Category Archives: Wimbledon

Join us for the men’s Wimbledon final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, July 8th at 6am PST/9am EST/2pm BST. Join in by writing comments and we’ll respond in real time.

Except for Tatiana Golovin’s red knickers and another national disappointment for the British – Tim Henman lost to Feliciano Lopez in the second round, Wimbledon hasn’t picked up a personality or thrown out any really delicious stories yet, so I’m taking a one day trip 29 years back.

I’m reading a book titled Inside Tennis by Peter Bodo with photography by June Harrison. It covers the entire 1978 season of professional tennis. Let’s look at the book’s coverage of Wimbledon that year.

There’s plenty of luminous writing in the book. No one captures the psychological makeup that separates the best players from the lowly-ranked masses quite as well as Bodo. Other writers describe players, Bodo describes the human condition. Here’s an example of what I mean:

But the game held out its customary promises: the promise of success against all odds, the promise that hope could prevail over reason, the promise that for a blessed two- or three-hour span, a man could recapture all that eluded him through years of struggle.

Couple that with this comment by John Newcombe:

You can find out anything you want to know about a person by putting him on Centre Court at Wimbledon. It has a lot to do with your breaking point…

And now you understand the true measure of the value of sports: it tells you what you’re made of, taffy or steel.

Here’s what Wimbledon looked like in 1978.

There were numbers:

Two hundred twenty officials work the matches. Eighty-five students are recruited from a nearby technical school to serve as ball boys. …The armed services provide close to two hundred volunteers who serve as stewards and ushers. The Fire Brigade contributes well over fifty volunteers. The tournament uses up twelve hundred dozen Slazenger balls…

That last number was the excuse that Wimbledon officials used when Tim Henman wandered into a Wimbledon office a few years ago and found containers of unpressurized tennis balls earmarked for the tournament. They’d taken all of the balls out of their cans because it was easier than opening them during the tournament, so they said.

Tim was gobsmacked as the British say. An unpressurized ball will be less lively making it harder for serve and volleyers like Henman to win here. This is the first difference we see between then and now. Wimbledon wasn’t worried about finding enough people to open hundreds of cans of tennis balls during the tournament, they wanted to slow the game down to make the surface more equitable and they’ve more than succeeded.

There was rain. It was heavy enough to wipe out an entire day of matches for the first time in eight years. This year is marginally better but in two years, finally, there will be a roof over Centre Court.

There was another national disappointment. John Lloyd never got past the third round at Wimbledon. In 1978 he went out in the first round. See above for this year’s disappointment.

There was discrimination. Teddy Tinling was a fashion designer who created elaborate tennis dresses for the top players in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. The book suggests that players such as Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova wore Tinling’s clothing because the world of apparel endorsements wasn’t yet ready for lesbians. That situation is marginally better today. Out lesbian Amelie Mauresmo has no problem but Marina Navratilova never grabbed endorsement opportunities appropriate to her status and her career lasted a long time.

There were exceptional women players. Billie Jean, Martina, and Chris Evert were in the women’s draw. That’s three of the top five women of all time (Steffi Graf and Margaret court being the other two). Today we have the promise of Maria Sharapova and the ongoing career of Justine Henin. A definite downgrade from 1978.

By the way, Navratilova showed her considerable sense of humor when her state of mind was questioned:

Reporter: How do you keep your head together?

Navratilova: I stick it between the door and the frame in the locker room.

That’s almost as good as this one which I think I also read in a Bodo book:

Reporter: Are you still a lesbian?

Navratilova: Are you still the alternative?

There was a rivalry for the ages. Britain did have one good hope in this tournament. Virginia Wade won the title the previous year, a magical feat as it was the hundredth anniversary of Wimbledon, but Evert beat her in the semifinals. Navratilova beat an ailing Evonne Goolagong in the other semifinal setting up the first meeting in a slam final for one of the biggest rivalries in sports history: Evert and Navratilova.

Navratilova beat Evert for her first slam title and first of nine Wimbledons. Interesting to note that Navratilova’s opponent when she won her first 13 slams was a U.S. player and this brings up a huge difference between then and now. Today there is exactly one U.S. woman in the top thirty and this year, for the first time in the open era, only three U.S. men got past the first round at Wimbledon.

There were exceptional male players. Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg met in the Wimbledon final in 1978. Thankfully we have the same thing today. Federer could meet Nadal in the final. Connors has the career record for most ATP singles titles, one of the few records Federer hasn’t yet snatched away. Connors lost the final easily and Borg won his third of five consecutive Wimbledons.

