The Buzz: Basking in the Rays of Genius and Other Enchanting Summer Diversions

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By Bill Simons

PRETTY GOOD RACKET: In three Grand Slams this year, Croatian Petra Martic has won one game and earned about $100,000.

TALKING POINT: After Aussie Nick Kyrgios beat Rafa Nadal, Jon Wertheim wrote: “What would US tennis do (pay?) for a charismatic 19-year-old who could beat Nadal on Centre Court? Already had Canada Envy. Now this?”

YOU KNOW YOU ARE IN BRITAIN WHEN… Even though you’ve been there for just two days, you use the word overcooked … Each day, workers polish the brass door handles in the media center and scrub the stairs … The Prime Minister’s press secretary is called a spin doctor … The TV in Wimbledon’s cafeteria features Question Time, the high-octane, sarcastic debate in the House of Commons … A tennis broadcaster uses the word perspicacity …There’s a long segment on Wimbledon’s champagne bar.

BASHING BULGARIA: When it was noted that Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov left home to train in France, John McEnroe said, “Not too many people are going to say its a horrible thing to leave Bulgaria to go to Paris.”

SIGN OF THE MONTH: Christopher Clarey reported that British World Cup fans held up a sign that read:

Flight to Brazil—2000 pounds.

Enjoying the ambiance—2000 pounds

Accommodations—2000 pounds

Arriving after England was eliminated—Priceless.

FEEL-GOOD IMAGES: Twenty-five minutes after his devastating loss in the Wimbledon final, Federer laughing on the players’ lawn with his twin daughters … France’s Michael Llodra hugging his son after playing his last match at the French Open.

A ROOF’S RUMINATION: The Wimbledon roof tweeted: “Another quiet day in the sun … Could use some rain. I am out of practice. #rustyroof.”

OVERHEARD IN THE PRESS ROOM: “For years, I thought a hash tag was one of those labels I put on my drugs.”

SO WHAT HAPPENED IN THE FOURTH SET OF THE WIMBLEDON FINAL? “It wasn’t that the match caught alight,” wrote Simon Barnes. “It was already lit and burning well, but suddenly it became a blast furnace, a heretic-consuming inferno that fizzed and crackled to the sound of demented prayerful cheering as the finest arena in sport … went into spontaneous combustion … And Federer, yesterday’s man … the champion of champions now reduced to playing his endgame, his life now an elegant, elegiac prolonged farewell tour, was suddenly back in full, rampaging force … This wasn’t Federer as the purring, effortless winner with that ever-so-slightly smug expression: this was Federer recast as street fightin’ man.”

THE WHITE STUFF: Venus Williams said at Wimbledon, “Everyone just kind of glows in white.” But the usually traditional Roger Federer offered a surprisingly contrarian view, “White, white, full-on white … it’s very strict … I think it’s too strict.” Pat Cash couldn’t wear his iconic checkerboard headband—too much black. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova said, “It’s very weird [for authorities] to check under my skirt [to see] if I’m wearing white underwear.”

ONE WAY TO FIX THOSE COURTS: France’s Benoit Paire said, “I hate Wimbledon … The atmosphere displeases me greatly, and I am glad to leave as soon as possible … All they like is giving fines, maybe thanks to us they will be able to fix the courts.”

NOT A FAN OF MIXED DOUBLES (OR THE WORLD CUP): Columnist Ann Coulter claimed, “Any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation’s moral decay.” She added, “No serious sport is co-ed, even at the kindergarten level.”

DESTINY DENIED: Serena and Sharapova were to meet in dream confrontations in the quarters of both the French Open and Wimbledon. Neither happened. BTW: When asked about playing against Serena, Sharapova said, “I haven’t had the best results against her.” Well, she’s lost the last 15 matches they’ve played.

