As customary, the middle Sunday at Wimbledon serves as a no play holiday which is a welcomed respite. No words can fully underscore the uniqueness of the events that transpire this week. From a seemingly never ending first round match, to the champions of the last two years limping their way into the last 16, to the Queen making a rare appearance, to a scandal involving Victor Hanescu. Here’s a homage to the initial six days and a take on what’s ahead.
The French are known for their flare and Nicolas Mahut is undoubtedly part of the establishment. In the second round of qualifying, Mahut outlasted his opponent 24-22 in the third set to advance. Then, Mahut went five sets to make it into the main draw. In the first round of the main draw, Mahut faced John Isner. On Tuesday, the match was interrupted due to darkness after the two split four sets. When the players returned on Wednesday, the night ended with a 59-59 draw in the fifth. Even the scoreboard was exhausted, crashing when the score got to 40+. On Thursday, the match concluded when Isner hit two consecutive winners to break Mahut and grab a 70-68 victory.
The encounter which lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes, shattered all previous records and redefined the meaning of marathon match. The fifth set alone spanned 8 hours and 11 minutes. However, despite a full day’s rest, Isner could not recuperate. The next round, Thiemo De Bakker, who won his prior round 16-14, dismissed a depleted Isner in just 1hour 14 minutes. For Isner, the physical consequences may reverberate for months.
While defending champion Roger Federer did not go to such extremes, it was a struggle to survive nevertheless. Federer was nearly a spectator as 60th ranked Alejandro Falla forced Federer to climb out of a two sets to love deficit, even serving for the match. With a bit of “luck” as Federer put it, he moved on. The Swiss’ second round was also tough as qualifier Ilijac Bozoljac prevailed in the second set tiebreaker. Federer carried the match by capturing the fourth set tiebreaker. The third round, Federer played close to flawlessly against Arnaud Clement.
Rafael Nadal also willed himself to advance. After a routine initial round, Nadal required five sets the second and third round against Robin Haase and Philipp Petzschener respectively. More importantly, Nadal had a flare up of his niggling knee problem and was treated for elbow issue.
Following a five setter with Oliver Rochus, Novak Djokovic thumped his next opponents Taylor Dent and Albert Montanes in the subsequent rounds. British hopeful Andy Murray has been efficient, booting his counterparts in straight sets. Even the Queen’s first appearance at Wimbledon since 1977 did not distract her subject as Murray dispatched Jarkko Nieminen in the second round.
After an uncomplicated primary round, Andy Roddick was rattled a bit by Michael Llodra and Philipp Kohlschreiber the next rounds, pushed to four sets by each. Roddick has friendly company into the second week as Sam Querrey secured a fourth round berth after a five set tussle with Xavier Malisse.
Unsurprisingly, his second tournament back from injury, Nikolay Davydenko fell in the second round. Shocking though was Fernando Verdasco, the 8th seed, Marin Cilic, the 11th seed, Marcos Baghdatis, the 24th seed, and Stanislas Wawrinka, the 20th seed, all exiting their first day out.
Robin Soderling, the 6th seed, has been on cue this week. The Swede has sailed through his matches, duration under two hours. His first event since his back injury, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s performance has been mixed. In the second round, Tsonga went five sets after having a two sets to none lead against Alexandr Dolgopolov. Yet, the following round, Tsonga cruised against qualifier Tobias Kamke.
This tournament has seen a revival of the French veterans. Paul-Henri Mathieu knocked out 13th seed Mikhail Youzhny and De Bakker in the second and third round respectively to earn a spot in the final 16 at a major for the first time since 2008. Also, Julien Benneteau is into the second week after surviving two five set matches.
Conversely, Gael Monfils had his fortnight cut short by Lleyton Hewitt in the third round. Monfils was no match for Hewitt who recently beat Federer in Halle. The Aussie is grooving on grass despite two hip surgeries.