W.9- The Day the Earth Stood Still
Was a page in Wimbledon history finally turned today? If so, it was one great chapter.
Following his quarterfinal loss today to Czech Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer mentioned that he's been battling some back and leg injuries lately, but how much they contributed to his first lost before the finals at SW19 since 2002 is debatable. After all, the natural progression of time is unrelenting, and it brings even the greatest of tennis champions down to earth eventually if they choose to not walk away long before their skills begin to even slightly fray.
The last two years, Federer's grass game and Centre Court dominance have been challenged. In "The Greatest Match Ever Played" against Rafael Nadal in the 2008 final, he lost. Last year, he barely survived the longest men's final ever against Andy Roddick. Before this year's Wimbledon, he lost in Halle. Then he had to come back from a two-set deficit in the 1st Round at the All-England Club. You could sort of see his 6-4/3-6/6-1/6-4 loss today coming... even if you haven't seen Federer play in years. The day was going to come when even Wimbledon wasn't always going to be a safe haven for him, and that day appears to have finally arrived.
His earliest loss at Wimbledon since 2002 ends his string of seven consecutive appearances in the Gentlemen's Championship final, and next week he will fall outside the Top 2 in the rankings for the first time since November 2003. That one week at #1 that he needs to match Pete Sampras' all-time career mark of 286 is looking more and more distant away every minute, and it could be that it will forever remain tantalizingly close, the only major record that Federer fails to equal or succeed in his Hall of Fame career.
Thus, a month from his 29th birthday, Federer now likely "officially" enters the "end phase" of his incredible tennis lifetime, during which he'll remain a legendary figure, though only rarely flash anything resembling the dominance that he used to sport so casually and consistently. Of course, that doesn't mean that he won't add to his record sixteen career slam singles titles. He probably will. Will he be able to push the current number of sixteen to a point where he becomes the first man to win twenty? A couple of years ago, it seemed likely. Now? It would be a shock, considering only a handful of men have ever won a slam after turning 30. After twenty-three consecutive slam semifinal appearances, he's now lost in back-to-back quarterfinals. Still impressive, but the results should be expected to continue to come up shorter and shorter as Federer's game remains where it is or lessens, while the pack of new young stars catch and pass him on the ATP tour.
Nothing lasts forever, but Federer was so great he almost tricked us into believing that he might beat the odds. But even King Roger isn't immune to reality.
The Federer Era at Wimbledon was great. But it's over. Even if we get another glimpse of his greatness in London or elsewhere down the line, in the back of our minds we'll be whispering to ourselves that it might be last time we ever truly see him in that form. Which wouldn't be SO bad. I mean, that would at least ensure that we'll sit up and take full notice, making sure we appreciate the moment. Who knows, maybe Federer can even pull a Connors-esque slam run out of his tennis bag WAY down the line. Think of it... a 39-year old Federer in the Wimbledon semifinals in 2021! Wow, now THAT would be something.
Either way, one gets the sense that even while he can no longer automatically be expected to challenge for EVERY slam title EVERY season, Federer's probably still got a few surprises in store for us before he bids adieu.
=DAY 9 NOTES=
...it wasn't a good day to be a #1 seed at Wimbledon, even if your name wasn't Federer.
First off, the biggest upset of the day -- and maybe the entire grand slam season -- came in Women's Doubles, as the top-seeded Williams Sisters shockingly fell in their QF match against Elena Vesnina & Vera Zvonareva, who won 3-6/6-3/6-4. Venus & Serena had a 32-1 career SW19 record as a team, came into the match with a 32-set winning streak at the All-England Club, and hadn't lost at all since Roland Garros last year. Maybe Venus can get the contact number of someone who can find her a good price on one of those time machines she was talking about yesterday? I know a certain Swiss Mister who might be willing to go half-sies on the purchase.
So, first it was #1's Federer and Williams/Williams. But that wasn't the end of the upsets. #1 Boys seed Jason Kubler (AUS) lost to Brit Oliver Golding in the QF, too. Then #1-seeded Mixed Doubles team Sam Stosur (disappointing on the grassyet again) and Nenad Zimonjic were taken out by Belgians Kim Clijsters and Xavier Malisse in the Round of 16.
Oh, and with #1 Men's Doubles team Nestor/Zimonjic already out of the tournament, #2-seeded Bob & Mike Bryan were the surviving favorites there. No longer, as they lost today to #7 Wesley Moodie/Dick Norman in the QF (the South African/Belgian duo is now the highest-seeded team remaining in the draw).