AND WE THOUGHT BRITAIN WAS SUCH A GRACIOUS SPORTING NATION: It’s hard to find a Brit who fancies Serena. Is it because she’s polarizing, loud and demonstrative, black, American, in-your-face, a diva, or just wins too often? When she was in a daze on court before her Wimbledon doubles match, it wasn’t surprising that fans began to slow clap, to demand to get this thing going. But then they started a wave, that festive group indulgence, which flew in the face of an athlete struggling with a health issue. Serena’s mom Oracene stood dumbfounded. One sensed her rage. This was not Britain’s greatest sporting moment.

USEFUL AND NOT SO USEFUL STATS: The Big Four—Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray have won 36 of the last 38 Slams … Three players born in the ’90s made it into the Wimbledon quarterfinals: Nick Kyrgios, Grigor Dimitrov, and Milos Raonic … There were no bathroom breaks before ’83 … It took Coco Vandeweghe 13 match points to beat Garbine Muguruza, who double-faulted twice in a row to lose … Sloane Stephens is 17-15 this year …Novak Djokovic is now No. 1. Genie Bouchard is No. 7, and the only woman this year to reach the semis of the first three Slams … America has nine women in the top 60, and only one man … At the US Open, there were three women’s semifinalists over 30. At Wimbledon, Lucie Safarova was the only semifinalist born before 1990.

MOST USELESS STAT OF THE FORTNIGHT: After Lukas Rosol tipped over one of those water bottles Rafa loves to line up with such obsessive care, it was noted that Nadal’s opponents are 0-2 after intentionally messing with his bottles. BTW: Justin Holmes noted that Wimbledon is quintessentially English, except the water, which is French.

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE POPE: Pope Francis said, “If someone is gay … who am I to judge?” When asked about Andy Murray choosing Amelie Mauresmo to be his coach, Grigor Dimitrov said, “Who am I to judge?” Many had the attitude that a coach is a coach, while German Andrea Petkovic said, “I think for women and for feminism, it’s great.” John Isner confided that having a woman coach probably wouldn’t work for him, while macho Jimmy Connors, who was coached by his mother and grandmother, said he was fine with Mauresmo working with Murray, if it worked for Andy. Writer Barry Flatman noted that you couldn’t find two more different people than Mauresmo and Murray’s prior coach, Ivan Lendl. Flatman also recalled that Parisians used to note that Amelie “chokes on a baguette.” Still, he said she should bring “a little bit more panache” to Murray’s game, and might “encourage him to come in a little bit more and finish matches off more efficiently.” Murray said he was enjoying working with Amelie, and there were photos of them laughing together. Ironically, this year’s Wimbledon champ dedicated his win to a woman coach: Djokovic honored his beloved mentor Jelena Gencic.

A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN… Ernests Gulbis said he didn’t want his younger sisters to become tennis pros because “it’s a tough choice of life. A woman needs to enjoy life a little bit more. Needs to think about family.”

GO FIGURE: When Ernests Gulbis was asked whether he would want to get rid of umpires, he responded, “Get rid of vampires?” … Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani become the fifth women’s doubles team to complete the career Grand Slam. It was the first-ever Wimbledon title for an Italian …  Li Na and her coach Carlos Rodriquez have parted … During a first-round match, Gael Monfils told his box that he would only be hitting serves in his next game, then hit three aces and a service winner.

THE WILLIAMS’ BIG ERROR: Jon Wertheim suggested that Venus and Serena’s parents mixed up their daughters’ names. “Serena should have been the one with the planetary appellation. She has her own force field. She has a unique gravitational pull. Often, she eclipses. Plenty of bodies revolve around her. Venus, on the other hand, could scarcely be more serene.”

NEVER A DULL FOGNINI: Fabio Fognini was fined $27,500 for telling an ump he wanted to bash him in the head, then after he lost to 6′ 7″ Kevin Anderson, the Italian said, “If I were three inches taller, I could beat him [while] smoking a cigar.” A few days later, photos of Fognini posing naked came out in Britain’s Cosmopolitan magazine.

