Wimbledon Week One: Top 10 Stories

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This year, Wimbledon gave Roger Federer a reason to frown—the Swiss master, a seven-time champion at the tournament, lost in the second round to Sergiy Stakhovsky, who is ranked outside the top 100. Photo: Tom Lovelock/AFP/Getty Images.

By Bill Simons

1. WACKY WEDNESDAY: On Wimbledon’s third day, Mercury went retrograde and tennis went into grade A free fall. In a world of sedate order, a certain helter skelter—unbridled, untamed—ran rampant. Top talents—Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova—were knocked out of the tournament. Title threats Victoria Azarenka and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga pulled up lame. Others just tumbled to the suddenly slippery grasses. In fact, there were so many ailments that Wimbledon seemed like a hospital ward. Bottom line: this was the most odd, wacky, inexplicable day in the history of this game.

2, FAREWELL FEDERER: After reaching a record 36 quarterfinals in row, the prevailing champion and most consistent power of our era withered under the relentless serve-and-volley attack of Sergiy Stakhovsky. Never mind that the Ukarainian was ranked 113 slots below Roger and had never beaten a top 10 player. After his 6-7, 7-6, 7-5, 7-6 win he told the press, with a wink, that someday he could tell his grandkids, “I kicked Roger Federer’s butt.”

3. RAFA BOOTED OUT: Just like last year, Rafael Nadal—the claymeister who has twice conquered Wimbledon—won the French Open and then suffered an early departure to a lowly foe. This time Rafa was dismissed by a Belgian with a triple digit ranking, No. 135 Steve Darcis. When will Rafa return, and is his knee injury again an issue?

4. SO LONG, SHARAPOVA: French Open finalist Maria Sharapova hadn’t won Wimbledon since 2004, and was pointing to The Championships as the key to her year. But Michelle Larcher De Brito came through qualifying to outplay and outgrunt the powerful Russian in the second round. So much for a Serena vs. Sharapova grudge final.

5. AMERICAN WOMEN: The WTA’s American Spring, so grand in Paris, continued in full force, as a bright new generation of appealing prospects makes waves in the main draws of the Slams. In particular, No. 17 Sloane Stephens is once again joining the “big girls” in week two, with a decent path to the finals and a meeting with her old acquaintance Serena Williams. The pretty and powerful 18-year old Madison Keys pushed last year’s finalist Agnieszka Radwanska to three competitive sets in the third round and Alison Riske entered the conversation. The Class of ’13 continues to tell the world that American women are at last on the rise.

6. WHITHER, AMERICAN MEN: For the first time since before World War I (1912, to be specific), no American man reached Wimbledon’s third round. Where have you gone, Andrew Roddick?

7. WIDE OPEN DRAW: We still may get the top two men’s seeds—Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray—in the Wimbledon final. But this tournament—now without Roger, Rafa, Jo-Willie, and more—seems like a semi-seedless happening. Rarely has the second week of a men’s Slam been so open. Arguably more men’s and women’s seeds crashed out in the first two rounds of Wimbledon than any other Slam in the Open era.

8. SERENA SWIRL: After a particularly bad bounce during a soggy Wimbledon a while back, Mary Carillo joked that the ball had hit a worm. This year, worms were again part of the Wimbledon picture. Serena Williams opened a can of them even before a ball was struck. In a single Rolling Stone profile, Serena managed to trigger a pair of controversies. First, she essentially blamed the teenage victim of a rape in Steubenville, Ohio.Second, she took some irreverent shots at Maria Sharapova and her boyfriend, Grigor Dimitrov. Apologies were made. Still, it was clear: double fault Serena.

9. WHY NOT JUST HAND HER THE TROPHY: Going into the tournament, Serena was the most prohibitive favorite to win a Slam trophy in recent memory. Then her two top rivals—Sharapova and Azarenka—packed their bags. Experts could come up with only one nugget of wisdom: the only player that could possibly beat Serena was Serena.

10. THE GREATEST QUARTERFINAL THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN: At the start of this year’s Championships, draw watchers fixated on one thing: with Rafael Nadal somehow seeded No. 5, it appeared that if all went according to form, he would meet Federer in a dream quarterfinal. For both players and their fans, that dream promptly gave way to a nightmare.

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