THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR: Radio Wimbledon said, “The last few days have been interesting on and off the court, to say the least.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This is literally the worst day in English history since Friday.” – Max Rodriguez, after England lost to Iceland
DIALOGUE OF THE DAY: A reporter told Brit Laura Robson, who lost to Angelique Kerber, “You seem quite down.” Robson replied, “Probably because I lost. It tends to do it.”
Crisis? What Crisis? All England Club Immune to UK Chaos
Questions for UK: When? How? Really?
Exiting Europe For a Lie
Robson Still Haunted by the Ghosts of What Might Have Been
Muguruza’s Languid Power Returns to Halt a Falter
AS CHAOS HOWLS, WIMBLEDON EXUDES CALM: No other nation can claim writers like Britain: Shakespeare, Blake, Dickens, Austen, Bronte, Wilde, Orwell, Shelley, Hardy, Tolkien, Amis and Maugham are just a few master wordsmiths that come to mind. And the UK’s sports writing is superb too. For instance, the Telegraph’s Daniel Schofield captured the stunning contrast between the chaos of the world and the calm of Wimbledon: “It is business as usual in SW19 where you struggle to find signs that these are epoch-defining times.
As turmoil abounds all across the country, there is a small corner of south-west London that will remain forever impervious to the winds of change and chaos that howl elsewhere.
The Prime Minister has resigned, the shadow cabinet has quit en masse, the pound is plunging, there is mayhem in the markets and the future of the United Kingdom is in real jeopardy, but you would struggle to detect that we are in epoch-defining times as you stroll around the All England Club.
Wimbledon has its own peculiar ecosystem to which Brexit is as much background noise as the overhead Heathrow flight path. If you pay close attention then you might notice its lingering presence; otherwise the atmosphere is very much business as usual.
You sense it would take the advent of a nuclear apocalypse to truly disturb the rhythm of life in SW19. There is not an inch of surface area within the All England Club that has not been polished or pruned to perfection – all so that when the doors opened at 10:30 AM sharp yesterday morning, the entire place was resplendent, from the Boston ivy covering Centre Court to the statue of Fred Perry.
ADDING INSULT TO INJURY: Not only did the UK have to deal with Brexit, they now also have to come to terms with England losing 2-1 to tiny Iceland (population 330,000) in soccer’s Euro Cup. It was called a heartless performance and their most infamous soccer loss since they fell to the US in 1950. Critics said it was “a national imperative that England be more resilient in big matches.” BTW: Iceland recently beat Albania in Davis Cup play, but the island nation has no players in the top 100 of the ATP or WTA.
TWO PLAYERS WHO WERE LUCKY TO BE IN THE DRAW: British fairytale fellow Marcus Wills was only in the draw because Scott Clayton was unable to get to London in time from a tournament in Turkey. Even more fortunate was Vicky DuVal. The 20-year-old was back at Wimbledon after a two-year battle with Hodgkins lymphoma.
A GREAT WIMBLEDON IS JUST WHAT THE NOT-SO-UNITED KINGDOM NEEDS: Art Spander captured the mood at Wimbledon and hereabouts. The veteran observer asked, “Chaos anyone? Sorry, I meant tennis anyone? Yes, another Wimbledon, with fans queuing overnight and swallowing strawberries and cream. But really not another Wimbledon.”
This is the first Wimbledon after – against the best advice – Great Britain waved goodbye to logic and the rest of Europe, voting itself into isolation and, some warn, economic disaster. Brexit was the clever phrase about the not-so-clever move out of the European Union.
“It’s been like threatening to leave home when you’re 13,” the novelist Howard Jacobsen wrote Sunday in the Observer about the vote. “You hope it will scare the living daylights out of your parents. But only the insane actually do it.”
So perhaps the return of the All-England Championships for a 130th time is specifically what the battered, shattered, non-united kingdom needs to remind itself that all is not lost.
MARIA SHARAPOVA GOES TO HARVARD: With a little extra time on her hands, Maria Sharapova has enrolled in a course at the Harvard Business School. Clearly she was elated. She tweeted, “Not sure how this has happened but Hey, Harvard! Can’t wait to start the program.” The tough-to-get-in course has a mission to “educate leaders who make a difference in the world.” Reportedly, it costs $41,000. George W. Bush is a Harvard Business School man. James Blake played for Harvard and Croat Mario Ancic, who was once No. 7 in the world, went to Harvard Law before heading off on a journey that took him to Columbia Law, Wall Street and his current job with the NBA’s legal division.
