Wimbledon Buzz: Hints of Sunshine, Too Much Fighting and the Arrival of Sir John and Lady Nutting

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Bill Simons

Wimbledon

THE FINAL FOUR: Now that there are just four days left, the two biggest questions remain before us. Will Novak Djokovic, who’ll be playing Roberto Bautista Agut in the semis, be able to take advantage of his good draw, defend his title and claim his fourth major since last year’s Wimbledon? And, of course, will Serena be able to win her 24th Slam?

A MIXED COMMENTARY: Two of the most compelling players of our era, or any era, teamed up on the world’s greatest tennis court Tuesday in front of an appreciative and thrilled capacity crowd. When it came to fun and enchanting play, little surpassed the show Serena and Andy put on, and mixed doubles got more attention than it ever has.

TOO MUCH FIGHTING: As Stan Wawrinka noted in May, there are many who want the troubling issues in the ATP to just go away and not be a bother. Some have also noted the lingering presence of Justin Gimelstob. He resigned from the ATP Council, but nonetheless was in London just before Wimbledon started, and ATP Council head Novak Djokovic spoke with him roughly at time of the ATP’s meetings. In any case, we felt it was important to not just sweep things under the rug. So we put these questions to Andy Murray.

Apologies for this question. [But] it could be a good while before we see you again. You’re known for thoughtfulness on a number of matters. Are you concerned and what are your thoughts about the situation with the ATP, with the different resignations, the influence of certain individuals…

ANDY MURRAY: Yeah…the whole situation is a shame really. It just seems like there’s so much infighting in the sport. I don’t feel like that should be the case just now. Tennis is doing really well. There should be lots of positive things happening, positive discussions about how to drive the sport forward and improve.

It just seems like so many different people, organizations, are fighting, not sort of coming together to try to find solutions. You want that to change, really. I’d like to see a little bit more unity…Once that’s the case, then you can start to move forward. It just seems like there’s a lot of division…so things aren’t progressing because everyone is disagreeing with each other all the time, fighting. Yeah, that’s never good.”

GO FIGURE: In light of the excitement of Coco Gauff and the buzz around her, the prime focus of Wimbledon has not been on the singles matches of the men’s superstars of the game, until today…Wimbledon changed its rules, so matches in the fifth set will be settled with a tiebreaker at 12-all. Last year there were many marathons, but not this year. And the new high tech roof on Court One has hardly been used.

A KID AND A TROPHY: As a kid, Justine Henin’s mom took her to the French Open. Once there, the young Belgian knew right away she wanted to win Roland Garros. When she was just two, Barbora Strykova went to the Wimbledon Museum. And she tells us that she saw the Wimbledon trophy there and knew she wanted it.

A TALE OF TWO HATS: President Trump, of course, is famous for his red MAGA hats. During her legends match, Martina Navratilova wore a cap with the message “Impeach.” Officials then asked Martina to take off the hat and she did (just in the “Kaepernick” of time.)

YOU KNOW YOU ARE COVERING A BRITISH TENNIS TOURNAMENT WHEN: The media are notified that Sir John and Lady Nutting are in the house…During her radio broadcast Mary Rhodes turns to her colleague and says, “You’re half Swedish and half Norwegian. Thus, your great beard. But that doesn’t make for such great radio.”…British broadcasts provide detailed analysis of ball persons. One example: “A small girl with a blonde ponytail retrieves the ball, kneels down very efficiently, very adept.”… You hear the immortal words, “Goodness, there’s a hint of sunshine!”…Commentators go into deep dive critiques of cricket, which leaves their American broadcasting colleagues at a total loss. Californian Jill Craybas wondered, “Why are you asking me about sports I know nothing about?”… You check out an in-depth documentary on the Royal Highland Agricultural Fair, which details how heifers get haircuts and celebrates the homebred sheep that won at the Royal Welsh competition…We see in-depth shows on Tudor castles with drawbridges that have been raised each night since 1510.   

COMIC RELIEF: During one legendary match, the hilarious and shameless Frenchman Henri Leconte got a chair umpire to descend from his lofty perch and briefly play on court.

SERENA ON THE US OPEN: Serena Williams just published a first-person piece in Harper’s Bazaar, in which she reflected on the free-fall that was last year’s US Open final. In part she blamed the media. She contacted US Open winner Naomi Osaka and, amidst tears, told her “I had no idea the media would pit us against each other. I would love the chance to live that moment all over again.” Serena’s recounting of the night was filled with interesting ideas and sentiments. She shared how difficult it was and how she couldn’t sleep at night. She spoke about race and gender and how she saw a therapist to try and get over the incident. Still, to some it was a kind of a non-apology apology. And when a New York reporter asked her to reflect on her views on what happened that night, she said, “I would prefer to talk about tennis questions. I think I kind of wrote down all my feelings on that. I was really open and raw about it.”

AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH: Billie Jean King sent an encouraging tweet to Coco Gauff that noted, “Your journey is far from over.”…When asked about what kind of a statement the ATP’s Big Three were making with their dominance, Sam Querrey quipped, “They’re saying, ‘We’re better them you.’”…Sam then added that the America’s World Cup champions who prevailed in Lyons are the Roger Federer of soccer.

 QUOTEBOOK

“What stretch Novak has! He has rubber limbs!” Andrew Castle 

“It could not have been a more convincing set. And for Goffin it was a complete disaster.” – Andrew Castle after the Belgian lost the second set of his match to Djokovic, 6-0.

“I’m only 15. I’ve not nearly…developed my game. I started tennis at six.” – Coco Gauff

“Anyone who tucks her shirt in during practice deserves the title.” – Pam Shriver on Jo Konta 

“The amount of power that is in Serena’s body is awe-inspiring.” – Alicia Keys

“I sort of want her to be like me.” – Serena Williams on who she wants her daughter to be like

“Let’s stop the nervous chatter about Jo Konta.” – Radio Wimbledon

A HEADLINE WE’LL REMEMBER: GAUFF LEAVES GLOW IN HEARTS OF THOSE WHO WATCHED HER RISE

AN ADEPT MOVE FROM THE CASTLE: Britain’s former No. 1, Andrew Castle, who is now a BBC commentator, looked out at the Centre Court crowd and said, “Oh, there’s the smartest woman of all time, Barbara Slater, who is the head of BBC Sports.” John McEnroe then stated the obvious, “You just got a couple of hours added to your contract.”

 A NOT-SO-WISE MOVE FROM DAVID: David Goffin was up a break in the first set against Djokovic. When one of his first serves was called out, he asked for a Hawkeye review. But, as is often the case, the challenge interrupted his service rhythm. He promptly double faulted, the match totally turned around and Goffin lost ten games in a row.

OLD FOLKS NOT AT HOME: The average age of the men’s semifinalists is 33.5.

SPANIARDS IN THE SEMIS: With his win today over Guido Pella, Roberto Bautista Agut reached the first Slam semi of his career. Long gone are the days when Spaniards were merely claymeisters who chose not to chew on Wimbledon’s grass. Now we are going to have two Spaniards in the Wimbledon semis for the first time. Nadal was thrilled for RBA and said it was a special moment for Spanish tennis.

SERENA’S EXPENSIVE TOSS: After throwing her racket during practice, Serena was fined about $10,000 for the damage it caused. Williams reflected on the incident with a wink, saying, “I’m an Avenger in my heart – maybe I’m just super strong.” 

SERENA SEZ: Serena said it’s harder to watch tennis from the Friend’s Box than play it on court. She added that her daughter Olympia and Andy Murray’s kid would make a great doubles team. On a more serious note, she confided that because of her injuries [think knee], it’s been a long, hard year. 

MURRAY MATTERS: Andy Murray said the media wanted to set a time frame for his return to singles, but he doesn’t want to have a particular timetable. He said it would be very doubtful that he’d play singles this summer or at the US Open and he’s not sure he wants to come to America for four or five weeks this summer to play doubles.

SCARY THOUGHT: Radio Wimbledon said, “There’s something quite scary about it. Djokovic has got even higher levels he can reach.” 

THE QUEUE IS GOING NOWHERE: Wimbledon chief Richard Lewis said the tradition of queueing will be retained. He noted that Brits love queueing.”Most people say it’s a wonderful experience and there’s a lot of people working here, myself included, who once queued up overnight so it’s almost like a rite of passage.” 

JABBING AT JO: Here is the controversial, unvarnished exchange between the British tabloid journalist Matt Dunn with the wonderful but sometimes sensitive Jo Konta, who again faltered at crunch time in a big match. It was a tough exchange.

Looking at numbers, 33 unforced errors, then you had a smash at the net which you hit straight to her, then towards the end of the third set you had a double-fault, then missed a drive volley. Do you not have to look at yourself a little bit about how you cope with these big points? It’s all very well saying it’s a lot to do with your opponent, but there were key points when you perhaps could have done better.
JOHANNA KONTA: Is that in your professional tennis opinion?

Q. No, that’s just as a watching spectator with everyone else on Centre Court willing you on. And the numbers are IBM’s.
JOHANNA KONTA: Okay. I mean, I don’t think you need to pick on me in a harsh way. I mean, I think I’m very open with you guys. I say how I feel out there. If you don’t want to accept that answer or you don’t agree with it, that’s fine.

I still believe in the tennis that I play. I still believe in the way I competed. Yeah, I don’t have much else to say to your question.

Q. I’m just asking you as somebody who presumably wants to go on from here, learn from this, win a Grand Slam one day. Is it not something —
JOHANNA KONTA: Please don’t patronize me.

Q. I’m not patronizing you.
JOHANNA KONTA: No, no, you are. In the way you’re asking your question, you’re being quite disrespectful and you’re patronizing me. I’m a professional competitor who did her best today, and that’s all there is to that.

Also Reporting – Lucia Hoffman

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