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Intermittent Tennis, With Frequent Showers

So far there have been 347 rain delays in this year’s Wimbledon through Monday of this week, but what really counted was the one Serena Williams got yesterday in her match against Daniela Hantuchova. Was that 345? Or 346? Anyway, it allowed Serena to regroup from her painfully obvious calf cramp and – after yet another rain delay – she came out and held her own to defeat Hantuchova in three sets. She is probably in no shape at all to play Justine Henin in the quarterfinals, at least according to Richard Williams, who felt she should have retired.

But still we feel anticipation. Serena was a force of nature out there in the size of her determination and ability to work through pain. This would be a wonderful story if she could break Henin in two. Personally I would relish that but we can’t count on it. Brad Gilbert likes Venus Williams’s chances better at this point than her sister’s, and I would go along with that. Venus over Maria Sharapova sounds more likely than Serena over Justine.

Apart from the Serena Williams story we could echo the sentiments of Nikolay Davydenko who summed it up succinctly: This is one BORING tournament. What’s wrong, Nic? Not having any fun? You’ve only managed to get further along on grass – your least favorite surface – than you ever have before at Wimbledon. So quit yer grippin’, guy! The weather does that to a disposition. Sitting around waiting for the endless rain delays to end can be pretty tiresome. It’ depletes energy to wait and deal with all the pent-up feelings.

Roger Federer, not having played since Saturday, probably has a hard time remembering what a tennis court looks like. I’m having a bit of trouble remembering what Roger Federer looks like. He won’t play his quarterfinal match until Thursday against Juan-Carlos Ferrero, and we’re knocking on wood with the weather on that one. It may turn out to be too much of a good thing for Roger: you want your body fresh during a Grand Slam, but five days of inactivity is not a good thing.

It took a somewhat dour Swede, Robin Soderling, to finally be the guy who took it to Rafael Nadal in the Butt Picking Department. Nadal was serving with new balls but he apparently forgot to hold them up to Soderling. Either because he was ticked off by that show of disrespect or maybe because he forgot he needed a new racquet to hit new balls, Soderling trotted quickly to the sidelines to retrieve another racquet.

Now it was Nadal who got ticked off. He bounced the balls for an eternity, like he normally does. Then he stopped, held up the new balls for his opponent to see, and started the ball-bouncing all over again! Annoyed with this, Soderling turned away from the service box. Then, wonder of wonders, he reached around and PICKED HIS BUTT! Great shot, I thought, hooting with laughter. He picked it deliberately, almost lovingly, it was a shot of purpose, intensity, cloth even flew up from the offending backside. The crowd yukked a bit too when they saw that. These guys should take their act on the road when they get done. If they get done.

But guy, doing that to Nadal could end up being the kiss of death. Nadal held serve next at love and then broke Soderling. I don‘t want to see what Rafa is like when he gets, like, really mad. Nadal may have gotten fired up by that episode but Soderling got more fired up: he roared back from the break early in the fifth set to break himself. The match is now deadlocked at 4-4 awaiting yet another day in which they can hopefully conclude this meandering epic. Assuming we want to see it end. Maybe we should make them stay out there longer. We could get more yuks out of these guys. They could become the Flying Dutchmen of the tennis world, who knows?

Part of the problem with all the rain is that the tournament feels like it’s slipping into a watery bog. Players go on court and come off court, they hang around and wait and try to occupy themselves during the rain and wonder when and if or what they should eat. Not good for morale, and certainly not for momentum. If you are a server who relies on your serve, your timing is going to come and go like the weather.

Amelie Mauresmo probably lost that final set 6-1 against Nicole Vaidisova because her game had been completely disrupted by all the rain. Not an excuse, but another hurdle for the players to navigate through. Mauresmo just went away in that final set and for a defending Wimbledon champion it was a disappointing thing to witness. Jelena Jankovic suffered a surprising upset for the same reason at the hands of Marion Bartoli: Jankovic needs rhythm going in her groundies for her game to work and the rain disrupted that.

It seems unfortunate the tournament directors can’t show some flexibility and schedule the middle Sunday for play, particularly knowing how bad the rain was already and what was coming down the road. It was a beautiful day last Sunday. People should have been on court taking advantage of that. But no, it’s Wimbledon, we’re special. And we’re different, thank you very much. So no, we won’t help the players out by having them play on Sunday.

I guess because they granted the women equal pay for the first time this year that the powers that be think that’s enough in the concession department. We won’t get anything else out of them now for probably the next decade, except that retractable roof they propose to have built by 2009.

But tomorrow is another day. Hopefully the waters will recede. Then I am half expecting Marcelo Rios to pop up and say, with that wonderful sneer, “You see? I told you – grass is for cows.”


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See also:
James Blake the Confidence Man
Wimbledon: A Little Play, a Lot of Water
Wimbledon 29 Years Back
Wimbledon Joins the Hard Court Season
B**tch and Sing Dept: Grass Munching Time
ATP Fantasy Tennis: Wimbledon Picks

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