Sunday, July 09, 2017

Wimbledon Day 6- Hello Darkness, My Old Friend, I've Come to Talk with You Again

Hey Y'all. Galileo here.

Wimbledon seems to be the slam where the most famous upsets happen. Lori McNeil and George Bastl can tell you. So can the big names they conquered; Steffi Graf and Pete Sampras. Of course, you also have Luis Horna taking out Roger Federer at the French, the legend of Robin Soderling, Stefan Edberg's shock defeat in New York and Mark Philippoussis taking out Sampras in Australia. And you can look back at Iva Majoli, Mark Edmondson and Richard Krajicek and think about what they did.

But the most famous runs, like Goran Ivanisevic, like Jelena Dokic and like Marat Safin in 2008 all seem to feed off the one thing Wimbledon has that the others don't. It has, hidden somewhere, a large reserve of magic. And every now and then it fuels a run or a match or a memorable occurence. Other slams don't have that magic, don't have that fairy dust.

Melbourne's slam is rightfully called the happy slam. It is fun, it has night tennis and it specialises in giving old champions a second chance - see Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, Justine Henin and Venus Williams. It is also the sunniest slam, though that may not count as a good thing. But it is excellent at being sunny. Roland Garros has this magnificent exoticness about it. It feels almost as if one were on a beach. It feels somewhat like being on holiday. And that slam is the one which loves to be different. Nowhere else would dislike its ten-time champion, or love Guga Kuerten the way it does. Nowhere else boos its home players with quite the same fervor. That is the slam that will forever be the one that made Hingis cry. The U.S. Open has so much passion, with the singing, the dancing, the music and the 3am finishes. It is the party slam. Utterly unorganized, it is always messy and always fantastic. The U.S. Open is like apple crisp. Chaotic, not good for your well being, but totally delicious.

What tends to happen at Wimbledon, from an upset point of view, is that big names, big seeds and other people of renown get trapped at 7pm on a smaller court, from No.2 downwards, and there, in the dying light of English dusk, they are trapped and slowly removed. Li Na went in such a way a few years ago. Who can forget Stan Wawrinka pushing Murray to the brink on Centre a few years ago?

The champions hear the sound of dusky silence, feel the blackness coming. They are told 'it'll be fine. You'll beat them easily. Playing on Court 18 is fine.” And slowly they realize they have been caught in a web. And they fight, in the growing gloom, for survival. One of two things will happen at 8:37 pm. The champion, in a tight spot, will pray for play to be called. Or the opponent, feeling their challenge fade, will cling on in desperate hope to push the match another half an hour.

The crowd, roaring for death, like in Roman times, are either very helpful or the total opposite. And they can choose on a whim. It is not helped by the fact that, by 7PM, they are all very drunk. Drunk on the occasion, drunk on the champers and reveling in the once-a-year atmosphere, the crowd becomes very French, as the politeness drains out of them.

Second seeds in this year's doubles tournament, Nicolas Mahut and P-H Herbert, found themselves the latest victims of The Dusk. With the Bryans, who are now 39, going out in straight sets earlier the signs were already ominous. Throw in British pairing of Marcus Willis and Jay Clarke - Cinderella and an 18 year old - and you could smell trouble. The defending champs seemed to be fine for the first half an hour, but soon began to toil. The Brits led going into the fourth set 3-6, 6-1, 7-6[3]. In the fourth set at 4-5, on the Mahut serve, the Brits led 0-40. But with the help of some big serves the Frenchies dug their way out of it and took the fourth set 7-5. That should have been the end of matters. But no. The Brits would not be denied. They sealed the final set 6-3 with an ace. And they won in five despite winning five fewer points. And so The Dusk claimed another big name.

Now they face Mate Pavic/Oliver Marach, the 16th seeds. With the Bryans gone, the semi-finals are there for the taking. But how much magic will Wimbledon alot Marcus Willis?

And now for Saturday's singles wrap-up...

It was a consumate performance from Novak Djokovic, a lesson in how to deal with a banana skin. The Latvian broke early, with a blistering backhand, and then served big throughout the first set, and looked like he make take it. Indeed, the commentators were talking about how good he was. But then he lost his serve at 4-3, lost his nerve, and disappeared. Nole took the first two sets 6-4, 6-1. Gulbis went walkabout after losing his serve and didn't re-emerge until the final set. He made that one tight and almost sneaked it, but Djokovic took the crowd out of the match. Once a crowd believes a match is dead it probably is. They just wanted to see Roger Federer. The Latvian was 38-37 on the winners count, so he was at least effective. But you cannot go off mentally when you're taking on a top five player on Centre Court. Any lapse and you're down a set. He went away for two hours. And in the breaker Novak just put his level up, knowing he couldn't let it go four. Andy Murray could learn things from the Serbs' approach.
Federer can do this:

