By Bill Simons
You’re out there by yourself, a lone figure in a modest outfit, playing for hours in front of thousands, and millions on TV.
Issues of body image are central in our culture and just below the surface in tennis. People—well, especially women—are assessed, sometimes brutally, on their bodies. Body-judging, which is so endemic and often obsessive, is an incredibly sensitive issue. Even Michelle Obama’s arms were recently criticized.
On the eve of Serena Williams’ Wimbledon final, the New York Times published a controversial story on body image in tennis.
For starters, the timing was not splendid. It was hardly like in 1990, when, right after Martina Navratilova won Wimbledon, Margaret Court said Martina wasn’t a good role model because it was “bad for kids to be exposed to homosexuality.” Still, on the eve of Serena’s historic slam, the Times’ piece focused on an athlete’s body, rather than on the incredible body of work of America’s most dominant athlete. Just months ago, the head of Russia’s tennis federation referred to Serena and Venus as “the Williams brothers” and said, “It’s frightening when you look at them.”
To his credit, the skilled freelance journalist Ben Rothenberg obtained assorted comments from numerous players, and many spoke of the beauty of big, powerful bodies. But there was little of the nuance, context and depth you would expect and need in a Times article on such a provocative topic.
A firestorm of criticism erupted. “Even the New York Times is Body-Shaming Serena Now,” read a Salon.com headline. Soon the Times published an extended apology in which Rothenberg said, “I should have challenged the norms rather than just stated them as a given.”
What leapt out in the piece were comments by Aga Radwanska’s coach Tomasz Wiktorowski, who said, “It’s our decision to keep [Aga] as the smallest player in the top 10 … because, first of all she’s a woman, and she wants to be a woman.” Aga concurred, saying she cared about how she looked “because I’m a girl.”
So what is Serena, asked many.
Then there’s Maria Sharapova, who said it was “annoying” to lift anything more than five-pound weights. Donald Trump once said Maria beat Serena because Williams was intimidated by Sharapova’s supermodel good looks. The star, who embodies western society’s ideal image of beauty and makes $10 million more in endorsements than Serena, told the Times that she still wished she could be thinner. “I always want to be skinnier with less cellulite; I think that’s every girl’s wish.”
Pat Griffin, a retired University of Massachusetts professor, told the Times that sacrificing your femininity is an “old narrative in women’s sports … so presenting Serena as some kind of freak, or animal-athlete, was appalling … [The article] didn’t get at the sexism and racism just under the surface, or take into account the not-so-distant history of the sport where … a lesbian star like Amelie Mauresmo was derisively referred to by an opponent as ‘half a man.’” Responding to a tweet, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling tweeted a picture of Serena in a shapely red dress and said, “‘She is built like a man?’ Yeah, my husband looks just like this in a dress—you’re an idiot.” Writer Deron Snyder said Serena is “simply too much for too many, who can’t get over the tone of her physique or skin, which are subliminally and intricately linked.”
Williams, who incredibly failed to win the ESPY for Female Athlete of the Year, once complained, “Everyone called me fat … Every paper, the headline was ‘Fat, fat, fat.’” But, she told the Times, “You really have to learn to accept … and love who you are. I’m really happy with my body type, and I’m really proud … I talk about it all the time, how it was uncomfortable for someone like me to be in my body.”
Some said the article was not that offensive. But MSNBC’S Melissa Harris-Perry was outraged, insisting that body-shaming leads to self-hatred. She said, “The impulse to publicly dissect black women and offer commentary on our bodies as somehow bizarre, unfeminine, grotesque, and only worthy of shock—never emulation—is a sickening holdover from 19th-century scientific racism … especially [for] women of color.
“We are not ashamed of Serena … We have watched her grow … We are thrilled that she … embraces the enormity of her body, talent and influence. We appreciate that she takes chances … stays connected to her community, and refuses to be defined by the hateful rantings of the Twitterverse, or the appalling commentary of much of mainstream media … We know that … sport is far more apt to reward these athletes if they fit into tiny, pretty boxes. We know that these women can see that Sharapova makes more in endorsements than Serena, even though Serena has defeated her 17 straight times. So, shame on you, New York Times, for being part of a system that rewards women for what their bodies look like, rather than what their bodies achieve.”
By Bill Simons
LONDON—Yes, Roger Federer lost the Wimbledon final. Still, there is reason they call him the genius, the maestro, a magician. Attention: It’s a treacherous business to limit Federer’s future.
Before a 2007 fourth-round Aussie Open meeting with Roger, a young Novak Djokovic boldly crowed, “I have only three words for Federer: ‘He’s going down.’”
After Djokovic beat Roger at the 2008 Aussie Open, Novak’s mom proclaimed, “The King is dead.”
The august London Times noted, “Federer in decline is better than practically anybody who has picked up a racket.” And that was seven years ago.
But in 2013, the New York Times claimed, “To watch Federer this summer is to listen to an opera singer who can no longer hit the high notes.”
To be fair, even Federer has doubted himself. As a very young player, when he lost to his countryman Marc Rosset, he wept and plaintively asked one of the most ridiculous questions in tennis history: “What if I never reach another final?”
No problem there. Federer would reach 131 finals, including today’s juicy Wimbledon finale. Serb vs. Swiss, No. 1 vs. No. 2, master craftsman vs. inspired artist, defender vs. attacker, the best return of serve in the game vs. the man whose serve was on fire. Federer led their rivalry 20-19. And questions loomed.
Had Novak put behind him his devastating loss in the French Open final just weeks ago? Could Roger possibly repeat the transcendent performance he gave us in his semi against Andy Murray, and thereby avenge his loss in last year’s classic five-set final to win his eighth Wimbledon and become the oldest Slam champ in the Open era?
At first it seemed that way. Slicing beautifully, his serve on fire, Roger raced to a 4-2 lead. But Djokovic—who’d survived a huge scare from the big Kevin Anderson, and silly claims that he was unkind to ball kids—overcame his nerves and a set point for Federer, fighting back to force a first-set tiebreak. There, Federer’s level dipped badly while Novak poked a pass up the line and pounded forehands. He easily won the breaker, 7-1.
In the second set, Federer proved he’s not only balletic, but a scrappy street fighter. Despite being down an incredible seven set points, he blasted down-the-line backhands and rushed the net, managing to prevail 12-10 in the longest Wimbledon tiebreak since 2000.
For one brief moment, the battle evened.
