30 June, 2012

Wimbledon Day 6 (Three Thoughts)

Take A Bow:  Of the many tragic figures of Wimbledon, Andy Roddick looms among the largest.  The quick-witted American with the muscular serve is a three-time finalist at the All England Club, only Federer and Nadal have fared better here during this generation.  Like everywhere and everyone else on tour (Save Novak Djokovic), Roddick's road to tennis immortality has been largely blocked by the Spaniard and the Swissman who've dominated this era of tennis.  Roddick is a combined 6-28 against Nadal and Federer, with Federer particularly playing his bogeyman, boasting a 21-3 record versus Roddick.  Roddick's big serve and aggressive game have always felt Savile Row-made for the grass, but he's a combined 0-5 against Nadal and Federer on grass.  At Wimbledon specifically, four times the end of Roddick's road has been at a dead end called Roger Federer.  While almost everyone remembers Roddick's heartbreaking loss 16-14 in the fifth to Federer in the 2009 final, that might not be the one that Roddick ought regret the most.  Most know that in 2003, THE Roger Federer came into being by winning Wimbledon over Mark Philippoussis in the final. To get to that final, he knocked off Roddick in the semis 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-3.  Such began the Yank's hard luck at Wimbledon; today may have been the end of it.

After a fast, hopeful start, David Ferrer ended Andy Roddick's twelfth trip to Wimbledon with a 4-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4, 6-3 third round loss.  Give credit to Ferrer, he was not only the form player, coming into Wimbledon ranked fifth in the world, but he was also toting a 6-4 head-to-head.  Although they'd never played on grass, Ferrer had beaten Roddick on the fast hardcourts of Shanghai and Austin (Davis Cup) so while the win wasn't wholly unexpected there was something wistful about the way it played out.  Roddick served at 85% in the first set, his forehand was firing winners and altogether he looked like the Roddick of old.  The second set, well, that's where things started to fall apart.  While a lesser player may have been bowed by Roddick's early form, Ferrer was in no mood to be blown off the court.  Roddick's most reliable asset, his serve foundered in set two and as valiantly as he fought, he couldn't quite make up for it.  Serving only 58% for the second set and hitting one more error than winner, Roddick lost that second set in a tense, extended tiebreak 10-8.  From there, Ferrer, terrier that he is, had his teeth in the match and the tide of negative momentum was too much for Roddick.  The American never stopped fighting, but once the lead was gone, so were Roddick's chances.  

The most striking image of the match was a Roddick fistpump or a screaming running winner from Ferrer, it wasn't even part of the match.  Roddick, defeated, took his time assembling his belongings.  Unlike a typical match where a loser exits with more speed than they ran down shots throughout most of the match, Roddick lingered.  He packed leisurely, waited for the victor to finish and then made his way to the tunnel.  Ferrer exited first, Roddick waving to the crowd on the way out, turned, looked back at Centre Court and blew a kiss.  It may or may not have been Andy Roddick's final curtain call at Wimbledon, but it sure looked and felt like one.  

Golden Girl: Yaroslava Shvedova became the first player in over twenty five years (and the first woman in the Open Era) to record a "Golden Set."  She not only bageled 10th seeded Roland Garros finalist Sara Errani, she didn't give the Roland Garros finalist a single point in the first set.  It wasn't even the woeful serving display you might have expected given the scoreline, Errani, the Italian, served 75% for the first set, but she was still dusted in 15 minutes by Shvedova.

Shvedova has had success on these Wimbledon lawns before, the Kazakh won the doubles title here with Vania King in 2010, but nothing like this.  The second set wouldn't follow the pattern, first off it was nearly three times as long, 42 minutes.  Errani also won points, 27 of them and games, four of them.  Acquitting herself nicely in a competitive second set before finally falling to Shvedova.  The match is likely to be one of those first round footnotes, Shvedova plays Serena Williams Monday in the Round of 16, but nonetheless, Shvedova's first set more than warrants a mention before being relegated to the annals of Wimbledon trivia.

Gender Studies:  Years after the adults in the room decided that male and female tennis players would earn equally for their play at Grand Slam events, yet another player wandered into the morass of gender equality at Wimbledon this week.  Frenchman Gilles Simon came to the table with the old question of whether the women were pulling equal weight for their equal pay.  Given the debate at Wimbledon ended years ago, why would anyone care about Simon's opinion on equal prize money? Yet, the press lapped it up.  When Simon lost his second round match to Xavier Malisse in straight sets, fully 15 of the 16 questions in the English language transcript we viewed were about Simon's "money quote."  Two days later, the press are still hammering at the same dead horse.  Today, the always quotable Serena Williams said "I don't deserve to get less because I have boobs, and they don't."  A bit less eloquent than her sister Venus has been on the topic, but her point remains the same.

Regardless of Simon's take, the women will receive equal pay, "boobs" neither warranting a discount nor a bonus, to Serena's relief, we're sure.  While we're on the topic of gender equality at Wimbledon, there was something that did tweak me that hasn't been changed at the venerable All England Club.  Specifically, the way chair umpires are instructed to address female players.  A former world No. 1 player was repeatedly referred to by the chair as Mrs. Clijsters.  Every tournament had it's own customs in terms of addressing players, but this is just obviously incorrect.  Kim Clijsters is not Mrs. Clijsters, she's Mrs. (Bryan) Lynch.  Obviously, announcing her as Mrs. Lynch wouldn't sync up with the scoreboard as Kim has chosen, professionally at least, to keep her maiden name, Clijsters.  That's her choice of course, but my question is why does Wimbledon continue to refer to a player's marital status on the field of play.  The tournament could easily switch to the more au courant (not to mention politically correct) Ms. without losing a modicum of decorum, however rather than updating with the times, they've opted (in Clijsters case at least) for pure unadulterated inaccuracy.  Prize money is a lightning rod issue, as it's a fight women have faced in all walks of life; but sometimes the seemingly little things mean just as much.

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