Fifty thoughts from Wimbledon (cont.)
Had a cup of coffee with Eddie Seaward the longtime head groundskeeper, who will retire next year. He said that even before London was granted the 2012 Olympics, he did a dry run to see if the grass courts could, in effect, be regrown in the course of a few weeks. (There will be 18 days between next year's Championships and the London Olympics.) The occasion was the filming of the movie "Wimbledon," which occurred shortly after the 2003 Championships. He tried a dry run again in 2010. Both times: success.
Speaking of Wimbledon and the Olympics, it will be interesting to see who wins the culture war between the All-England Club and the USOC. How much will Wimbledon change? Sponsors placards on Centre Court? Strawberries and cream? Stay tuned.
Early in the tournament, a well-regarded former pro ranked the ATP's "Next Generation" thusly: Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Roanic, Ryan Harrison, Bernard Tomic. I suspect that might change if he had to do it again today, seeing Tomic storm to the quarters. (From consistently witty reader, Stewbop: "After this event we need to upgrade him from B.Tomic" to "A.Tomic.") There's still work to be done -- especially on his movement -- but what a tournament.
If no one has done so already, someone ought to option Judy Murray's life rights. Ambitious Scottish divorcee with a jones for tennis, frustrated by the local federation, becomes a one-woman association, organizing tournaments and shuttling kids across the Highlands in a van. Ends up the mother of two pros -- one of them a top-five player --and both kids remain well-adjusted, good blokes. Having said that, her tweeting about "Deliciano" Lopez was not only icky -- "I think it's about time she stopped that nonsense," said Andy. "Makes me want to throw up. It's disgusting." -- but it made no sense. You feel like saying, "Lady, your son is under an unholy amount of pressure, as it is. Why inflame things by writing suggestively about a future opponent?"
Interesting to see Gavin Hopper on the grounds, coaching Jarmila Gajdosova.
Alex Bogomolov won £ 20,125 when he got to the second round. If my currency conversion is right, that comes out to about $5 million. (At least it seems that way. Truly, it's about $33,000.) Unfortunately he gave about 10 percent back in fines for this.
Pity Caroline Wozniacki. It cannot be fun being perceived as a shaky No. 1. And the bright red color of her face in the hours after her mid-tournament defeat, strongly suggests that she is not as dispassionate about her losses as it might otherwise seem. It's hard not to hope that she somehow wins a Major, validates her ranking and shuts everyone up. Short of that, you just hope that the skepticism and unpleasantness doesn't get to her and change her pleasant personality.
Want to beat the rush and get an early start following a controversy? One that's already causing great hand-wringing at USTA HQ? Consider: what will become of Serena's bid to play in the Olympics. Under ITF rules, players need to avail themselves to two international competitions in two years in order to be eligible. In Serena's case, the definition of "make yourself available" is open to debate. She volunteered for duty in 2009 but then begged off citing fatigue -- and, as Pat McEnroe has publically complained, promoted her book instead. Depending on definition, she's volunteered since, but has not played. Even if she enlists in early 2012 --a big if -- the U.S. was relegated to the bush leagues and you'd be right to wonder if Serena is truly going to travel to Turkmenistan or wherever -- you might make a case that it's too late for her to be eligible.
Yet there are considerable pressures militating in favor of her playing. There are network pressures. (Think NBC would prefer for her to be there?) There are USOC pressures. As ever, there are the swirling themes or race and class. Love her or hate her, Serena is a tennis A-lister and the best American hope for gold. Do you really cite a technicality in the rulebook to prevent a 13-time Grand Slam champion and former gold medalist from representing her country? (Is it even fair that the ITF can use this cudgel, forcing stars players to participate in the irrelevance that is Fed Cup as a condition for the Olympics?) Presumably, both the USA and ITF are going to need Serena's cooperation for decades to come-everything from public appearances to sponsor dinners to urban tennis initiatives to court-naming ceremonies. Can they afford to alienate her?
On the other hand, in many corners, patience has worn thin. Imagine the message it sends when Serena appears to flout the rules and then an exception is made. How do you tell Melanie Oudin or Bethanie Mattek Sands or Liezel Huber that they are not eligible, when they've dutifully fulfilled the requirements and Serena has not? There are many in White Plains that are saying, "enough is enough." Don't envy the USTA here. Don't envy Mary Joe Fernandez here. Don't envy the ITF. But, voyeuristically, it should make for fascinating theater.
Note to NetJets: if you insist on airing the spot of Roger Federer lugging his trophies -- which fails , by the way, in trying to convey the player's modesty; if he's truly humble he's standing on line next to Delbert from Texarkana waiting to board Southwest -- it probably shouldn't occur in the first commercial segment following his defeats.
Chris Evert, the new kid in the ESPN stable, got a mixed reaction from you guys. I still say give me her commentary and opinions over milquetoast remarks and "Kim Clijsters is a mom."
Pornvit Sila-On of Bangkok, Thailand raises a good point: "Jon, how about giving plaudits to Tammy Tanasugarn who becomes the first Thai person to reach a Wimbledon semi-final (in the women's doubles) while competing in her 16th Wimbledon. She is a player who demonstrates how perseverance, professionalism, and a right attitude towards the game can ultimately help you succeed."
Now that he's beaten Nicolas Mahut in a humdrum three-setter, John Isner can, hopefully, get on with his life. Who else wonders if that 70-68 epic wasn't a disguised curse? Great, he got some notoriety, got to do a Letterman Top Ten list and got a plaque outside Court 18. But both physically and mentally, I think that match has changed the course of his career.
