Birmingham, Ala.
Everyone's a critic
Memo to Dick Ebersol, head of NBC Sports, we must have received 20 variations of this letter:
I'm a huge tennis fan and when matches are shown on TV, I record as many as I can. I'm pleading with you to show and broadcast as many LIVE matches as you can, and stop re-airing Serena's matches. Tomorrow in the men's quarterfinals (It's going to be an exciting day with outstanding matches) there are two matches that I would love to see LIVE and in their ENTIRETY: Lleyton Hewitt-Roger Federer and Andy Roddick-Sjeng Schalken. With NBC taking over ESPN's coverage for a few hours, viewers are not getting complete and live coverage. We get parts and pieces of matches. But at least I'm lucky to live on the East Coast. I know people that live on the West Coast, and they have told me that their coverage is horrible. Please give the entire country live coverage and show entire matches.
Thank you, Melissa, Florida
That said, love the Tornado Cam.
After a stellar first week, ESPN reverted to some shaky coverage choices. But a little birdie explained to us that the network was hamstrung by NBC, whose choices of coverage took precedence. In other words, when NBC demanded to air Davenport-Sharapova on tape-delay Thursday, ESPN was not allowed to show the match live.
This is deadest of horses but we'll beat it anyway. There's this newfound contraption called the "Internet" or, if you will, "the information superhighway." It really has a chilling effect on tape-delayed sports broadcasts. If you're enough of a tennis fan to tune into television coverage at 10 a.m. on a weekday, the odds are good you've already consulted the real-time results.
Andy Roddick, off the cuff
The high-brow, low-brow Andy Roddick was in full effect at a Wimbledon news conference:
Question: In talking to some of the people camped out waiting for tickets and hanging out, they said that a few years ago you came over to try to get a feel for the atmosphere, and that you actually got in someone's tent. Do you remember that?
Roddick: Yeah. I think it was at night when people were queuing. I just kind of wanted to do the whole atmosphere of it. They were a lot more intoxicated than I expected. I guess that made it easier to fit in. But I think, you know, I always try to experience something of a tournament. That was my first year, and I could go somewhat unrecognized, you know, by the random person. People had their little barbecues. It was cool. It was a good experience.
Question: Did you watch Serena's match with Jennifer Capriati, and were you surprised at that result?
Roddick: No. I was in the bathroom. I came out and it was done.
Nutmeggers take note: Sharapova will be appearing at a street clinic in downtown New Haven, Conn., on Tuesday afternoon. She's doing advance work for the Pilot Pen event the week prior to the Open.
Honk if you enjoy watching Sebastien Grosjean's creative, versatile game. And do you wonder why his record is pocked with so many uninspired losses?
Make no mistake that whenever Lindsay Davenport pulls the plug on her career, it will be a devastating blow to the Tour. She may not have a modeling contract or lard up her players' box with celebrities, but she does as much as any player to give credibility to women's tennis. Apart from playing consistently top-shelf tennis, Davenport was the player the WTA could turn to when it needed someone to meet with sponsors, pose for the photo-op or participate in a conference call to drum up publicity for a tournament. We can talk about players filling the Anna Kournikova void or picking up the slack when the Williams sisters drift in and out. But when Davenport leaves, there will be a real vacuum in the "professionalism" department.
On a completely unrelated note, there have recently been murmurs from the Justine Henin-Hardenne camp that she will be paring her schedule for next year.
Three Slams are in the book as we grasp for a silver lining, here's what we can come up with: You will not be subjected to that relentlessly annoying Pepto Bismol commercial every commercial break. Plus Roddick will probably shave between now and the Open.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim covers tennis for the magazine and is a regular contributor to SI.com.