Wimbledon: 21 Reflections of the Fortnight


July 5, 2011

1) Let's get right down to it. Most tennis fans harbor a bit of resentment towards NBC regarding their questionable decision to air big-name matches at Wimbledon on tape delay vs. live. Most notably, the semifinal between Maria Sharapova and Sabine Lisicki. Imagine if game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals were to be aired on tape delay. Hockey fans from across North America would be outraged. Whatever logic NBC lacked in its scheduling of live matches at Wimbledon will not be such a problem in the future. It was recently reported that after a 43 years, NBC will be backing out of its Wimbledon TV coverage, and handing over the reins to ESPN. After signing a 12-year agreement with the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, ESPN will have exclusive U.S. television rights for Wimbledon's live tennis action, starting next year. 

2) John Isner and Nicolas Mahut (a.k.a., “Isnut”) will forever be linked together as the two who played the longest match in Wimbledon history. The peculiarity of having the two meet again this year in the first round, combined with the "can it happen again" fever made it all a bit anti-climactic when they played a ho-hum, three-set match that didn't even come close to last year's record of 11 hours and 5 minutes over three days. But Isner and Mahut, who are likely still recovering from their match from a year ago, are probably content to let the original record stand. It would have been nice to see Mahut defeat Isner this time around, just to even the score. Maybe next year, on Court 18.

Can you say upsets? The middle Monday (or "Manic Monday" as it was appropriately named)  produced a flurry of fourth round upsets on the women's side that would make anyone dizzy. Venus Williams lost to Tsvetana Pironkova for a second straight year. The No. 1 seed and Slam-less superstar, Caroline Wozniacki lost to Dominika Cibulkova. Not such a shocking upset, given that Wozniacki hasn't been able to advance beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon in previous attempts, but expectations were understandably high. Next on the exit list was Serena Williams. The defending champion and most talked about player heading into Wimbledon was shut down by Marion Bartoli. This wasn't really an upset in the true sense, given that Serena had been out of competition for 49 weeks with an injury and health issues. But with all of the hype surrounding Serena's comeback, there were a lot of eyes on her progress. Serena's inability to defend her title at Wimbledon has pushed her outside of the top 100 -- No. 175 to be exact. She's now in wildcard territory.

4) Speaking of Serena, the former No. 1 and tennis diva typically has something interesting to say in her press conferences. This one from her third round presser was particularly priceless: "Then Venus looked at me and she said I'll never forget. What did she say? She said I pissed someone off. I don't remember what she said now." I guess we all have flaky moments like that one.

5) Jo Wilfried Tsonga. Hard to forget this guy after he beat Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. He was also the ace leader for the tournament (108), as well as the double fault leader (27). He's also the guy who likes to dive for tennis balls. "This is the only surface you can really dive [on], because on the others, if you dive you go directly to the hospital. So this is good," said Tsonga, regarding Wimbledon. He's knocking on the door of the top 10, climbing to No. 14 after his semifinal run.

6) The return of Chris Evert to tennis commentating. How’d she do? It's probably very hard for a former player to be completely objective when commentating on a match, but I give her high marks for being forthright without being know-it-all-ish. And with 18 Grand Slams under her belt, Evert's ESPN colleagues could learn a few things from her. Rumor has it that she has joined Twitter: @ChrissieEvert.

7) Caroline Wozniacki crashed Novak Djokovic’s pre-Wimbledon press conference. I’m not completely sure, but Caroline is either poking fun at the media, or she is considering a new career in tennis journalism. Stick to playing tennis, Caroline--better hours, and a MUCH higher income.

8) Twitter is a useful source of information (and occasionally fun), but Judy Murray (mother of Andy and Jamie) may have crossed a delicate parental line, giving Feliciano Lopez the nickname, Deliciano. Some may say it's all in good fun, but try picturing your own mother doing that sort of thing. You'd be looking for a big rock to crawl under, too. 

9) Bethanie Mattek-Sands. She is an original who isn't afraid to take chances. Unfortunately, the No. 1 ranked American seemed to be wearing a lot more tennis balls at Wimbledon than she was hitting. She lost in the first round.

10) The resilient Sabine Lisicki was clearly the comeback story of Wimbledon. In addition to her incredible win over Li Na, she was the ace leader (44) and serve speed leader (124 mph) for the tournament. She made it to her first semifinal of a Grand Slam, but was stopped short by the more experienced Maria Sharapova. Advancing to the Wimbledon doubles final with Sam Stosur likely took some of the sting away from Lisicki's singles loss. Jumping 35 spots in the rankings (to No. 27) probably helped her as well.

11) Serena Williams wasn't out of the Wimbledon spotlight for very long when this promo for the ESPY awards appeared on YouTube. Serena, dressed as a prom queen, singing and playing the clarinet. LOL/OMG.

12) It was announced during Wimbledon that Ana Ivanovic has hired a new coach: Nigel Sears. He just recently left his post as the Head of Women’s Tennis at the Lawn Tennis Association to work full time with Ivanovic. Fingers crossed that this guy has what it takes to instill more confidence in her game.

13) The Bryan brothers carried the American torch again, winning their second Wimbledon doubles title, as well as their 11th Grand Slam title. These guys just keep getting better. Same goes for Mardy Fish, who achieved his best result at Wimbledon this year, and now holds the No. 8 spot in the rankings.

A sad loss for Nadal in the Wimbledon final. Combine that with losing the No. 1 ranking two days before, and it became a day of mourning for Nadal fans. Not too long after the final, the phrase #poor nadal was trending worldwide on Twitter. Now Nadal has to figure out a way to deal with a guy (Djokovic) who has beaten him five times in one year--each time in a final, and on three different surfaces. The shoe is officially on the other foot.

Observation: What was with the Federer TV commercials during the men’s final on Sunday? I wonder if the timing of those commercials was really pre-planned, or if it was just a subtle reminder that Federer isn't out of the picture just yet.

We all know who the King of Clay is, but who exactly is the King of Grass these days? With six Wimbledon singles titles, I like to believe that Federer still has a solid hold on the crown. But after losing in the Wimbledon quarterfinals two years in row, the crown may be up for grabs.

17) Nadal has held the No. 1 ranking for a total of 102 weeks: Aug. 2008-July 2009 (46 wks.), and June 2010 -July 2011 (56 wks.). Now he is ranked No. 2. Not easy to swallow that one.

18) A tough loss for Andy Murray. He just can't seem to get beyond the semis at Wimbledon. I'm not sure if the pressure got inside his head, or he just isn't ready. His time will come.

19) Novak Djokovic ended Nadal’s 20-match winning record at Wimbledon, and fulfilled two lifelong dreams (the No. 1 ranking and a Wimbledon title). Djokovic now seems to be completely at home on grass. So much so that he ate a piece of grass on Centre Court after his win. Well, it's gluten-free.

20) A well deserved win for Petra Kvitova over Maria Sharapova in the ladies' final. The lefty from the Czech Republic sealed the win with an ace at 40-0, and was the first Czech to win the title at Wimbledon since Jana Novotna in 1998. Despite Sharapova's success at Wimbledon, her serve is still a road block to another Grand Slam title. In fact, she was the double fault leader for the tournament, with 38.

Are tall girls making a comeback in tennis? Seems that way, after watching the Wimbledon ladies' final. Kvitova stands at 6', and Sharapova at 6' 2".

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