Sometimes you think to yourself, did he just invent that shot? He doesn't just hit all the shots, yes, he invents them, too. Fedex swept past Mischa Zverev 7-6[3], 6-4, 6-4. It took three breaks and a little shy of two hours to win through to another third round here at Wimbledon. The German is a fantastic volleyer and played some nice shots, but it had the feel of a match where Federer was happy to sit back and break a couple of times. In the breaker the Swiss star hit some awesome shots and adjusted his level when he knew he had to. The veteran has never taken a set off the third seed and he didn't look like it today. He should have been more aggressive, he should have stepped in and attacked Federer's second serve. He should have been more proactive. But when your opponent goes 61-7 on the winners ratio and serves at 60 per cent first serves in, it can be a little daunting. Zverev did his job, but Federer now has a very tough ask. Grigor Dimitrov just beat Dudi Sela 6-1, 6-1 retired. But before you get excited you should look at the head-to-head. It is 5-0 Federer and the Bulgarian has won just one set. But that was a year ago. Still, if Dimitrov does win it will be an extraordinary result.
It appears that the Canadian has taken over the role of 'Wawrinka'. Really good, wins a lot, but never gets noticed. He made the final last year. He has been top ten for years. His serve could break bricks and his forehand is a legitimate weapon on its own. His gameplan is so simple even I could operate it. He has dropped one set this tournament. And his 7-6[3], 6-4, 7-5 victory over the Spaniard on Friday was another impressive one. Plus he has now closed the gap in the aces race. His 21 aces saw him rise to third, with 68. That is joint with Anderson and Querrey, but two behind Isner and four behind Muller. The first set was a real grind, with the Canuck struggling to break down the wall. But as the match wore on, his forehand combined with the surface eventually did in Ramos-Vinolas. Raonic only won 2 out of 13 break points. In tennis, at the big levels, you have to take your break points. For only the third time he has made the fourth round here. But now he has to face Alex Zverev. There are so many good matches on Monday, but if you get a chance, tune into that. This BACKSPINNER predicts a five set Raonic victory, with two breakers in there somewhere.
It was an unusual experience for Thiem on Friday, when he played a kid. Thiem was the elder statesman. Jared Donaldson is only 20. And that kid, who just made the third round of Wimbledon, will rise some ten places to 58 in the world. That is seven places higher than his career high. Even better is that with that ranking he will not only be allowed to enter most events, he may even be seeded in the smaller 250's. In Munich the lowest two seeds were ranked 52nd and 54th. In Istanbul the bottom seeds were 48th and 53rd. And if he makes a few quarterfinals he could crack the top 50. He doesn't turn 21 until the end of the season. It's a big achievement. Thiem dismissed him 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 but he fought so hard for two sets before fading away in the last. He showed mettle, weaponry and not a little mental fortitude. Next time he meets the Austrian he will do even better. America is building a fantastic generation of new talent. Thiem's next match is against Tomas Berdych. They have met just once; Berdych spanked him in the fourth round of the U.S. Open three years ago. The Czech will know if he can win again he may be able to break back into the top ten. Thiem needs to use low slice and also hit a couple of dropshots. If he can move the big man around he will be successful.
Querrey has defeated Tsonga 6-2, 3-6, 7-6[5], 1-6, 7-5. This BACKSPINNER was at this match, all the way from the end of the first set. He saw four sets of brilliant, aggressive, grass-court tennis. The crowd, who were totally pro-Tsonga, bellowed and hollered to get their man over the line. And I joined in, happily, shouting at both men to do their best. Chanting in French, calling out go go Jo Jo and cheering when Querrey won a point. It was like the feeling you get after a third glass of wine but you know you'll feel great in the morning. It was a match played in the spirit of Wimbledon. Both men hitting some fantastic shots, and congratulating each other on points well played. Tsonga couldn't quite break Querreys game down. The American's gameplan, and enormous serve, were perfect. In the fourth set he basically chucked it in once he was a break down. He knew that light was fading. He knew if he wanted to get it done that night he had to get the fourth over with quickly. And at 5-6, after 11 games of brutal serving where both men had had break chances, the umpire finally called time. He was heartily and deservedly booed. And the next day it was over in two minutes. But during that magical evening, where The Dusk nearly took another soul, the packed court and high quality of tennis felt like a little slice of heaven, a little oasis. A live tennis match is like nothing else. It is incomparable, just seeing your favourite player two metres away. But the Frenchman is out and Querrey moves on to play Kevin Anderson. And what an opportunity that is.
Mannarino won 7-6[4], 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2. Monfils blows it again. If you've sat through one of his five-setters you've sat through them all. This BACKSPINNER has no wish to go through it and analyse it - just ask Todd why the Frenchman is so frustrating. Still, it is a good result for Mannarino. But now he has Novak Djokovic. After coming back from two sets to one down twice in a row he must be exahausted. He lost to Nole in straights last year. Expect the same this time.

Thanks all and visit WTA BACKSPIN please.

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