The weekend drama is set at the All England Club, and Wimbledon has not failed to deliver some serious doses of drama and unpredictability.
Shortly after my last piece went up on this site, perennial favorite turned occasional disappointment Serena Williams lost in the third round to Alize Cornet of France. Coupled with the exit of John Isner on the men’s side, there were zero Americans in the round of 16 in either the men’s or women’s draw this year.
Doesn’t it seem like every time that point gets brought up, the round it refers to scales back? It used to be no champions, then no finalists, then no semifinalists, and now no octofinalists. If you didn’t know, American tennis is not what it was. Also, Maria Sharapova lost to Angelique Kerber in the round of 16, which made me extraordinarily happy. Also, I’m starting to think that the level of unpredictability in women’s tennis is normal, and it only feels abnormal because of the absurd consistency of the Big Four. More on this to follow.
Agnieszka Radwanska failed to take advantage of a favorable draw, losing convincingly to mercurial Ekaterina Makarova of Russia in the fourth round. Only two of the top ten seeds made the semis on the women’s side, and the Czech Republic is guaranteed a spot in the final, as Lucie Safarova faces Petra Kvitova in one matchup. Kvitova looks to be on a run similar to that which brought her a title in 2011. However, this year, she’s only been pushed to a third set one time, and has looked totally dominating with her serve and powerful backhand.
Safarova plays a similar baseline style, so it will be interesting to see who is able to take advantage. I think Kvitova gets the edge because she’s been here before and has faced a tougher road to this point, while Safarova really has not been tested thus far.
In the other semifinal matchup, Simona Halep will face Eugenie Bouchard, in what is undoubtedly a matchup of two of the brightest young stars in women’s tennis. Halep is coming off a really good performance in a tough loss in the French final a few weeks ago, while Bouchard has made the semis of every Grand Slam this year. Bouchard is tall, Halep short. Bouchard plays a tough baseline game, Halep is one of the best movers in the game. Bouchard likes to vary the depth of her shots, Halep is a brick wall against which balls just keep coming back. Bouchard likes to take the ball high and early, something that doesn’t really happen much on the grass at Wimbledon, so I think the surface favors better movement in the form of Halep. Either way, this should be an amazing matchup, and whoever comes out of it should give Petra Kvitova a real run for her money in the final. In short, I cannot wait for the women’s draw to come to a conclusion.
On the men’s side of things, Rafael Nadal lost in the round of 16, getting outright beaten while basically at the top of his game by an upstart from Australia, Nick Kyrgios. Again, the ball doesn’t sit up quite as high for Rafa to tee off on, as he does on the clay of Roland Garros. Kyrgios played the match of his life to oust the two seed, on a surface where the great Nadal has suddenly become positively human.
Kyrgios kept Nadal moving constantly, never allowed him to get comfortable, and his big, flat strokes and powerful serve made great use of the grass and allowed him to find a rhythm early against the best fighter in tennis. Shame he lost to someone who plays a similar style in Milos Raonic. Way to pay your dues, Nick. Your time will come.
Defending champion Andy Murray is also out, being taken out handily by Bulgarian firecracker Grigor Dimitrov. I said before the tournament that Murray still didn’t look like himself. He looked comfortable cruising through the first four rounds, but Dimitrov just put him away by constantly moving him and forcing him into 37 unforced errors, a really high total for a three-set match. Dimitrov was nearly flawless by contrast.
Look, everyone has bad days, and Murray clearly had one to lose to Dimitrov like that. So much for the calming effect of Amelie Mauresmo. He’ll be back, but in the meantime, savor the rise of Dimitrov, who is definitely someone to be following as the seasons roll, along with Kei Nishikori. Dimitrov will get Novak Djokovic in the semis, fresh off a win over Marin Cilic (always dangerous when on his game), in which he had to rally from a 2-1 hole in sets. Dimitrov beating the Djoker would be a monumental upset, so don’t expect it, but do expect him to steal a set or even two off the top seed.
Roger Federer has made good on his assertions that he would be a contender here this year. He’s put on a throwback performance these past few days, not dropping a set and looking mightily like his old self until the first set against his compatriot, Stanislas Wawrinka. He rallied for a four-set win, but the big story is how good he looked while doing it. He serving bullets once again, and Wawrinka never really disrupted his rhythm on serve.
He looked like he had regained his old consistence on his groundstrokes, and was mixing it up well, coming to the net and completing those touch shots that only he can do and make look so easy. What’s more, he looked upset with himself when he wasn’t making those shots, the surest sign that he’s feeling it. He was ripping his backhand and comfortably running around it for an inside-out forehand, and is starting to make a lot of doubters look silly.
I said before, and I’ll say it again, Federer’s still great, and Wimbledon makes him look even greater. The new nickname of the All England Club should be the Resurrection Club, or the Rejuvenation Club, or something like that, because legends who have started to decline always seem to bring their best to the hallowed ground of center court.
I think he’ll make the final. If he faces Dimitrov, I think he will win. If he gets Djokovic, I couldn’t say. But I do know that if he does, after the season ends, there will be an awful lot of talk (pending Rafa’s performance in New York) about whether or not he can only be counted on to win in Paris and nowhere else these days, something that will definitely count against him in the Greatest of all Time discussion.
Enjoy the action, and keep it here for finals updates.