Thanks to John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, the standards for a long match have officially gone haywire. To wit: Aisam Qureshi and Rohan Bopanna --the Indopak Express -- lost their first round match 21-19. Scarcely rated a mention.
Dominika Cibulkova stands 5-3 but is seldom overpowered. Perhaps we should consider her the new Justine Henin, the player on whom undersized girls ought to pattern their games?
One of my more depressing experiences: sitting at Court 18 watching Ana Ivanovic lose to 81st-ranked Petra Cetvoska. "What the [heck] happened to her?" a friend asked. I didn't know how to respond. Her shots were not penetrating. She didn't seem to have much strategy apart from hanging back and banging away. Her nerves betrayed her in a tiebreaker. She just doesn't have it. All players go through slumps. But we're going on three years now of dismal results from a player who achieved the top ranking and looked like a multi-Slam winner. Will she ever get it back?
Ivanovic goes through coaches the way Rafael Nadal goes through medical tape. The latest aide de camp is Nigel Sears, who is quitting the LTA to try and resurrect Ivanovic's career. (I wonder how Sears feels when he's identified by the British papers as "Andy Murray's prospective father-in-law." Sears' daughter, Kim is Murray's girlfriend.)
The range of talent and personality amid the BBC broadcasting team is vast. A personal favorite: Boris Becker. It's like a combination of Mike Myers' Dieter from Sprockets and Rainer Wolfcastle from The Simpsons. When Nadal changed shirts in the semis, Boris remarked: "Da VANS Vant to see his TOHHHR-soooo!" Anyway, the Beeb is apparently reducing the role of the warm, articulate, knowledgeable Sue Barker. This is truly mystifying.
The success of Lisicki notwithstanding, it was a disappointing tournament for the German players, a legion with games tailored to grass. No one thought it was going to be late 80s again, with Becker and Graf winning titles. But, ach! Phil Kohlscreiber won the Halle tune-up but was bounced in round one. Andrea Petkovic and Julia Goerges failed to survive the first week.
The Daily Telegraph had a coded Andy Murray progresses report with notations for "hot dog shots," "swearing a lot/bottling it" and "Looks like Kevin the teenager."
Kimiko Date-Krumm, you have created a monster: Thomas Muster and Omar Camporese, both north of 40, are playing an event in Italy this week.
Marion Bartoli didn't just defeat Serena in the fourth round. She BEAT her, with superior aggression and fearlessness that's not always in evidence. In the first week, a lot was made of her unceremoniously ordering her father to leave the stands midmatch. But if you wonder about the relationship, check this out (thanks to Aaron of Charleston for the tip) at around the 5:45 mark.
I'm going to sound old and grumpy here. But could a razor company come on board and sponsor the ATP? We're not even asking for cash here. Just some free product. With the exception of the clean-shaven Federer, most players tend to look like they've spent the last week hiking in the Smokies. Some players (of Spanish extraction) can pull it off. Others, not so much. Never mind Andy Murray and what the papers repeatedly called his unflattering "bum fluff," Brit-speak for "peach buzz, I learned. Check this out.
Dear ITF: You're asking players (In this case Nadal) to play deep into Wimbledon, go through the media rigmarole, attend the dinner that spills over into Monday, then get on a plane to play in the Davis Cup in Austin, Texas on Friday? Shockingly, he declines. Paging: a tennis commissioner.
Good to see Rory McIlroy come out to Wimbledon. What a nice guy. But dang is he small. As Hugh MacDonald, sportswriter for the Glasgow Herald, put it: "He's listed at 5'9? Right. Maybe if he's standing on his wallet."
Several of you are agitating for more grasscourt events. (Our reply: sure, but there are a finite number of grasscourt facilities that can accommodate pro tournaments.) Tzvetana Pironkova would agree with you. Check out these results.
And speaking of Pironkova, she not only knocked out Venus two straight years by the IDENTICAL score; for the second straight year she defeated the previous year's runner-up.
Look for a professional organization of tennis coaches -- not a union, but a collective nonetheless -- to form by the U.S. Open. This could be an administrative hassle. Or it could be significant. Stay tuned.
It hardly went noticed, but French Open doubles champs Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi lost in round two to Julian Knowle and Kevin Anderson. Why? Mostly, because Anderson won the last 27 (!) points on his serve. Think about that. It's almost seven straight love games.
For a major personnel move, the de facto resignation of ATP CEO Adam Helfant got remarkably little attention. Two names I've heard as possible successors: internal candidate Brad Drewett and -- wait for it -- Richard Krajicek. If Larry Scott ever wearied of trips to Pullman, Washington, I'd throw his name in there, too.
You know who was surely happy about Andy Murray's defeat? The promoters handling the heavyweight fight between Wladimir Klitschko and Britain's David Haye. Expected to make its money largely through British pay-per-view buys, the fight was held Saturday night in Hamburg and would have been significantly overshadowed, had Murray been in the final the following day.
Apologize now to Fabio Fognini. The severity of his French Open injury was called into question. It had to be pretty bad when he didn't even bother entering Wimbledon!
Thanks to those who asked. Here's the All-Iowa Club feature we put together for the Tennis Channel.
We eagerly look forward to the continued progress of Laura Robson, another lefty by the way. Here she is on @laurarobson5 last week: "Apparently Beyonce is rocking up at Wimby. Let me know if this is confirmed so I can get my stalk on #notweirdIswear." That, friends, is a solid tweet. In140 characters, she conveyed more personality than others will project in an entire year.
One last "Oh, my" to Dick Enberg, who worked his final Wimbledon.
A final tip of the cap to Bryan Graham, the unsung hero behind SI.com's tennis coverage. He worked harder than Nadal and Kvitova combined these past two weeks.
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