But today Roger could not give us another magic show with a torrent of winners like he did against Murray. Rather, he soon certifiably proved he’s human. In the first game of the third set, he shanked the easiest of forehand sitters that a 3.5 player could easily put away to gift a break to Djokovic.
Novak pounced. Stretching wide, playing dazzling defense, and stepping up his underrated serve at key points, he took precious time away from the greatest grass court player to have ever picked up a racket. As Justin Gimelstob explained, “It just gets to a point where you don’t know what the answer is. If you are too aggressive, you incur too much risk. If you are too defensive, he takes control.”
Before and after a brief rain delay, Novak relentlessly hunted serves and put on an almost frightening return-of-serve display. His returns were like drones that descended on the lines and grabbed Roger by the throat. Novak wouldn’t allow Fed Ex to deliver. Roger had lost his serve just once in the entire tournament. Today, Djokovic broke him four times. The Serb won scramble points and seemed to scramble Roger’s brain. Federer lowered his head as his mind seemed to run out of options. The Serb prevailed 7-6 (1), 6-7 (10), 6-4, 6-3.
Soon the man who tasted such a bitter defeat in Paris was down on his knees tasting the (gluten-free and organic, or so he claimed) grass of Wimbledon. Reflecting on his tale of two cities—Parisian tragedy, London triumph—Djokovic told IT, “If there is one thing that I learned in the sport, it is to recover fast, leave things behind and move on.”
Novak moved on to his second Slam of the year, his third Wimbledon (the same as his coach Boris Becker) and his ninth Slam, a total that outdoes many a legend, including Lendl, McEnroe, and Connors. More than anything, Novak said, “I proved to myself I could do it again … If you would ask me as a 14 year old back in Serbia trying to find my way … that this is how I was going to end up at age 28, of course, I would sign the deal and take it right away.”
Djokovic is an incredible man: a deep thinker, a comic, a one-of-the-boys joker, a humanitarian, a loving family man and so skillful at his trade.
But he is not beloved, and might not be for many a year. He doesn’t have the muscles and charisma of Nadal, the adoration of a Grand Slam nation like Murray, or the universal love of the adored Federer.
Of course, not everyone was weeping for the Swiss. Andy Roddick, who has been denied many a title by Roger, confided, “I feel as sorry for him as I can for anyone who has won 17 Slams.”
Still, millions were saddened by the defeat suffered by their beloved Roger. No, don’t even think of saying his Grand Slam title hopes have vanished. He is No. 2 in the world, and for years, supposed sages have been saying the guy is nearly washed up.
Yet today’s loss by the once mighty man touches something deep within us. As Simon Barnes poignantly suggested, “There is always a reaction when great champions start to lose matches they would have won in comfort. It seems like an insult to their own glorious past, to our own glorious memories … So we have to brace ourselves for an unfolding experience of sadness … Roger failing again to be the Roger of the glory years. [Still] respect the things that make such a man carry on: relish for the struggle, sheer love of the game itself, glorious self-deluding ambition, and behind all that, the certainty that nothing will be as good, ever again.”
By Bill Simons
LONDON—Winston Churchill said, “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.” And on a bright Wimbledon day, Serena Williams grabbed history by the throat to write some stunning history.
The 6-4, 6-4 victory by the Prime Minister of woman’s tennis gave her a second Serena Slam.
Simply put, Serena is a tennis force like no other.
“I think she will win forever,” quipped Andy Roddick.
Of course, there was much sympathy for her foe, Garbine Muguruza, the Barcelona blaster with the booming weapons, broad smile and little dimples. One savvy American said, “What’s good for GM [Garbine Muguruza] is good for tennis history,” while a Henman Hill fan expressed a conventional piece of wisdom. “I like Serena, but it’s about time someone else won, don’t you think?”
Muguruza, seeded No. 20, got top-seed reviews.”She’s absolutely a ray of sunshine,” said broadcaster Barry Mills. “I left her press conference feeling so good about life,” said another writer.
But few felt good about Garbine’s chances. She was just 21. Yes, she had scored a Grand Slam win over Serena. But she had never previously gotten beyond the second round at Wimbledon, and there is a wretched history of first-time Centre Court finalists being crushed during their debuts: think Genie Bouchard and Sabine Lisicki.
The Wimbledon program dipped into history to make a telling comparison: “If seeing someone being thrown to the lions in a coliseum was the Romans’ idea of sport, the 21st-century equivalent is taking some poor luckless sacrifice and chucking her into the Centre Court den of the roaring lioness that is Serena Williams.”
Exactly. Serena had won three Slams in a row. She’s 33, yet is getting better. She has collected 20 Slams. The rest of tennis’s active players have 21. Five times at the French Open she came back from the brink of disaster. Here she beat a sister (Venus), a sweetheart (British darling Heather Watson) a shrieker (the oh-so-athletic Victoria Azarenka), and a Sharapova (her fiercest rival, who she’s prevailed over with an other-worldly dominance).
But Serena is human. What other sports career has experienced and expressed such a range of astounding—sometimes sweet, sometimes sour—emotions? And today Serena came out drum tight. She was not only playing a kid with nothing to lose, she was playing history, and she felt that considerable weight. Her service toss was low, her double-fault count was high, her movement was suspect, her groundies wild. All the while, Muguruza was fearless. Swinging free, she pounded groundstrokes, served big, and returned serve with conviction. It was clear she hadn’t gotten the memo. She was supposed to fold, but she was bold.
The Spaniard, who last year hated grass and lost in the first round, now was loving it. She broke Serena to start the final and backed up the feat with laser forehands, lean-in backhands and hefty serves. For over 20 heady minutes she had Serena on her heels. Williams’s head dipped, her groundies flew long. “Flashdance,” the brain-worm fight song she has in her head, vanished. Williams’s Wimbledon, the Serena Slam and the calendar Grand Slam clearly were all in jeopardy.
But no one turns tides like Ms. Serena. “When she feels the taste of losing, it is like tasting death,” her coach Patrick Mouratoglou told IT. Without any of the angst-ridden, foot-stomping panic we’ve seen this summer, Serena stepped it up. There were only a handful of “C’mon”s. “Flashdance”‘s lyric began to cycle again: “What a feeling … I can have it all, now I’m dancing for my life / Take your passion and make it happen.”
Serena made it happen. She upgraded her game with one-shot-at-a-time patience. Her serve, defense and groundies all improved. She broke back to even the first set, 4-4.