Five is also the the number of consecutive Wimbledons Federer hopes to match this year.


Check out our new myspace page and add us to your friends networkSee also:
Wimbledon Joins the Hard Court Season
B**tch and Sing Dept: Grass Munching Time
ATP Fantasy Tennis: Wimbledon Picks

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Join us for the men’s Wimbledon final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, July 8th at 6am PST/9am EST/2pm BST. Join in by writing comments and we’ll respond in real time.

Wimbledon used to symbolize the end of the grass court season but now it’s playing more like the opening of the summer hard court season.

Every year I look forward to Wimbledon so I can settle in and watch a bit of serve and volley. It’s beautiful to watch because serve and volley players are acrobatic and graceful. Players move backward and forward and side to side. Tennis flows over the entire court in a constant ballet of movement.

In a parallel universe, maybe. Tim Henman may serve and volley and Nicolas Mahut would serve and volley too if he hadn’t lost in the first round, but if you look at the grass courts, the only place they’re worn down is along the baseline.

Instead of serve and volley I’m seeing a lot of kick serves and they’re bouncing high. Listen to this from Henman: “Kick serve now works on grass. You can get a lot of sideways movement on it.” And Roger Federer: “You can use the kick too these days, because of the slower conditions…”

So much for my prediction that Rafael Nadal will fail to reproduce his 2006 run to the final. At this rate, the conditions suit him fine.

What’s slowing things down? Let’s start with the ball. Todd Woodbridge has won nine Wimbledon doubles titles dating back to 1993. He always saved one ball from each final. When he compares today’s balls with his mementos, the current version is clearly bigger and fuzzier.

You can’t hit a bigger ball as hard and a fuzzier ball grabs more. Trying grabbing onto a hairless dog. You can’t do it, your hands slide off. Yes, there are such things as hairless dogs. Anyway, grabbiness is important because it allows players to put spin on the ball.

Then there’s the court. Tennis-X reported this quote from an International Herald Tribune article by Richard Evans: “Moss was removed from underneath the grass to make the ball bounce higher – right into the hitting zone of clay-court masters.”

The higher the ball bounces, the worse it is for serve and volleyers. If the ball stays up it’s easier to track it down and a player at the net becomes target practice for all those clay court defensive specialists.

The organizers of Wimbledon slowed the courts down because everyone got tired of seeing three stroke rallies and one-dimensional tennis. But when Rafael Nadal gets to a final, hasn’t it gone too far to other way? Now we’re seeing defensive specialists reach later rounds of Wimbledon.

What hurt Britain’s past hero, Henman, might help their future hero, Andy Murray. Power is not his game and at this rate, the conditions might turn out to be perfect for his mix of intelligence and defense.

Personally, I’d rather see one month of purely offensive tennis. Players are much better returners these days – that’s one reason why Roddick has only one title this year – so we don’t have to worry so much about one dimensional tennis. It’s slightly insulting if you think about it because Wimbledon is slowing the courts down so players can catch up to the big hitters.

There’s no need and if they keep going, they’ll look more like the opening of the summer hard court season that the closing of the grass court season.


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See also:
ATP Fantasy Tennis: Wimbledon Picks
B**tch and Sing Dept: Grass Munching Time

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Join us for the men’s Wimbledon final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, July 8th at 6am PST/9am EST/2pm BST. Leave a comment and we’ll respond in real time.

Wimbledon Gets Under Way – A Little Rain, A Little Sun, So Far So Good

Day One began at Wimbledon yesterday with the usual intermittent rain delays and the clammy-looking crowd of Anglo-Saxon faces peering out from under their rain gear. Pale dumplings in search of a nice warm broth. Were we ever in Rome? Seems like ages ago.

The grass courts are almost preternaturally lush and beautiful this year. The green courts and the all-white clothing of the players provide a striking contrast. Particularly when Roger Federer took to the court yesterday for his opener. My God, Da Man not only acquired a new white blazer this year but he added long white pants as well! If I could whistle, I would. And they weren’t just for show, either. It’s pretty bloody cold in London today.

