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Today the weather interfered with life at the Big W in a major way. Amelie Mauresmo and Maria Sharapova moved easily through their matches just before the deluge but a whole flock of other players are backed up on the runway.
On Friday we saw the shedding of the first real blood. James Blake lost in four sets to Juan Carlos Ferrero. A bit of a surprise perhaps but Ferrero played Blake well last summer in Cincinnati and Blake has been all over the place this year. A bigger upset occurred when number 5 seed Fernando Gonzalez lost a rough five-setter to yet another Serb, Janko Tipsaravic. And just when I started to think Ivan Ljubicic might have a chance to enjoy another round or two, he lost in four sets to Paul-Henri Mathieu.
Mathieu has started to make good noises this year. He is another one of those crossover French guys who can play on surfaces other than just clay. His compatriot Richard Gasquet is still in the draw and moving easily through his matches too. On the women’s side, Martina Hingis was not expected to do that well here after some weeks off due to injury but I did not expect her to go out in the third round to….Laura Granville?
We keep hyping upcoming matches that promise good stuff only to have them peter out into rather ho-hum affairs. From my perspective at the end of the first week, it has not been a thrilling tournament this year. The Williams sisters blew hot and cold in their initial offerings. Venus especially had to maintain her poise before she was nearly booted out while Serena looked a bit scratchy. Now they are getting themselves in gear and their opponents are paying the price. So are we. ESPN2 is rubbing our noses in their slaughters, over and over again.
Ditto the Henman-Moya classic five-setter, which really was a classic when it happened. But now we’ve been so beaten over the head with the repeats of it during rain delays that I frankly don’t care if I ever see these two again – playing each other or anyone else for that matter. ESPN2, we love you!
We were also salivating at the prospect of Roger Federer meeting his first real challenge from Marat Safin. Someone should have told Safin I guess. He tried to make a bit of a run in the third set but the train had left the station by that point. Federer rolled through him in three straight sets.
In fact, if anything has generated heat here at Wimbledon it’s been all the flaming comments from fans who don’t exactly adore ESPN’s coverage right now. I added my own snide comment on a rival site about Dick Enberg, saying the remote buttons of the world were probably designed with him in mind. When he comes on the mute button is my stalwart ally; I keep the TV muted for long stretches. It’s not worth turning it up to hear the ping and pong of the ball hits because Enberg is talking right over them. Have we ever heard such a useless stream of drivel? It used to be that most commentary stopped when the play began; now it doesn’t seem to matter anymore.
The level of public uncouthness has spread to the commentary booths, so now it’s pretty much continual babble that we get to hear. And those little tidbit stories of “entertainment” the network tosses out to fill time really have little to do with tennis but we’re going to get them anyway, so shut the hell up and act like you’re enjoying the tennis. And they wonder why the rankings of the sport have plummeted over the years.
Wimbledon.org gives you a nice package online for about $25 to watch the whole tournament and next year I may sign up for it and just bypass ESPN2 altogether. Unless of course The Tennis Channel does us all a big favor and acquires a few more rights to tournaments. I would much rather hear their guys because they tend to be far more technical and less interested in the trivia.
Roger Federer’s wardrobe has been another source of heat. A lot of people hate it, they think it reflects an arrogance. Has anyone looked at the wardrobes of Americans lately? I’m not even talking the gang banger styles, just those of normal people. We’re all so incredibly dressed down now – and it’s all, like, kind of gross. So to see a guy like Fed waltz out in the white long pants and matching blazer with the gold trim, well, we’re in another world. I think it looks hot as hell. One thing some of us females like about Roger: we won’t ever have to take him shopping, like we would Vince Spadea. Federer could take us shopping, truth be known.
We did get one nifty match on Friday. Jelena Jankovic and Lucie Safarova played a tense three-setter that felt like a semi-final. Jankovic pulled it out but just barely. When I saw her draw I knew Safarova could be a real challenge to Jankovic who has pretty much buried her opponents here. Lucie played attacking tennis early on, she had lots of errors but also a lot of winners. Jankovic found herself playing a ton of defense. After grabbing a tight first set 7-5, Jankovic figured she’d better not count on Lucie making mistakes and she started going for her shots more.
In the second set she stepped it up. The key game was at 3-3 where Lucie finally held serve through eleven deuces. Did Jelena go away in disappointment? No way. She fought back, broke Lucie, even had a set point, but then gave the break back to. Jelena won the tiebreaker then clinched the match with a break in the third set that held up. Safarova should be near the top ten by the end of this year. She’s a lefty with a good powerful serve and deep, well-paced shots off both wings. She still gets a little tight in big moments but she’ll get over that. I like her game a lot. These two will have a good rivalry.
Good matches on tap for Monday include David Nalbandian facing Marcos Baghdatis. I look for Marcos to take that in four sets. He is starting to look consistent now and, besides, he is one of my Fantasy Tennis picks. Rafael Nadal also takes on Sweden’s Robin Soderling. This may be one we have vast hopes of being competitive when we all know it will turn out to be anything but.
The Pit Bull Contingent should take up some slack for us, namely Lleyton Hewitt who will face off against Guillermo Canas. I keep forgetting Canas is even in the draw. He has had mixed results since his earlier two triumphs over Federer this year, and I guess no one really expects much from him on this surface. It’s a battle of two counter-punchers but Hewitt will probably spend a fair bit of time at the net where he can use those attacking moves. I think this one will go the distance with Hewitt pulling it out.
Now, let’s all pray for a heat wave.
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