2010 Wimbledon Coverage
Day Six Thoughts
- LADIES' SINGLES
- GENTLEMEN'S SINGLES
- LADIES' DOUBLES
- GENTLEMEN'S DOUBLES
- MIXED DOUBLES
Most people in the sports-journalism universe have wanted to talk about the upset that nearly was today at Wimbledon. But I really want to discuss the upset that came to be. While everyone from Greg Garber at ESPN to Diane Pucin at the LA Times and a slew of other writers -- I especially loved the line Jon Wertheim used over at SI: "Like the cliche goes: you can't win a major in week one, you can only lose it. And, ragged as his game has been, he hasn't lost." -- wanted to pile on Rafael Nadal after his second straight five-set survival on Saturday versus Philipp Petzschner, I was more fascinated by the fact that the two-time defending men's doubles champions had just seen their run at the All-England Club expire in just the second round of their bracket.
Something has been up with Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor lately. I can't put my finger on it quite yet, but the play from those two has been abysmal ever since they hit the lawns of Wimbledon. The unheralded British tandem of Jonathan Marray and Jamie Murray nearly knocked them out in a not-quite-Isner-and-Mahut-like five set final that ended with the top seed gaining the break and winning out 15-13. And then this second-round match came along, and the Serbian-Canadian and the Serbian-Serbian still were sputtering. Another British pair awaited, Chris Eaton and Dominic Inglot, stole away the first set 7-5 before the favorites rebounded to match the scoreline in the second set to their favor. With things now at a best-of-three, Eaton and Inglot played things tight to force a tiebreak. From there, they gained the upper hand again with a 7-4 tiebreak win to take the third set.
Nestor and Zimonjic were on the ropes now. Things scrambled to another tiebreak. Would this be the opportunity for Britain to really cheer, as they have failed to do for so long, at Wimbledon? Could the ouster of the top seeds propel this pair to stardom in the Home Countries? Well, we can't say for sure... Nestor and Zimonjic won that fourth set, and things looked bleak. This is the point in a match when championship teams rally. But there they were, looking dangerously like things were going to take an extended course in the fifth set, when -- could it be?! -- Eaton and Inglot earned the break, winning out 8-6 to protract the extra time and end this tournament of horrors for the team we thought were top dogs in the world of men's doubles.
The door now opens for the Bryan brothers to win that elusive second Wimbledon title. They were so close last year when Nestor and Zimonjic wrested it away in that 7-6(7) 6-7(3) 7-6(5) 6-3 final. Now, without the Serbs in their path, the brothers Bryan have a clearer path to that title. It also opens things up for #4 Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi. The team won the 2002 U.S. Open together, they lost the 2003 Wimbledon final in four sets to Todd Woodbridge and Jonas Bjorkman, and Bhupathi is a former Wimbledon doubles winner (with Leander Paes in 1999). But they'll have to watch out, too... if Eaton and Inglot get past #14 Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra, the fourth-best doubles team in the world will be staring down the barrel and hoping to stave off the same fate as Nestor and Zimonjic...
Of course, Nadal did get taken to five sets again, and he was pretty obviously nursing his knees in the match and on the sidelines. But he wasn't the only male struggling at Wimbledon today in the singles draw, in addition to the suffering endured by Nestor and Zimonjic. Xavier Malisse, who knocked off #14 Juan Carlos Ferrero in the first round, almost slayed a second seeded player when he squared off against #18 Sam Querrey in the third round of the men's draw today. The Belgian won the first set 7-4 in the tiebreak before dropping the next two sets to Querrey. Clawing a service break out of the American in the fourth set, Malisse hung in the match to take it to a winner-take-all fifth. They started to go into extra games, all knotted up at seven, when Querrey managed to get the break to win out at 9-7 and end Malisse's dream.
But as I discussed earlier this year in Australian Open coverage, merely making it this far in a tournament can be a boon to a player like Malisse. The Belgian, rapidly approaching 30 in mid-July, has been playing professional tennis for a dozen years. He has earned $3.3 million during that period, which roughly equates to, oh... $275,000 a year. It's not a bad living, by any means... but the payday from a third-round appearance at Wimbledon, with its sliding scale for award money, could mean that makes up as much as 25% of his entire annual earnings. So bravo, Xavier... you couldn't take out the Yankee and earn even more for your account, but you performed admirably in defeat.
We did get to see a couple of upsets, though they pretty much all came from the women's side. Petra Kvitova eliminated #14 Victoria Azarenka in straight sets, 7-5 6-0, a display that saw the Belarussian seemingly evaporate from the match as soon as the first set was lost. And in the first day of juniors play, we saw #1 girls' seed Elina Svitolina -- winner of the French Open junior girls' tournament just a few weeks ago -- pull a Schiavone and drop her opening match to Grace Min of the United States 2-6 7-5 6-3. Min showed resilience under fire, not allowing her dropped first set against a champion deter her from sticking in the match. And that resolve broke down the Ukranian enough so that a couple of breaks here and there gave the girl from Lawrenceville, Georgia the ticket to the second round.
Upsets, after all, come in many forms. It hurts as much whether you're a young lady like Svitolina or a couple of grown men like Nestor and Zimonjic. The threat of an upset can either cause its inevitability or, in champions like Nadal (or Federer earlier in the week), it can cause a surge of potential to rush forth and cause an already-strong game to emerge near-invincible to prevail on the day. We all have our champion's moments... and even the best of us are susceptible to the letdown. That's part of the beauty of sports, especially tennis... it is a raw vision, one side the victor and one side the vanquished, untamed results and a successful resolution no matter how many days it may take to get there...