The good news for Federer is that he whipped through his opponent Gabashvili in straight sets. He finished before the rain came and lowered the boom on a whole bunch of players yet to play. The bad news for Federer is that those lush courts may be…well, TOO lush. They appear groomed so they are thicker, and consequently the balls are not staying low like they normally do on grass. They are riding high and moving more slowly. For Rafael Nadal it’s nearly perfect. Maybe that explains why a lot of guys were using kick serves out wide. If we can’t use our slices as effectively, we’ll try and make the ball hop over your racquet, and take that, fella!

Nothing too outrageous occurred on Day One. The Yanks had mixed results, which seems to be the way of their world this year. Andy Roddick looked the best in his win over buddy Justin Gimelstob and Serena Williams looked spotty in her close first set before she ran off with the second set and the match.

Robby Ginepri had the toughest assignment in his opener against Fernando Gonzalez. ESPN2 must have shown a total of three minutes of this match so we had to rely on the second-hand commentary. Ginepri won the first set and was up 4-2 in the second set tiebreaker, had an easy smash for 5-2, but missed it badly. That was followed by an abrupt right face from Ginepri and into the sauce he went losing in four. Ouch! Sam Querrey, a big-serving Californian who should have done well on grass, went out rather meekly in three sets to a clay courter, of all things. As of Tuesday night, we had three American males left: Roddick, James Blake and Amer Delic.

Leave it to the Geriatric League to provide the best show of the day. Carlos Moya (age 30) and Tim Henman (age 32) fought it out in a very high quality match that was still going on Tuesday, having been called late Monday because of darkness. When they resumed play in the fifth set, Moya served and volleyed better than Henman at some points while Henman actually dominated some of the baseline rallies.

Henman caught a lucky break when Andy Murray pulled out because his wrist is still not one hundred percent. Suddenly Henman was, once again, the great hope for the Brits. Fortunately he pulled the match out when Moya double-faulted on match point. The huge crowd assembled on Henman Hill went crazy. Yes, it’s gone back to being HIS hill again, thank you. Who would have thought they could turn to Henman, instead of Murray, for their thrills and spills?

As Tuesday began, Venus Williams faced the toughest task when she had to overcome a one-set, 2-0, deficit against Russian youngster Alla Kudryavtseva. She came out and socked it to Venus hitting deep and powerful shots off both sides, seemingly without nerves. How did Venus come back? We could state the matter two ways: Venus kept her nerve and hung in there well, or women on tour get a really bad case of the heebie-jeebies when crunch time comes around, and what does that say about the state of the women’s game? Probably it was lots of both. I did not think Venus could aright herself, and yet she did.

God only knows how this victory improves her disposition and her game. I don’t subscribe to the idea that you can enter a Slam and play your way into fitness so I have mixed feelings about the Williams sisters when they do this. Yet they do it, and that probably gives fits to the other players in the locker room.

For some reason Federer’s side of the draw seems mundane and predictable. He will probably get Roddick in the semis. Nadal’s half is the wild and woolly side. I don’t even have Nadal making it into the semis: my pick there is Marcos Baghdatis to face Tomas Berdych. Yes yes, I know, two of the bigger head cases on the men’s side, but I don’t quite trust in Novak Djokovic yet, and I don’t really like Nikolay Davydenko’s chances on grass. Nadal could have his hands full with someone like Robin Soderling, who serves big and plays attacking tennis, or with Berdych later on in the quarterfinals. So I see Ivo Karlovic entering the fray on this side of the draw. This is Dr. Ivo’s favorite time of year, he blossoms from 6’7” tall to something like 7’6” on this surface.

Brad Gilbert was singing Karlovic’s praises yesterday; he thinks Ivo can make a dent here. He also likes the chances of my man Nicholas Mahut. I wanted to pick Mahut for my Fantasy Tennis team but because he was ranked outside of the Top 100 when the draw began, I could not use him. He wasn’t even listed. So I held my nose and picked Richard Gasquet instead, although he has caused nothing but heartbreak this year to his fans.

Gilbert and I part company on Nadal’s chances. Brad thinks “Ralph, ” as he’s taken to calling Rafa, will beat Federer in four sets in the final. I think that’s a leap into the void but that’s what I like about Gilbert. Most of his picks are right on usually, but he likes to throw in one that screws with our heads and makes everybody wonder, what planet did he breeze in from?

Unfortunately I have a feeling the Roddick-Federer semi-final will BE the final, and I don’t give Roddick much of a chance. Federer in the final against whoever would not be much of a match, I’m betting. Not on the green stuff.