Now Muguruza began to doubt. She confided later, “It’s hard to concentrate … You have Serena in front of you. You’re thinking she won [this tournament] five times … [This] is your first final. You know you don’t have too many chances … With Serena, if you lose two points you lose the match.” Serena began to blast away, a heavyweight taking control in the middle of the bout. She won eight of the nine next nine games to lead 6-4, 5-1.
But Muguruza considerable grit and game. After Serena, she has more wins over top 20 players than anyone this year. She countered Aga Radwanska‘s surge in the semis and saved match points against Angelique Kerber. Today, when Serena seemed certain to win, Garbine survived a championship point, weathered a barrage of serves, and won three games in a row over a suddenly vulnerable Serena.
The crowd roared, loud and frenetic. But Williams remained quiet and calm, and when a Muguruza forehand drifted wide, she scored a dramatic 6-4, 6-4 win in the most anticlimactic of ways.
No one knew if Serena had won. Time stopped. But soon it was clear. Britain’s smitten crowd gave Muguruza a earsplitting ovation. Overwhelmed, the delightful Spaniard confided that she “couldn’t stop crying. So many people are clapping … I make all these people feel this on a tennis court.” Still, she kept it real. When Serena told her she would win Wimbledon, she thought to herself, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
Tennis’s bean counters were rejoicing with their stats.
Williams, now the oldest player to ever win a Slam, had over twice the ranking points of No. 2 Sharapova. It had been eleven years since she scored her first Serena Slam. She now held all four major titles. This was Serena’s sixth Wimbledon and 21st major. She was on the prowl.
Some wondered whether, somewhere in Las Vegas, a proud, bald husband, Andre Agassi, and his wife, Steffi Graf, were feeling footsteps; and whether in Perth, Australia, Margaret Court, now the pastor of the Life of Victory Church, was possibly praying that her all-time mark for Slams might endure.
Serena is now primed to match Graf’s record of 22 Open Era slams in New York, and she’s just three shy of Court’s all-time mark of 24.
None other than Confucius long ago told us, “Study the past if you would define the future.” Well, in the recent past, fortress Serena has seemed totally impenetrable. Her coach Patrick Mouratoglou noted the obvious: “No one has found the key [to beating her]. The key is hidden really, really well. I mean she can lose, but the key to beat her, no one ever found it … Maybe one [Petra Kvitova beat her in Madrid]. But it hasn’t happened again. So it’s not a real key.”
So, we asked, “Who hid the key?”
“I don’t know,” Patrick replied, “but no one has found it.”
LONDON—After Serena Williams‘s Wimbledon victory, Inside Tennis editor Bill Simons went to the Friends Box on Centre Court. There was Venus Williams, who had stayed on in London to support her little sister. There was the war-weary Oracene Price, Serena’s mother, who has seen it all. Vogue editor Anna Wintour told IT what she likes best about Serena is “that she never gives up.” And there was Serena’s transformative partner Patrick Mouratoglou. The French coach and American writer walked down the stairs of section P, and soon were joined by other journalists who wanted to hear the thoughts of Serena’s friend and mentor.
What impresses you most about Serena Williams?
She never gives up.
What are you feeling in your heart?
I am very, very proud of her. What she has been doing is really, really incredible. I mean, I knew she was unique, but she shows it every day by doing these types of things.
The pressure is so heavy. How does she use the pressure in a positive way?
It was difficult today. Pressure-wise she could not always use it.
What did you think when she was having those troubles with her serve?
I think she was just nervous. Because when she relaxed she started serving much better … She was tossing [the ball] much too low, so she couldn’t hit first serves in, and then she wanted to do too much on the second, so she started to miss. It was the pressure of the match that made her miss.
The Serena Slam is such an incredible achievement. You said that the records are a way to assess how you are doing. What does it mean to win the Serena Slam, four consecutive majors?
To win four majors in a row is so difficult, even though when she is playing good she is always a level above all the other players—everybody agrees on that. You have to be able to maintain consistency during all of a Grand Slam, every single match. Because all the girls play her so hard every time, she has to dig deep.
In Australia she was sick, in Roland Garros she was sick, and here she had [an] incredibly difficult draw. She had to beat three former Grand Slam Champions, including [Vika] Azarenka, who played such a great match. So, all these show how even if you are dominant, you have to overcome a lot of things in a row. It says a lot about where she is mentally.
And when she tastes defeat, how does she respond? When she is down and battling. How does she turn it around?
She refuses defeat, she refuses to lose. When she feels the taste of losing, she finds so much strength, and she can raise her level.
She thought about winning [near the end of the final], then she lost her rhythm completely. This can happen, and it has happened to Serena because she is human. But she always bounces back. Always.
And she will feel such pressure now [aiming for the Grand Slam and 22 Slams total in New York]. How will you tell her to deal with all the focus that is going to be on her?
She is going to be the same. She is going to do exactly what she has done previously in all the matches. She is focusing on the next one. Always focusing on the next match, focusing on a game plan, focusing on how to prepare. [That way] you have a good chance to forget [about] all the [surrounding] things.
She had such delight when she finally let it out: ‘I won the Serena Slam, I won Wimbledon.’ Did you get a kick out of that, Patrick? Did you like it?
Yes, of course. You are so relieved, even though you know she can do it. I mean every time she starts a Slam I know she can win it. I know there is a big difference being able to win it and winning it. You feel relieved.
Talk about your 8 Slams with Serena.
I think it’s a combination of factors. Obviously there is a great trust between us. We are simply doing a good job. We are working on the right things. We are focused. That’s it.
Is she enjoying this moment, or is she already thinking about the US Open?
I mean we are playing next week, so….
I don’t think she wants to stop. I will be surprised if she stops. She loves being number one, she loves winning Slams. As long as she feels she can win, I think she will.
Yes, tennis changes. If you look at the [average] age of the top 100, it’s maybe 3 or 4 years older than it used to be. The surfaces are slower, and it takes much more time to develop because you need to be incredibly physically fit—you have to cover the court so well, you have to stay in longer rallies, otherwise you are in trouble. To do what Boris Becker did when he was seventeen-and-a-half—I mean, I don’t wanna say it’s not possible, because you never know, but it’s very difficult now with the type of surfaces we have on tour. But what I also like about Serena and Roger [Federer] is that they show you can still be on the top by playing a super aggressive game.