...the Andy Murray/Jo-Wilfried Tsonga match seemed to turn on one point today. Or maybe I should say, one swing that wasn't taken. Serving up a set in the 2nd set tie-break, Tsonga was just two points from taking a two sets to none lead. On his first service point, he hestitated in following his serve to the net, then belatedly decided to do so. Murray's return floated down the middle of the court, and Tsonga could have taken it out of the air and put away an expected winner that would have given him two set points. Instead, he let it go. It landed just inside the baseline. Murray got the next point, too, then served out the tie-break to knot the match about ninety seconds after Tsonga's non-shot. The Scot then took over the match as Tsonga faded down the stretch.
Thus, Murray stands just one win over Rafael Nadal in the SF away from possibly bringing Queen Elizabeth back to Centre Court for a chance to be present when Murray attempts to become the first British man to win a grand slam since 1932.
...with Berdych advancing to the men's semifinals (his second consecutive slam semi), he joins fellow Czech Kvitova in the final four. It's the first time since 1986 that a Czech man and woman have both reached the Wimbledon semis in the same year. That year, Ivan Lendl and Hana Mandlikova reached the semifinals, and were joined by Czech-born Martina Navratilova.
...in juniors, #1-seed conqueror Grace Min lost to Yulia Putintseva, who's joined in the final eight by a fellow Hordette, #2-seed Irina Khromacheva. Meanwhile, surprise RG Girls finalist Ons Jabeur, the #12 seed this time around, is still alive at SW19, as well. She took out #5-seed Monica Puig today. #10 Sachie Ishizu of Japan, who's been very active on the ITF challenger circuit in recent months (winning three, compared to two for the other final seven girls combined), also reached the quarterfinals.
Maybe this Czech resurgence will be good news for a Pliskova sister, too. Kristyna defeated Brit Eleanor Dean 6-0/6-2 today to reach the Girls QF. She'll next face Sloane Stephens, who defeated #3-seeded Timea Babos.
Of course, Dean aside, a case could be made that the Brits are still shining as brightly as the Czechs at this Wimbledon (and after the women went 0-6 in the 1st Round, too). In addition to Murray, Golding knocked off the Boys #1 seed today. And in the Girls singles, either Laura Robson (def. An-Sophie Mestach) or fellow junior wild card Tara Moore will reach the semis, as they play each other in the quarters.
...and, finally, yesterday I questioned whether or not ESPN2 would have even shown any of the best of the women's quarterfinals, Petra Kvitova over Kaia Kanepi, had the network been on the air when it was taking place live. I think the answer probably could have been read in between the lines of the discussion during today's opening segment. After Kvitova saved five match points and dug her way out of a 4-0 3rd set hole, the best and most dramatic match of the women's tournament so far was described one way, and only one way, when Darren Cahill noted in passing that Kvitova had "struggled to get through her match." Technically, I suppose that's a true statement. But, then again, you could describe the Isner/Mahut marathon "correctly" by saying that the American "struggled to get through his match" against the Frenchman, though it would hardly be a complete and/or fully accurate description of what took place. At least Cahill said SOMETHING, though. Not even a single highlight was shown of the match during the segment.
On a brighter note, Cahill's piece about the disappearance of serve-and-volley tennis at Wimbledon in the men's game was an eye-opener. Best stat: during Federer's 2001 win over Pete Sampras, 254 points were serve-and-volley ones. Last year, in the longest men's final ever played in this event between Federer and Roddick, on only eleven points were serve-and-volley tactics employed.
Yep, things change. Just ask Roger.