The women are much more mundane: the quarters seem like a cakewalk for Amelie Mauresmo to face Nadia Petrova, Kuzie gets Shrieker, Justine Henin faces Serena again, and Jelena Jankovic should have an interesting duel with Martina Hingis.

Cheers all,

Grass is good.

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ATP Fantasy Tennis Season starts this week with Wimbledon. I’ve posted a Fantasy Tennis Guide with fast facts, strategies, and statistics to help you play the game.

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Rear View Mirror – a look at last week’s picks

I picked six of the eight quarterfinalists at Nottingham and zero quarterfinalists at ‘s-Hertogenbosch. That zero wasn’t entirely my fault. Marcos Baghdatis dropped out, two qualifiers got to the semifinals, and Ivan Ljubicic reached his first grass court final. I should have picked Tommy Robredo, though, he reached the semifinals twice at this event and I missed that.

Read more about Nottingham below.

WIMBLEDON

Federer’s Half of the Draw

I’m picking Philipp Kohlschreiber as Roger Federer’s sacrificial lamb in the quarterfinals and that means I have Kohlschreiber over Fernando Gonzalez and James Blake. Gonzalez has been blowing his stack way too much this year and Kohlschreiber beat Blake at Halle. So here’s the deal: if you want to be conservative, take Blake or Gonzalez, that way no one can give you a hard time because you were silly enough to pick Kohlschreiber.

Andy Roddick has the easiest path to the quarterfinals. I’m not sold on him but he doesn’t have any of those younger, better players in his draw and Ivan Ljubicic doesn’t perform well at slams. That, by the way, encompasses our theme for this tournament: which young player is ready to step up and get into the quarterfinals of a slam? Richard Gasquet, Andy Murray, and Tomas Berdych have never gone past the fourth round.

Below Roddick there is a fascinating French triangle containing the toughest decision in this draw. Arnaud Clement beat Gasquet at Nottingham this week and they could meet again in the second round if Clement can beat Nicolas Mahut. Mahut, however, beat Clement at London/Queen’s Club last week and had a match point to win that tournament. The question is: can Mahut beat Gasquet?

This is a tough choice because the winner will probably meet Murray for a spot in the quarterfinals and Murray hasn’t played since he hurt his wrist at Hamburg. The answer to the question is: I don’t know if Mahut can beat Gasquet. But it might not matter and here’s why.

Even if Gasquet got past Mahut and met Murray in the fourth round, Gasquet hasn’t shown me that he’s mentally ready to get to a slam quarterfinal. I might not like Murray’s foul mouth and incessant mutterings – actually, I find them intriguing and embarrassing all at the same time, I feel like I’m sitting in a session at his therapist’s office – but there’s no question that he’s a fiery competitor. And, I saw his coach Brad Gilbert get Andre Agassi through to a French Open title off a bum shoulder, so if anyone can get Murray and his wrist to the quarterfinals, Gilbert can.

As for Mahut, he could go a long way but I’ve taken enough chances for one week by picking Kohlschreiber.

[Correction: Murray has pulled out of Wimbledon due to his wrist injury. Mahut is ranked below 100 and only the top 100 players can be chosen for an ATP fantasy team. Therefore I’m replacing Murray with Gasquet in the quarterfinals. Not much choice really.]

Nadal’s Half of the Draw

Except for consecutive third round appearances at the US Open, Novak Djokoivc has steadily progressed to later rounds in each slam so I expect him to get past Lleyton Hewitt and meet Baghdatis in the quarterfinals.

Berdych has the least competitive fire of all those youngsters, but he also has three clay court players in his immediate section and only has to beat Joan Bjorkman to get to his first quarterfinal.

Since I’m one of those people who doubt Rafael Nadal’s grass court skills, who should I pick to beat him? Robin Soderling doesn’t function well at slams and Mikhail Youzhny is not a good grass court player. Next is Berdych who’s beaten Nadal every time they’ve met on a fast surface. I don’t think Berdych can do it either, reaching a quarterfinal is a stretch for him.

Djokovic has reached a slam semifinal and Baghdatis a final but Djokovic is in much better shape so I’m counting on him to beat Nadal. I hope he does else I’ll look bad.

Wimbledon Draw

Picks

Here are my picks for the quarterfinalists (who also comprise the eight players on my fantasy team): Federer, Kohlschreiber, Roddick, Gasquet, Baghdatis, Djokovic, Berdych, and Nadal.

Who will Federer beat in the final to match Bjorn Borg’s record of five consecutive Wimbledons? Probably Djokovic.

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