I think she [Garbine Muguruza] will win Grand Slams, She was very nervous today. She didn’t play her best tennis, but she has a big game—the game of the future. A big serve, aggressive returns, taking the ball on the rise, going forward. That’s the game to win Grand Slams.
When is the future? We have been in the present with Serena for a long time now.
I hope as late as possible, because Serena is gonna try to prevent these young ones from winning Grand Slams.
Thanks to IT contributor Lucia Hoffman for assistance.
By Bill Simons
LONDON—Wimbledon gives greatly—glory and triumph. And today on Centre Court, Wimbledon gave us the greatest game in history.
Yes, it was astounding when Pete Sampras beat Andre Agassi in 1995 amidst fierce New York roars. There was a definitive 22-shot rally. In 2013, Andy Murray took twelve heart-wrenching minutes to beat Novak Djokovic to become the first Brit in 77 years to win Wimbledon. Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka had a mighty game in the 2013 US Open semis, and Murray and Djokovic had a memorable 20-minute game in this year’s Aussie Open final.
But today we saw a game for the gods. The greatest player of all time on the greatest court in tennis beat the greatest player modern Britain has ever produced.
Up a set and on the brink of capturing another, Roger Federer was playing at his Federerian best, so sublime. Finesse, power, touch, grace—the man all but floats. He chuckles at gravity. And, at 33, he defies time. This master focuses with a surgical precision. He’s magical: dreamy style, ample panache.
But Scot Murray is adored on this island.
The praise is plentiful and poetic. The BBC gushed, “It’s working, it’s happening. It’s growing. You can’t contain it. You can’t control it. It burns. It stings. It hurts. See it. Taste it. Feel it. Embrace it. It’s you. It’s us. Say it together: ‘I am Murray, I am Murray. I am Murray.’”
But Roger—The Mighty Federer—is Roger. Of late, his serve has been on fire, a revelation. He started fast and ultimately won 76% of his first serves, hitting 20 aces. Need we note, the man is gutsy, and he’s smart.
There’s a reason he’d beaten Murray in six of their last seven meetings and in four of their five Slam matches. Ruthlessly, clinically, he exposed his foe’s weaknesses. He attacked Murray’s forehand, blasted away at the Scot’s vulnerable second serve, and, as he has done for years, got into Andy’s head.
Yes, in the very first game, Roger saved a break point. Then the match settled into a typical grass court encounter that seemed destined to sprint to a tiebreak. But in the twelfth game, Roger stepped up on his return of serve and forehand before rifling a backhand that handcuffed Andy. Grass court tennis is a matter of thin margins and flash opportunities. Federer stole the moment to win the first set, 7-5.
Then, when Roger was up 5-4 in the second, came the game for the ages—a match within a match. Here, Murray hit an astounding second-serve ace while down set point. The duo gave us inspired corner-to-corner scrambles, searing passes, subtle drop shots. Five times brave Murray, such a steely fighter, saved set points. There were seven deuce points.
We asked Roger what was going through his head during that considerable moment. The maestro gave us a treat. He explained to IT just what was he was thinking. “I said I was going to play the game with no regrets,” he explained. ”[At] love-40, I said I’m going to run around and go for it. Then I thought I’m not sure if I should … He caught me up the line with a serve. I knew that was maybe a mistake … If Andy serves two big serves and he gets out of it, you’re like, ‘Maybe I should have made him play and feel the pressure more … But maybe it stays with his mind that I was going to do that at the biggest moments. Maybe that’s why he did serve on [match] point the second serve [ace] to make sure he didn’t have to go to the [slower] second serve. Maybe a set and a half later it paid off. Who knows?
“But the game was unbelievable. He played some unbelievable shots, great retrieving. I had my chances. I actually didn’t get down on myself. It was actually a perfect game, regardless if I win or I lose … It was a key game for him to stay on and break the good run I was on, then win the second set. It would have changed things around completely.”
In 1980, John McEnroe beat Bjorn Borg 18-16 in the greatest tiebreak ever. Mac won the battle but lost the war when Borg came back to win Wimbledon in the fifth. Similarly, Murray won the second-set game amidst deafening hollers. But Federer came back. The Swiss does not blink. The world may rage, but Federer remains calm, almost still. Barely taking a breath, he promptly held serve and then broke Murray.
He explained that after Murray won the transcendent 17-minute second-set game, “I was almost able to have a love game after that, stay with him, then break myself. Obviously it still remained an unbelievably important half-hour for both of us. The game itself, we had some unbelievable shots, and it was great to be a part of it … It’s a good game to play, I’ll tell you that.”
Roger’s 7-5, 7-5, 6-4 win propelled him into an unprecedented tenth Wimbledon final. Incredibly, he has won 30 of 31 sets in Wimbledon semis and has prevailed in 26 of the 37 Slam semis he’s played. On Sunday he will face No. 1 Djokovic, who downed him in last year’s final. Federer has not won a Slam in three years.
But never mind. On this sublime Wimbledon day, Federer drew adulation. Royals and regulars cheered and tennis bowed. “I hope he plays until he’s 80,” tweeted Richard Deitsch. “He’s an old Ferrari, but he’s still a Ferrari,” said Radio Wimbledon.
Maybe an elderly British fan on Murray Mount said it best. “Normally,” she sighed, “I’m quite a placid lady. But now I feel gutted.”
So did Andy Murray and so did all of British tennis.
By Bill Simons
LONDON—Donald Trump was wrong.
The savvy businessman—and questionable tennis analyst—claimed Serena Williams lost the 2004 Wimbledon final to Maria Sharapova because she was intimidated by the Russian’s supermodel good looks.
But Sharapova was right.
After winning the the 2004 title, the beaming 17-year-old turned to Williams and said, “I’m sorry Serena, I guess I have to take this away from you for a year.”
Exactly, that was it!
Since then, the greatest rivalry in women’s tennis hasn’t been much of a rivalry. It’s had far more fizzle than sizzle.
Yes, Maria is fierce. She’s the second best battler in the game. She overcame a serious shoulder surgery in 2008 that has greatly impacted her serve. She’s become an adept clay court player. Since her Wimbledon triumph, she’s won four more Slams—impressive. She has a career Grand Slam.
But since 2004 Serena has won 14 Slams. She has the best shot in tennis history, her flowing serve. Her forehand punishes, as does her backhand. She returns well, and for a big woman who—can we note—is hardly young, she displays impressive, though not always graceful, speed.
Many claim the Serena vs. Sharapova rivalry is not really a rivalry.
