Familiar names still alive to chase Wimbledon title
Posted: Thursday July 6, 2006 3:04PM; Updated: Thursday July 6, 2006 5:13PM
Wimbledon is heading down the backstretch with familiar names leading the way.
Roger Federer won his record 46th consecutive grass match with a routine 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Mario Ancic, who, in 2002, was the last player to beat Federer on grass -- and at Wimbledon. Federer has waltzed through the field without losing a set, dispelling the notion he had a difficult draw. In theory, it should have been. However, Federer's reality is far different than anyone else's. He has already beat Frenchman Richard Gasquet, Wimbledon legend Tim Henman, Thomas Berdych, who beat him at the 2004 Olympics, and Ancic. These are four players who have had success against Federer in the past few years, but none of them came close to challenging him, which only speaks to his current dominance. Next up for Federer will be 34-year-old Swede Jonas Bjorkman, who has played well in recent weeks, reaching the finals of Nottingham before heading to the All England Club. He is the oldest Wimbledon semifinalist since Jimmy Connors in 1987.
Marcos Baghdatis has come out of hibernation for another Grand Slam and reached the semifinals, where he will meet Rafael Nadal. Baghdatis upset a resurgent Lleyton Hewitt, who had won the major Wimbledon warmup event at Queen's Club. Prior to this month, Baghdatis hadn't won a tour-level grass-court match and trailed a British wild card, Alan Mackin, two sets to one and a break in the first round. I am sure he has Cyprus in hysterics, as he did earlier in the year during his improbable run to the Australian Open final.
Nadal has defied skeptics by adapting to grass quickly and has shown an incredible ability to make the necessary adjustments for success. He has played inside the court more, been more aggressive with his serve and backhand and showed a willingness to move forward with a proficiency at the net. He has a never-ending reserve of energy and intensity. It would be great for the sport for Nadal to advance to the final and play Federer -- and I think he will. Federer will savor the opportunity to display his dominance at Wimbledon once again and quiet the murmurs that Nadal is his equal.
The women's draw has been predictable, aside from defending champion Venus Williams' early departure. Each of the top four seeds advanced to the semifinals, and the most excitement was generated by a male streaker during the quarterfinal match between Maria Sharapova and Elena Dementieva. The event further demonstratedSharapova's unwavering concentration; she barely acknowledged the incident and continued her march through the draw before falling to top seed Amelie Mauresmo in a three-set semifinal. In the other half of the draw, a rematch of the Belgian French Open semifinal matched Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne. Henin-Hardenne continued to have her compatriot's number, winning in straight sets 6-4, 7-6 (4).
Martina Navratilova announced she is retiring after this year. My first reaction was, why? She is only 50, an amazing athlete and a physical specimen. I lost to her in the second round of the mixed doubles last week, and she was incredible. She volleys better than most men on the tour and should be celebrated for everything she has contributed to tennis and women's sports.
Sticking with doubles, Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor defeated Todd Perry and Simon Aspelin 5-7, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 23-21 over two days in a six-hour, nine-minute match, marking the longest match in Wimbledon history, singles or doubles. Well done, boys.