*CZECHS IN THE WIMBLEDON SF*
1972 Jan Kodes
1973 Jan Kodes
1976 Martina Navratilova
1978 Martina Navratiova
1979 Martina Navratilova
1980 Martina Navratilova
1981 Hana Mandlikova, Martina Navratilova
1983 Ivan Lendl
1984 Ivan Lendl, Hana Mandlikova
1986 Ivan Lendl, Hana Mandlikova
1987 Ivan Lendl
1988 Ivan Lendl, Miloslav Mecir
1989 Ivan Lendl
1990 Ivan Lendl
1993 Jana Novotna
1995 Jana Novotna
1997 Jana Novotna
1998 Jana Novotna
2010 Tomas Berdych, Petra Kvitova
[Czech-born American citizen, after 9/81]
1982 Martina Navratilova
1983 Martina Navratilova
1984 Martina Navratilova
1985 Martina Navratilova
1986 Martina Navratilova
1987 Martina Navratilova
1988 Martina Navratilova
1989 Martina Navratilova
1990 Martina Navratilova
1992 Martina Navratilova
1993 Martina Navratilova
1994 Martina Navratilova
[born in then-Czechoslovakia, now Slovak Republic]
1997 Martina Hingis
1998 Martina Hingis
*ATP - 2010 SLAM SF*
2...RAFAEL NADAL, ESP (1-0)
2...ANDY MURRAY, GBR (1-0)
2...TOMAS BERDYCH, CZE (0-1)
1...Roger Federer, SUI (1-0)
1...Robin Soderling, SWE (1-0)
1...NOVAK DJOKOVIC, SRB (0-0)
1...Marin Cilic, CRO (0-1)
1...Jurgen Melzer, AUT (0-1)
1...Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, FRA (0-1)
*WOMEN'S SINGLES SF*
#1 Serena Williams/USA vs. Petra Kvitova/CZE
#21 Vera Zvonareva/RUS vs. Tsvetana Pironkova/BUL
*MEN'S SINGLES SF*
#12 Tomas Berdych/CZE vs .#3 Novak Djokovic/SRB
#4 Andy Murray/GBR vs. #2 Rafael Nadal/ESP
*WOMEN'S DOUBLES SF*
#12 Vesnina/Zvonareva (RUS/RUS) vs.
#4 Dulko/Pennetta (ARG/ITA) or Goerges/Szavay (GER/HUN)
King/Shvedova (USA/KAZ) vs. #7 Raymond/Stubbs (USA/AUS) or #2 Huber/Mattek-Sands (USA/USA)
*MEN'S DOUBLES SF*
#14 Benneteau/Llodra (FRA/FRA) vs. #16 Lindstedt/Tecau (SWE/ROU)
Melzer/Petzschner (AUT/GER) vs. #7 Moodie/Norman (RSA/BEL)
*MIXED DOUBLES QF*
Clijsters/Malisse (BEL/BEL) vs. #10 Stubbs/Melo (AUS/BRA)
Shvedova/Knowle (KAZ/AUT) vs. #11 Raymond/Moodie (USA/RSA)
#9 Benesova/Dlouhy (CZE/CZE) vs. Dushevina/Tursunov (RUS/RUS)
#12 Chan/Hanley (TPE/AUS) vs. #2 Black/Paes (ZIM/IND)
*GIRLS SINGLES QF*
#15 Yulia Putintseva/RUS vs. #12 Ons Jabeur/TUN
Sloane Stephens/USA vs. #9 Kristyna Pliskova/CZE
#8/WC Laura Robson/GBR vs. (WC) Tara Moore/GBR
#10 Sachie Ishizu/JPN vs. #2 Irina Khromacheva/RUS
*BOYS SINGLES QF*
Oliver Golding/GBR vs. #9 Renzo Olivo/ARG
(Q) Benjamin Mitchell/AUS vs. #6 Damir Dzumhur/BIH
#7 Denis Kudla/USA vs. Facundo Arguello/ARG
#8 James Duckworth/AUS vs. #13 Marton Fucsovics/HUN
TOP QUALIFIER: #1q Kaia Kanepi/EST
TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): #2 Venus Williams/USA
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): #1 Serena Williams/USA
TOP LATE ROUND (SF-F): xxx
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q1: Junri Namigata/JPN def. Karolina Pliskova/CZE 6-2/4-6/14-12
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 1st Rd. - #24 Daniela Hantuchova/SVK def. Vania King/USA 6-7/7-6/6-3
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): QF - Petra Kvitova/CZE def. (Q)Kaia Kanepi/EST 4-6/7-6/8-6
TOP LATE RD. MATCH (SF-F): xxx
FIRST WINNER: Chan Yung-Jan/TPE (def. Patty Schnyder/SUI)
FIRST SEED OUT: #5 Francesca Schiavone (1st Rd. - lost to Vera Dushevina/RUS)
UPSET QUEENS: Czechs
REVELATION LADIES: Romanians
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Kaia Kanepi/EST (to QF)
IT GIRL: Petra Kvitova/CZE
MS. OPPORTUNITY: Tsvetana Pironkova/BUL
COMEBACK PLAYER: Vera Zvonareva/RUS
CRASH & BURN: Francesca Schiavone/ITA & Samantha Stosur/AUS (RG finalists, both lost in 1st Rd.)
ZOMBIE QUEEN: Petra Kvitova/CZE (down 5 MP, and 0-4 in 3rd, to Kaia Kanepi/EST in QF; won 8-6)
LAST BRIT STANDING: Heather Watson/GBR (last of six to lose in 1st Rd.)
DOUBLES STAR xxx
JUNIOR BREAKOUT: xxx
All for Day 9. More tomorrow.