Sharapova shrieks loud, but against Serena, it’s been the sound of silence. Maria has her sweet Sugarpova candy, but parts of her game are a bit sour. Too often, her serve is a curious misadventure. Her toss has a mind of its own. Her movement is inelegant and far from explosive, and these days, she just doesn’t seem to be hitting free and long. She’s mechanical, at times robotic. Even on grass, her shots too often fall short. She arrived into today’s semis without having to face a top 30 player, and after a mighty struggle against Coco Vandeweghe.
More to the point, Maria has to be baffled. Since that giddy year in 2004 when she prevailed on Centre Court (and once more later at the WTA finals), she has lost 16 straight matches to Serena.
But let’s not forget Maria will be No. 2 in the world next week. That’s hardly horrible.
What was horrible for Maria was her clumsy start. In the opening game, she double faulted three times, was promptly broken, and then was broken again when down 3-1. By the time the score reached 5-1, the deflated crowd sensed it was over for “ova.”
Sharapova was not a little-known German with a triple-digit ranking taking the mighty Serena by surprise in an early round at the French Open. She was no British darling with the crowd at her back, and she couldn’t muster the mighty athleticism of Victoria Azarenka.
Still, to Maria’s credit, after she again double faulted to suffer a break and fall behind 2-3 in the second set, she played some intense ball, blasting groundies to the lines, surviving a match point and displaying her intensity: Maria tough.
But every time Sharapova managed a slight counterattack, Serena stepped it up. She had 29 imposing winners. Maria had nine. And Serena’s serve—she hit 13 aces today—is like a ‘Get out of jail free’ card.
Ultimately, Sharapova—the woman who turns and talks to the wall—hit the wall. But, unlike in Maria’s last match against Serena on this court (a 6-0, 6-1 drubbing in the 2012 Olympic final), the Russian silver medalist could point to a modest silver lining: a respectable 6-2, 6-4 scoreline against perhaps the greatest player in history, who next will face a zoning youngster in the final.
Yes, Spain’s Garbine Muguruza scored notable wins over Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki and Timea Bacsinszky to reach the semis, and she had a hefty challenge in her scintillating match today. Her foe Aga Radwanska scampered, bent, poked, sliced, diced and displayed breathltaking Martina Hingis-like all-court skills: such touch.
But Muguruza, the first Spanish women’s semifinalist in 18 years, powered groundstrokes to the corners, served big and moved well. She overcame some hefty nerves and survived a six-game mid-match slump to score an impressive, star-in-the-making 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win.
The 21 year old, seeded No. 20, does have a win over Serena. She’s a broad-shouldered athlete who can hit with Williams, who is playing her 26th Slam final, fighting to collect her second “Serena Slam,” and striving to gain the calendar Grand Slam.
Saturday’s match will be Muguruza’s first Slam final. She has a chance, and is attracting a growing legion of fans. Still, most are saying that Serena will come out Saturday and say, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” and—as the Spaniard departs—the headlines will read “Garbine with the Wind.”
Wimbledon Buzz: The Battle of the Beautiful Backhands and Assorted Other Dances Through the Hors D’oeuvres
DANCING THROUGH THE HORS D’OEUVRES—THE NICK KYRGIOS-JIMMY CONNORS CONNECTION: The London Times’s Alyson Rudd noted that when Nick Kyrgios faced the media, he “was all moody and misunderstood. He ran his hand through his hair over and over, his eyes glinting in distaste that his behavior was being analyzed … [After all, he] was able to turn the removal of a pair of socks into an angst-ridden one-man show worthy of a fringe-theatre specializing in Bertolt Brecht. His behavior screamed, “I’m bored.” It was like peeking through the window at toddler quiet time at the local kindergarten. There is always one child who does not want to conform, who spies the pots of the paint and a teacher’s coat that could do with some livening up.”
Rudd’s rant brings to mind the immortal commentary by the New York Times’s Robert Lipsyte on Jimmy Connors‘s run to the 1991 US Open semis. Lipsyte contended, “Connors reminds you all how much we have given up by growing up. Lucky Jimmy. If only we could once again stop the party in the living room, make all the grownups applaud our naughty words, dance through the hors d’oeuvres, posture and preen and be a terrible two, the only time when a human being will be loved for conquering the world while crying.”
NATTY AND NICE: On Radio Wimbledon, pleasant lifestyle broadcaster Sara McCloughlin defined natty as “stylish with a hint of individuality.”
ROGER’S EPAULETTES AND FRINGING: The Daily Mail’s Jan Moir noted, “Roger Federer has described the [all-white attire] rules as ‘ridiculous.’ I could say the same about the lavish blazer, waistcoat and shorts combo Rog sometimes wears … complete with epaulettes and fringing.”
RICHARD GASQUET—THE WORST OF THE BEST: Who’da thunk it? French underdog and perpetual under-performer Richard Gasquet shocked Wimbledon when, deep into the fifth set of his “battle of the beautiful backhands” with Stan Wawrinka, he broke the Swiss’s serve to go up 5-3 in their quarterfinal.
But wouldn’t you know it, Gasquet (who has long been criticized for his lack of mental ferocity) was broken right back by Wawrinka, despite being just two points from victory.
The BBC applauded Wawrinka, saying “Strength of mind, strength of purpose, strength of belief—that’s unbelievable tennis.”
But Gasquet, who was hoping to return to the semis for the first time in eight years, showed surprising resolve and clever tactics to match the French Open champion stroke for stroke and game for game. At 9-9 the Frenchman fought off a break point, and held serve. Then, incredibly, Wawrinka netted a forehand and his slice backhand went long. Gasquet had three match points. Finally, a Wawrinka backhand—perhaps the most celebrated shot in recent times—flew long.
Gasquet fell to the turf a 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 11-9 winner. During the 3:28 battle the Frenchmen surprised cynics with his tremendous fighting spirit, playing his best in key moments.
“I tried to fight, fight,” said Gasquet. “It’s an incredible victory … I’m proud. There are big players in the semis, I’m the worst.” Then again, sometimes it’s not that shabby to be the worst of the best.
WIMBLEDON HISTORY REVISITED: Friday’s juicy men’s semi between Roger Federer and Andy Murray is a reprise of the greatest one-two punch in Wimbledon history. In 2012 Federer edged Murray in a memorable four-set final. During his on-court concession speech, Scot Murray conceded, “This isn’t going to be easy.” The often sullen Scot then promptly got weepy. His vulnerability touched all of Britain. In a moment he became a beloved figure. Just weeks later, he cemented his acclaim forever when he turned the tables on his Swiss rival, beating him on Centre Court to claim the Olympic Gold.
