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.






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.