There is something about the Wimbledon grass that inspires awe. Maybe not, though, in Bernard Tomic.
It was the Australian’s lack of motivation at tennis’ Mecca that has dominated discussion in the first week of a Wimbledon tournament low on drama. As the event enters the traditional mid-tournament Sunday, giving the grass courts a break, most of the marquee names have made it to the second week.
It’s the first time since the 2014 edition of Wimbledon that the ‘Big 4’ — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray — have been the top four seeds. And so far, barring the set Fabio Fognini managed to win against Murray in the third round, the top four have made it to the break with relative ease and without losing a single set.
The women’s field too has curbed its penchant for chaos, and World No 1 Angelique Kerber and second seed Simona Halep are still leading the charge. Here’s a look at the talking points from the first week of the Championships:
Kvitova, Azarenka return after lengthy leaves
Back in December last year, in a burglary attempt at her home in Czech Republic, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova suffered knife-wounds to her playing hand. The resulting tendon and nerve injuries were expected to keep her out for at least six months, but the 27-year-old recovered quickly. Though she did make it in time for the French Open, on the grass circuit she has proven her capabilities with the Wimbledon crowns in 2011 and 2014.
Her return wasn’t as spectacular though, as the 11th seed suffered a second round exit to American Madison Brengle.
Meanwhile, Victoria Azarenka, the two-time Australian Open champion, is leading a generation of women who won’t let motherhood dim their ambitions. After giving birth to a baby boy in December, she returned to the tour last month and is looking leaner and fitter than ever. In her first Grand Slam event since becoming a mother, Azarenka has had to play two three-setters in her three matches — including a thrilling third round victory against home-hope Heather Watson 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. But the Belarusian now faces French Open finalist Simona Halep in the fourth round.
Arguably the biggest upset of the tournament came on the opening day, when Wimbledon main-draw debutant Daniil Medvedev outmuscled fifth seed Stan Wawrinka 6–4, 3–6, 6–4, 6–1.
But in terms of the difference in rankings, it was World No 589 Ernests Gulbis defeating Juan Martin del Potro, ranked 32. The Latvian, who once reached the French Open semi-finals, reiterated his position as one of the game’s mavericks by turning up for Wimbledon without having won a tour match in 13 months and then powering past the talented Argentine 6-4, 6-4, 7-6.
In the women’s singles, World No 3 Karolina Pliskova remains the biggest casualty with her 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 loss to Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia in the second round. At the same stage, eight seed Dominika Cibulkova and 12th seeded Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic too suffered exits, against Americans Jennifer Brady and Alison Riske respectively.
The high number of first-round retirements has once again opened the debate of whether or not the players should be awarded such high pay-cheques for losing in the opening round.
A total of seven players retired in the first round, including Alexandr Dolgopolov against Federer (match lasting 42 minutes) and Martin Klizan withdrawing after playing 40 minutes against Djokovic — which happened to be back-to-back matches on Centre Court on Tuesday. Viktor Troicki retired after playing 17 minutes against Florian Mayer, while Janko Tipsarevic waited for 12 minutes against Jared Donaldson.
In the second round, the tally went up to eight retirements, making the event the 11th Grand Slam in the last 10 years where eight or more players have retired after two rounds.
It has raised discussion for the possible call for Grand Slams to adopt an ATP rule: players are allowed to keep first round prize money after withdrawing for only two tournaments per season. Wimbledon offers a hefty reward of near $45,000 provided a player starts the match.
By Saturday, nine players had retired with Dudi Sela being the latest withdrawal. Although in the Israeli’s case, there may have been a genuine cause after he played and won two five-setters against Marcel Granollers (2:33 hrs) and John Isner (3:51).
Meanwhile, only two players have retired from the women’s singles over the tournament so far.
Bored and boorish
Sparks are bound to fly with Tomic in the press room.
After his straight sets first round loss to Mischa Zverev, the 24-year-old claimed to have been ‘bored’ on court, and admitted to have called for a trainer, without being injured, in an attempt to disrupt his opponent’s momentum.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has slapped a $15,000 fine on him following the loss. Additionally, his racquet sponsor Head has discontinued its association with the player. The company’s statement read: “His opinions in no way reflect our own attitude for tennis, our passion, professionalism and respect for the game. Therefore, we have decided to discontinue our collaboration with Bernard Tomic."
High temperatures during the tournament has caused concern among players regarding the quality of the grass. Due to the heat, the dried grass has caused the court to be slippery and with uneven bounce.
Concerns reached its peak when World No 1 doubles player Bethanie Mattek-Sands suffered a gruesome knee injury during a singles match. Rushing to the net, her right knee buckled and the 32-year-old dislocated her kneecap and ruptured her patella tendon.
In another singles match between Mladenovic and Riske, the two players tried to stop play due to fears of injury on court, only for the tournament officials to ask them to continue with the match.
Leading men, including Murray and Djokovic, have also spoken out against the quality of the turf.
No Indian summer
Even though five Indians entered the men’s doubles draw this time, none of them have managed to make it into the second week. Leander Paes’ struggle on the tour continued as he suffered first round defeats in the men’s and mixed doubles events.
Bopanna, who was partnering Eduard Roger-Vasselin, lost in the second round in the men’s doubles but has made it to the quarter-finals of the mixed doubles in the company of Gabriela Dabrowski. He had partnered the Canadian to win his first Major ever, when he won the French Open mixed doubles event last month.
Grand Slam debutant Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan exited in the first round while the up and coming pair of Purav Raja and Divij Sharan went down to seventh seeds Raven Klaasen and Rajiv Ram in the second round.
Former World No 1 Sania Mirza, however, remains active in both the women’s and mixed doubles events. The former doubles World No 1 is partnering Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the women’s doubles, and has reached the Round of 16 stage where she will take on former partner Martina Hingis. As for the mixed doubles, Mirza and partner Ivan Dodig got past a Japanese pair in their first round tie.
Published Date: Jul 09, 2017 13:19 PM | Updated Date: Jul 09, 2017 13:19 PM