Today, reporters asked Federer if Murray’s second serve was good enough to carry him to victory. Roger responded, “We’ll see. He’s beaten me before with that second serve. [It] can’t be that bad. He’s beaten so many guys so many times. You know what I mean? He covers it very well. He’s fast on his feet. He reads it well. [He's] one of the greatest return players we have in the game. He’s got a great first serve … Plus he won Queens. He’s in full flight.” And Friday’s semi should be full of sublime ball.
BRITAIN’S DEFERRED APPRECIATION: Oliver Brown noted that the “Williams sisters [are] finally the darlings of Centre Court. They were lavishly applauded, as if the denizens of Centre Court had merely decided to defer their appreciation for a couple of decades. The pity was that, of all the sister acts involving Venus and Serena, this installment was curiously bloodless.”
DARK ‘DAWN’—KYRGIOS AND TOMIC HAVE PROBS, BUT DON’T SAY THAT: Former Olympic champion Dawn Fraser, 77, claimed her fellow Aussies Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic were a disgrace to Australia and should go “back to where their father or their parents come from … We don’t need them here in this county if they act like that.” Kyrgios, who has a Greek father and Malaysian mother, called Fraser a “blatant racist.” His mom Nell said the comments were a “nasty racist attack” and “out of line.” Fraser then denied she was a racist.
RAIN COMMENTARIES: When play was delayed due to rain, American voices in the press room said, “It feels like Wimbledon again,” and “Even if you hold Wimbledon a week later, it’s still wet.” But BBC’s very English commentator Sue Barker was barely fazed. She sighed, “All we can do is wait.”
WELL THERE WOULD BE TRANSPORTATION COSTS: If American corporations can buy or sell carbon pollutants, why can’t drought-stricken California buy a bunch of rain from Britain?
“He’s on his hair game.”—Andy Roddick, on David Beckham.
“Federer’s a bit of an unknown quantity.”—Live at Wimbledon Radio
“I’m done with controversy.”—Serena Williams, who is trying to concentrate on her matches.
SHARAPOVA REMAINS A BIG NOISE
GIVE WOMEN A BETTER SHOW SAYS WOZNIACKI
BRITAIN’S ‘ATTACK JOURNALISM’ AT IT AGAIN: Britain’s gotcha journalists were at it again when they revisited the issue of whether Novak Djokovic scared and frightened a ball girl. He had apologized the other day and said that if there was a problem it was inadvertent and that he would seek out the girl to make amends. But the media didn’t let go. Djokovic reiterated his thoughts, but then about six questions into this silly topic the most fun-loving guy in the game, who has joked with and embraced ball kids around the world, finally had had it. He said, “[The] media likes to make a big deal out of it, especially one kind of media in England, and you know which one I mean.”
He added, “I was a ball kid myself. I respect them. I respect … everybody who is there. Sometimes in a moment of a battle … you get your emotions out, but never on the ball kid … But, I spoke to her and we cleared the air. She didn’t mind at all … I try to be grateful for what they’re doing. I try always to chat with them before or after the match … [and] give them an item that they appreciate as a souvenir … I know how much it means to them. They’re all teenagers, kids. They’re overwhelmed by the importance of the tournament, how big the stage is. To be able to share the court with tennis idols … they dream to be actually in the same court but with a racquet in the hand.”
A TANK IS A TANK IS A TANK: It’s bad enough not to try, i.e., to tank. The world saw Nick Kyrgios do it against Richard Gasquet. Then the Aussie compounded his bad deed and denied he tanked. Puh-leez!
HOMELESS TENNIS: Years ago, when the ATP’s Transamerica Open was held at the Civic Center in San Francisco, fans would emerge from the snazzy tournament to be greeted by many homeless people from the nearby Tenderloin district. It was a stunning, provocative juxtaposition. On a lighter note, Madison Keys—who recently has been in California with Lindsay Davenport, in Florida where she moved, and in Iowa near where she was born—said, “I’m kind of homeless right now. I float from state to state.”
WE ARE NOT SEXIST: Even though Wimbledon’s record of showcasing women’s tennis is far below the other Slams, the tournament asserted, “We take great care when scheduling matches and allocating courts and all decisions are made with fairness and the best interests of the tournament, players, spectators and our worldwide broadcast audience at heart.”
BACKHANDED COMPLIMENTS: Years ago, we remember delighting in a stunning battle of backhands between Guga Kuerten and Andre Agassi in LA. Today, it was thrilling to watch another confrontation between two exquisite backhand maestros—Richard Gasquet and Stan Wawrinka.. Different generations, different strokes, similar beauty.
‘OUR FAIRY TALE’: Timea Bacsinszky—an abuse victim and former waitress who reached the French Open semis and Wimbledon quarterfinals—prompted Switzerland’s Adrien Rusch to say, “She’s our fairy tale.”
TIME TO END THE NONSENSE: As for the rule that limits the time players are allowed between points, John McEnroe said, “Either put a clock there or get rid of this nonsense.” Vasek Pospisil, who was the victim of an ill-timed time violation call, said maybe it’s determined by the ump’s egos. He sarcastically suggested that umpires “need to take a course on how to do it.”
GO FIGURE: This year’s eight women quarterfinalists were completely different from last year’s … Going back to the first round at the Halle warmup tournament, Roger Federer won a personal-best 116 straight service games. After Gilles Simon finally broke his serve, Fed said he’s relieved that his streak was snapped so he would not have to field so many questions about it.
THE END OF A SLAM DREAM: Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova, who won the Aussie and French Open doubles championships, lost to Americans Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears. Kops-Jones and Spears will meet Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza (who haven’t dropped a set so far) in the semis. Veterans Lisa Raymond and Cara Black were up 5-1 in the last set against Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. But the Russians, seeded No. 2, rallied to take seven of the next eight games and win. Last year’s finalists Bob and Mike Bryan also fell Tuesday.
COCO’S CLAIM: Coco Vandeweghe claimed Maria Sharapova intentionally distracted her during their quarterfinal match by moving during her second serve motion. During the match, Coco approached the ump and told her that if she was too afraid to confront the daunting Sharapova, she would. When we asked Coco what was illegal about moving during a serve, she passed on answering.
