TURMOIL, CHAOS AND FRENZY DEFINE WIMBLEDON’S WACKY FIRST WEEK: After one week, many themes are bouncing around sometimes jolly and sometimes not-so-jolly old England. Wimbledon survived the World Cup frenzy as well as some of the hottest temperatures in memory. There were lots of little bugs, and lots of highs for players from the low countries. Both Holland’s Kiki Bertens, who beat five-time champ Venus Williams, and Belgium’s Alison van Uytvanck, who disposed of defending champ Garbine Muguruza, are still standing, as are Americans with familiar names like Serena and Isner, and a Yank with a less familiar name – Mr. Mackenzie McDonald, who made it to Week Two.
With the loss of the French Open champion, world No. 1 and former Wimbledon finalist, Simona Halep, to Taipei’s Su-Wei Hsieh, the woman’s draw was in tatters. Nine of the top ten seeds had fallen. Only Karolina Pliskova, the No. 7 seed, who struggled to win yesterday, remains. Already in the fourth round, the highest-ranked player Serena could face in the next two rounds is the Russian No. 35 seed Ekaterina Makarova. Gone are many a familiar name: Muguruza, Kvitova, Wozniacki, Sharapova, Sloane, Svitolina, Venus, Madison, Coco, Osaka and Konta.
On the men’s side, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are all into the second week, as are del Potro and Isner. But five of the top 10 men’s seeds are gone – last year’s finalist Marin Cilic, young Alexander Zverev, who still can’t go deep in Slams, Grigor Dimitrov, French finalist Dominic Thiem, and No. 10 seed David Goffin. Others heading home include No. 11 seed Sam Querrey, No. 15 seed Nick Kyrgios and Britain’s best, Kyle Edmund.
MOMMY BRAIN: When mother Serena got confused about a question, she joked with a smile, “I have that mommy brain now. At least that’s my excuse.”
AND THE TENNIS GODS SAID, ‘LET THERE BE REST’: Wimbledon’s beloved middle Sunday, which gives everyone a day off, is one of the grand traditions in tennis. And it is just unimaginable that the other Slams would adopt the idea, that’s for sure.
A MAN NAMED SUE: You could call it the Johnny Cash Special. Better yet, you could say it was an ode to the quirky song “A Boy Named Sue.” Translation – the match between American Frances Tiafoe and Russian Karen Khachanov featured two players who both have first names – Frances and Karen – that are commonly associated with females. Sadly for Americans, there was lots of big woe for “Big Foe” – Tiafoe got sick. After winning the first two sets, the rising Maryland pro, now ranked No. 52, lost the third set tiebreaker and then collapsed, losing 12 of the last 15 games. He showed little fight and fell 4-6, 4-6, 7- 6 (3), 6-2 6-1. His body language dipped. His serve was weak and he even served underhanded in the fourth set – it was far from pretty.
Tiafoe later confided that he felt in control in the first two sets and that the 22-year-old Khachanov had “no answers” for his game. But he started feeling his stomach go off and had diarrhea at 4-4 in the fourth set and “after that it was tough.” His illness affected his movement and he started to panic. As for his Russian foe, Frances quipped, “It’s easy when you see a guy struggling.”
And what about his Wimbledon experience? Tiafoe, who beat the wily French veteran Julien Benneteau en route to the third round, said, “It’s unbelievable. It’s hard to be upset. I’m in a great place. I’m just going home and going to sleep in my bed.” He added that it would be great to finish the year in the top 20.
ONE SHINING MOMENT: On Wednesday, Wimbledon women were featured in five of the seven matches held on the two biggest courts. But that’s a relative rarity. According to one study, women have played in just 39% of the matches on the feature courts in the past 25 years.
WOW, I’M MARRIED: After a reporter broached the topic that Wimbledon umpires now address her as Mrs. Williams, Serena said, “It still doesn’t register that I’m married, actually. So much has happened in the past 12 months.”
YORKSHIRE’S ANSWER: English sports fans were over the moon with their quarterfinal soccer win over Sweden. Flags were waving, pubs were rocking, headlines blared. But in a Wimbledon beginning without Andy Murray, Britain now has no more players in the tourney. Their top woman, Jo Konta, lost in the second round. And today on Centre Court, three-time former champ Novak Djokovic dispatched Kyle Edmund. One writer claimed from deep in the press box that Edmund – with his pale complexion, tight white baseball cap worn properly and a forehand that punishes – was Yorkshire’s answer to Jim Courier. BTW: Djokovic got into it with the surprisingly rowdy English crowd, which he said was worse than in the past when he played Murray. The Serb said the fans crossed a line, were unfair and “a couple of guys were pretending coughing, and whistling.”
SERENA’S GIFTS: A reporter noted that Madison Keys said what she most admires in Serena is that, no matter how much Williams had achieved, she always wanted more – she was never satisfied. When asked where she gets her passion, Serena said, “It was something I was born with. I always want to continue to go forward. I don’t like to be satiated with a great result. I want to continue and do more. That’s just who I am.”
Another writer asked Williams, “What is the balance between wanting something so much but not wanting it too much? Some players say they’ve almost been defeated by wanting something so much.”
That rang true to Serena. She confided, “That’s what happened in the first round, I wanted it so much. It was stressful. For me, my balance is just taking deep breaths, just calming down…I clearly am not the best at finding that balance because I’m always worked up a lot on court.”
MORE ON MACKIE: Before he exited Wimbledon, Frances Tiafoe praised Mackie McDonald, who’s into the fourth round. Tiafoe said the Californian is a great guy, pretty quiet and one of the nicest players on tour. According to Tiafoe, McDonald has a strong game, with side spin on his forehand, is skilled at redirecting balls and has “a great work ethic. The sky’s the limit.”