A HAIR-RAISING SECRET: Milos Raonic was asked if there was some great secret to his hair. The Canadian responded, “I get out of the shower, put some product in, comb it, and it doesn’t move after.” Milos then confided that he told Djokovic that his hair product “was dried kangaroo poo [and] he believed me.”
AN ALMOST $30,000 LOSS: The falling pound has serious ramifications for tennis players. The winners will now receive “only” $2.64 million, not the $2.93 million they would have gotten pre-Brexit.
TO EACH HIS OWN: In the International New York Times, Roger Cohen wrote, “The E.U. is flawed. But the dream is noble and still worth the fight. It did not deserve to be trashed.” In contrast, the French politician Marine Le Pen contended, “The decision the British just made was an act of courage – the courage of a people who embrace their freedom.”
BRITAIN’S NEWFOUND WILLIS POWER: A longtime given in British sport is that tennis is massively over-funded. After all, due to Wimbledon, UK tennis gets gobs of money. Yet, before Murray, it floundered massively. And none other than Marcus Willis was the poster-boy for British failure. He would show up to practice without his rackets. He was warned repeatedly about his dicey commitment and suspect behavior. Lazy and overweight, he made bad decisions. He was sent home in disgrace from the Australian Open.
Lawn Tennis Association coach Paul Hutchins recalled, “He just had no discipline…He was just unable to to knuckle down to hard work and simply wanted to take the easy option. He was likable, not malicious or a trouble maker, but nobody could seem to get through to him exactly [on] what an opportunity he was throwing away.”
So going into Wimbledon, his ranking was lower than the dead sea – No. 772. He’d been kicked out of the Lawn Tennis Association. He lived at home with his parents and looked like a club player – a lefty maverick who slices and dices.
Willis settled in as a part-time teaching pro at the Warwick Boat Club, where he instructed kids, conducted clinics or taught adults for about $35 an hour. He swept through qualifying and pre-qualifying, yet only made it into the tournament because Brit Scott Clayton couldn’t get back to London in time from Turkey.
On Monday, Willis was assigned to a distant court to play Richard Berkanis. Writer James Gheerbrant noted, “The decision to put Willis on the relatively small Court 17 has been seen by some as a scant reward for his heroic run through qualifying, but in fact the cosy arena suited him perfectly, with a raucous cabal of his family and friends from Loughborough University turning it into a febrile cauldron more reminiscent of a football match and even the blazered brigade in the Centre Court corporate box broke off from their canapés.”
Willis backers didn’t hesitate to offer some curious chants – “Willis on fire, Berankis is terrified.”
Lefty Willis saved 19 of 20 break points and sliced and diced his way to a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 win that left his dad in tears and his fans in a frenzy. There was a wild celebration.
This for a man who was going to go off to Philadelphia to teach tennis. But his girlfriend told him not to go and Wills told the chuckling press corps, “I do what I am told…It’s surreal. Six months ago, I was struggling to get out of bed in the morning, now I get to play on a stadium court. This is what I dreamed of.”
Of course, his dream may become a nightmare. He next plays a fellow named Federer, who the delightful Wills joked was “a little bit better than me.”
ROYAL COMMENTARY OF THE DAY: The Guardian’s Paul Weaver noted that on Monday, “There was a time, in the second set, when the tiara slipped a little on the head of the head of the princess of women’s tennis. Garbine Muguruza, who won the French Open this month to become the newest, shiniest Grand Slam winner, had her service broken in the last game of the set, which she lost 7-5.”
IGNORANCE IS BLISS: Before doing his commentary on the match between Serena Williams and the little-known Swiss Amra Sadikovic, John McEnroe said he “sort of enjoyed not seeing someone and not knowing anything about her and then trying to access their game.” Sadikovic played her very first Grand Slam match on Centre Court – the most storied venue in tennis – against the player many consider to be the greatest ever.
GO FIGURE: Sam Querrey came from behind to beat Lukas Rosol to claim the first five-set win of his career…49 of the 128 players in the men’s draw are over 30…Liam Broady was Andy Murray’s first British opponent in a Grand Slam…Broady’s Beard has 311 Twitter followers.