COCO’S CLAN: Coco Vandeweghe‘s uncle and grandfather have serious NBA bloodlines. Her grandmother, Colleen, was Miss America, and Colleen is Coco’s real name. Her mom is a child of the ’60s, and Coco’s siblings are named Beau, Crash and Honey.
COCO VS. CICI: Ultimately, who will be better—the powerful Southern Californian Coco Vandeweghe, or the rising and savvy Northern Californian junior CiCi Bellis, who took the US Open by storm last year?
AMERICAN JUNIOR SCORECARD: Going into the quarterfinals, there are four American boys (Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, William Blumberg, and Tommy Paul) and two girls (Alicia Tornado Black and Michaela Gordon) left in the singles.
By Bill Simons
LONDON—Under the bright New York lights, in distant Melbourne, on Paris’s sticky clay and against a young wonder-Brit in London, Serena Williams has prevailed. Five times in Paris, she cheated defeat, scoring astounding comebacks. And then she saddened an entire island when she beat the English cutie Heather Watson.
But Victoria Azarenka is no cutie.
She may be named after modern Britain’s greatest queen, the lady in black who defined propriety. But today in white, this Victoria was hardly preoccupied with tea party civility.
Have you heard her screech?
Is there a more painful sound in the game? Speaking of pain, Azarenka, the former No. 1 who has twice won the Aussie Open, suffered foot and leg injuries that sidelined her for months in 2014.
And on her long comeback, she has twice been blunted by Serena. In Madrid, Vika was up 5-1 in the first set tiebreak, then faltered. She re-grouped, but ultimately collapsed. Three times she double faulted on match point before losing. At the French Open against Serena, Vika hit a critical forehand on the line on set point that was wrongly called out. Clearly Serena—who’d been forced into an error by the shot—wasn’t hindered by the late “out” call. Words were exchanged, baffled glances were traded, but both the umpire and Serena refused to give Vika the point.
Like many players before her—think Justine Henin, Jennifer Capriati, Maria Sharapova—Azarenka was not pleased with Williams. She called the Paris point “bullshit,” and is still “pissed.”
Perhaps then it wasn’t surprising that Vika, who hadn’t lost a set in the entire tournament, stormed out of the gate, won 83% of her first serves, played fabulous defense and raced to a 6-3 first-set victory.
Nonetheless, Centre Court was stunned. Serena followers merely mumbled, “Here we go again.”
Williams counterattacked. What else is new? After all, we do know that the American is inner-city/Centre Court tough. But the Belarusian is no pushover either. Some claim she will again reach No. 1.
Soon there were battles within the battle. Fierce assaults, corner-to-corner sprints, and defense-to-offense wonders were followed by power blasts, stretch flicks and blanket coverage. “This certainly is a good advert for women’s tennis,” said Live at Wimbledon radio. “These two are pushing tennis to lofty, breathtaking heights.”
The audio rose to such stratospheric levels that perhaps the sounds were heard way up there. This was far from the sound of Centre Court silence.
Grunt. Screech. Scream! Fans laughed, while the biggest control-freak ump in the game tried to “brake” the crowd.
These days, no one has been able to “brake” Ms. Williams once she decides to turn it up and get into gear. Almost on cue, Serena lifted her game, Vika’s defense dipped just slightly, and in the sixth game of the second set, Serena stretched wide to blast a cross-court winner from a distant corner. “Yeah!” she shouted. We saw her familiar fist pump. Once again on the comeback trail, Serena had scored a huge break to go up 4-2 in the second set. Moses was good at parting the sea. Serena’s not bad at turning tides. She’s come from behind to win a record 34 times after losing the first set in Slams.
Still, she would admit later that she felt vulnerable in the third set. But she went on to upgrade her serve. Her forehand had a new command. She powered backhands that kissed deep corners.
Just before Williams scored her 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory, Azarenka whiffed on a 107 mph serve and wryly laughed.
But her recent matches against Serena have hardly been laughing matters. No, losing to Williams is no capital offense. But now in three months, Vika has dropped leads in three European capitals—Madrid, Paris and London.
Afterward, Vika, quickly conceded Serena’s dominance.
“Did you see those 24 aces?” she asked. “That’s almost a set.” (It is, in fact.)
Still Vika was proud, saying she had never played so well—that the match was an inspiration, that she loved to be pushed, and she would learn from today. She added that she’s “do anything I can, anything, to be able to not just beat Serena, but to win Wimbledon. I will do anything to win Grand Slams … We put on a great show together … It’s been a while since there was that high quality of women’s tennis. I wasn’t surprised because I know she’s going to do everything to win … [but] I’m the type of player that will never give up.”
But what was she thinking during all those breathless points? “When everything [is happening] all I see is the ball. I don’t even really see my opponent.”
Now her opponent, Serena, can see the Wimbledon and “Serena Slam” finish lines. Thursday, in the semis, she faces “arch-rival” Maria Sharapova, who she has beaten in 16 straight times.
So no worries, right?
Not hardly. Still, Serena, despite her stomps, her sometimes off-balance miscues and flat stretches, is playing with a a curious degree of serenity. And, that helps her on court.
Right now, she doesn’t want to deal with controversies (i.e. women aren’t put on show courts enough and, by the way, don’t men grunt more loudly then men). She doesn’t want to talk of inspirational stars of the past, or reflect on records to be set in the future, or Slams to be savored.
She just wants be in these considerable moments. And of late, the lady with the big serve and hefty heart has been gracing us with a string of wondrous moments quite unlike any others in memory.
By Bill Simons
LONDON—Six-foot-eight Kevin Anderson, with a multicolored assortment of gear, strides out onto a packed Court One. The man looks like an oversized South African version of Huck Finn.
In contrast, Novak Djokovic emerges for the renewal of their key fourth-round match with a certain calm—a hint of “been there, done that” zen. His Asian gear and creme and green Head bags are flawless.
As a boy, the dreamer showed up at the courts of his mountain village in an impeccable outfit, a well-packed bag and headband, the very definition of intent. From that distant mountain perch, Novak’s long and winding march to Wimbledon hardly wavered.
Yet yesterday the defending champion seemed put off, sleepy and a tad defensive, as big Anderson, No. 14 in the world, zoomed into an imposing zone. Blasting serves, punishing with his forehand and moving with eye-opening ease, he scored Becker-like leaping volley winners. For two sets, he prevailed. This Huck never wavered.
But there’s a reason Novak is Novak. He’s No. 1. The man who survived bombs as a kid was determined to counter the considerable Anderson weaponry coming his way.
Like some kind of aikido master—gluten-free and almost error-free—he turned the South African tide, won two sets and evened the match before play was suspended due to darkness.
Certainly, getting the evening off would aid Anderson. And the University of Illinois product came out this morning bending low on his backhand and reaching high on his unreadable serve. He won the first game at love and prevailed in a long, perhaps defining rally.
On serve, the match marched deep into the deciding fifth set. But the great Djokovic seemed distracted. He howled at his coach—an explosion of anger. He saved two key break points but still found himself down 4-5. He would have to serve to stay in the match. Never mind that he went down 0-30, he countered with the ease of a champion.
Novak’s kick serve may only be 105 mph, but he sprinted on the exquisite London lawn with a leopard’s solitary intent: inside-out backhands, down-the-line winners—effortless pivots, surgical results. His groundies bit, causing evident pain. He drew blood and held serve. And yes, South Africans know well of deadly leopards, such relentless hunters.
Djokovic’s breathless hold of serve had an unseen but telling impact. Now, at 5-5 in the fifth, the pressure was on Anderson to take the fifth.
But his signature weapon misfired. He suffered not one, but two double faults. Then the Leopard again pounced. Novak unleashed a laser forehand return to Anderson’s ankles. The giant was hapless. The Serb scored the key break and howled in glee.
This is grass court tennis. In just three minutes, the battle was turned. The South African Huck Finn, who has never gotten further than the fourth round in a Slam, was left to float down another river of defeat. While old man Djokovic, 28, rolls on, a 6-7 (8), 6-7 (8) 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 victor.
So beware, in this jungle they call Wimbledon, the Leopard of London—who next plays Croatian Marin Cilic in the quarters—remains on the prowl.
AGUT VS. A GOAT: The fourth-round match between Roberto Bautista Agut and Roger (“Greatest of All Time”) Federer could be called a match between Agut and a “GOAT.”
NOT QUITE TRUE: Early in Venus‘s career, when the hype machine was in full gear, Martina Navratilova said, “If everybody believed everything they read about her, we might as well go home, because Venus Williams is going to beat everybody.”
“Gilles Simon is the master of prevarication. He has stamina to burn.”—Wimbledon Live Radio
“Love him or hate him, this kid Nick Kyrgios will get people watching this game for years.”—Nick Lester
“The fortitude of the people here at Wimbledon knows no bounds.”—Mary Rhodes
COCO PUFFS INTO QUARTERS: For the first time in ten years, three American women—Serena, Coco Vandeweghe and Madison Keys—are into the quarterfinals. Incredibly, the suddenly confident, big-hitting Vandeweghe has scored three stunning upsets in a row. She beat No. 11 seed Karolina Pliskova, No. 22 seed Sam Stosur, and today the No. 6 seed, last year’s semifinalist Lucie Safarova. Again and again, she came from behind against the seasoned Czech. Next, she faces Maria Sharapova. This is Coco’s 19th Slam, and her best previous result was at this year’s Aussie Open, where she reached the third round.
Twenty-year-old Keys, the No. 21 seed, cut down on her errors and improved her movement to beat the No. 122 Belarussian qualifier Olga Govortsova 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. Through four rounds the average ranking of her opponents was 104. Next up for the Aussie Open semifinalist, is No. 13 seed Aga Radwanska, the 2012 Wimbledon finalist.
THE ACCIDENT-PRONE PRO: The devastating ruptured ligament suffered by world No. 1 Rory McIlroy raises the question whether a lot of pros will still go out onto the popular soccer field at Indian Wells. The injury to the defending British Open champ also brings to mind some random horrific injuries in tennis, such as Serena stepping on a glass in a Munich bar, Sam Querrey falling through a glass table, Mats Wilander missing the toilet when he went to sit on it in a Japanese hotel, or David Wheaton skateboarding through a glass window on the Stanford campus.
TO BE CONTINUED: In a superb grass court contest, the zoning Kevin Anderson served beautifully, blasted power forehands, moved adeptly for a 6’8″ giant, scored brilliant lunging stab volleys, and shocked defending champion Novak Djokovic to go up 7-6, 7-6.
But ultimately No. 1 Djokovic, who donated a wretched double fault in the first set tiebreak, proved his steely championship mettle by rallying to win the third and fourth sets 6-1, 6-4 and even the contest before play was suspended due to darkness. Fortunately for the struggling Anderson, the match was not moved to Centre Court, under the roof. Instead, it will be played Tuesday. No men’s defending champion has lost this early since Pete Sampras lost in the quarters in 1996.
A TALE OF TWO HALVES: Going into the fourth round, the top half of the ladies’ singles draw had won 35 Slam titles. The players in the lower half had none.
GO FIGURE: Kevin Anderson‘s coach Neville Godwin once beat Novak Djokovic‘s coach Boris Becker at Wimbledon Canadian Vasek Pospisil won in five sets in singles and lost in five sets in doubles.
TALL ORDER: Time and again, Andy Murray hit lob winners over 6’10″ Ivo Karlovic.
NOT SO FAST, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: A headline in Monday’s paper read, ‘ANOTHER TITLE, FED? DREAM ON.’ Federer, who has dropped just one set going into his quarterfinal match against Gilles Simon, isn’t looking too shabby for a 33 year old.
SAME RULES FOR 150 YEARS—UNBELIEVABLE
TATT’S NOT THE DRESS CODE
WIMBLEDONCON—ALL ENGLAND CLUB’S SOUVENIRS ARE MADE IN CHINA … EXCEPT FOR THE CHINA, WHICH IS MADE IN ENGLAND
BEST TATTOOS: Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Dustin Brown, Liam Brody.
NOT EXACTLY A NOBLE EFFORT: After Australian fans who were backing the olive-skinned Nick Kyrgios put a chocolate spread on their face, tabloid reporters tried to stir controversy by asking Venus and Serena if it was inappropriate.
CURIOUS KRYGIOS: It was not a good day for Nick Kyrgios, as he lost to Richard Gasquet 7-5, 6-1, 6-7, 7-6. The Aussie—who is both incredibly charismatic and quite problematic, often in the same breath—got a code violation for an audible obscenity, exchanged words with the umpire over his socks, and was booed by the crowd when he shamelessly tanked a couple of points. Yes, he is so very appealing and talented, but he has some significant maturing to do.