WHY ANDY LOST? The Daily Mail said Murray lost to Grigor Dimitrov because of his girlfriend Kim Sears, his dog Maggie May, his coach Amelie Mauresmo, his mom Judy, his bananas, his fate, and—get this—because of himself. BTW: Since winning Wimbledon last year, he hasn’t reached a final.

US OPEN BONANZA: The already well-endowed US Open will be increasing its prize money by $4 million. The mens and women’s winner will collect at least $3 million. A first-round loser will get $35,700.

SO WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ALTRUISM AND HEDONISM? Novak Djokovic donated his $455,000 Italian Open winnings for Baltic flood relief, while Ernests Gulbis gambled away a little or a lot (depending who you are listening to) of his $500,000 French Open winnings at Latvian blackjack tables.

A QUIET POINT: Reflecting on the game’s new young women players, David Mercer said, “They don’t make a noise, and for me that’s a big bonus.”

SAY IT ISN’T SO: The father of Vicky Duval  remains partially paralyzed as a result of a Haitian hurricane. Now Vicky, an appealing 18-year old, has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Amazingly, she won a Wimbledon match after hearing of her malady.

HEADLINES:

AMERICA DRY, CANADA HIGH

HUMILIATED AT FOOTIE, RUGBY, NOW MURRAY CRASHES OUT OF WIMBO (AT LEAST WE’RE TIDDLYWINKS CHAMPS)

AT WIMBLEDON, IT’S HARD TO TELL A TENNIS PLAYER FROM A CHEESE

WOMEN OBJECT TO KNICKER CHECKS

GIRLS’ OUTRAGE AT WHITE-ONLY WIMBLE-BUMS

DIMITROV: HE’S MORE THAN MR. SHARAPOVA

BABY FED HAS GROWN UP

EXIT MURRAY, SHOUTING AND CURSING

THE LION TURNS INTO A PUSSYCAT

MUM’S LACK OF BELIEF INSPIRED ME

ANGRY BERD CRASHES

SUN IS SETTING ON VENUS

HEWITT RAGES AGAINST THE DYING OF THE LIGHT

THE BRITS AREN’T COMING

GAME, WET, AND MATCH

CURIOUS QUESTIONS: 

• An Italian reporter asked the gluten-free Novak Djokovic, “If I stop with the gluten, I become a better writer?”

• “Is it just that we have a bunch of fat-ass kids?”—A voice in the press room, after it was revealed this is the first year since 1911 with no American man or woman in the Wimbledon quarters.

Caroline Wozniacki, whose relationship recently imploded, was asked, “Have you considered Internet dating?”

JUST WHAT IS THE ETHICAL INTEGRITY OF A BAG OF SALT? Dan Jones isn’t a fan of Maria Sharapova‘s Sugarpova initiative. He wrote, “‘Everyone loves candy.’ Or so says Sharapova: SW 19′s Willy Wonkette, screecher extraordinaire and sugar-peddling hypocri…sorry, elite sportswoman. Sharapova has opened a pop-up sweet shop in the Wimbledon village, where punters can rot their teeth and expand their waistlines with sweets called things like Sassy, Spooky Sour, and Yes, I Am a Shameful Corporate Huckbag With About as Much Ethical Integrity as a Bag of Salt. We’ve gone on about this before, but really, Maria, have a bit of shame.”

BOYISH HOPE AMIDST THE AMERICAN DISPAIR: We lose in soccer. Our men had their worst Wimbledon result in 103 years. Our women’s results were modest, and we were left with images of Serena looking dazed and sickly. How odd. But three Americans—Noah Rubin, Taylor Harry Fritz, and Stefan Kozlov—reached the Wimbledon junior semis. Eventually, Rubin, 18, beat Kozlov in the first all-American boys’ final in 27 years. The New Yorker plans to go to Virginia or Wake Forrest next year. Plus American Jack Sock and Canada’s Vasek Pospisil beat the Bryan brothers to win the men’s doubles.

SEAGULL  INTERFERENCE: Feliciano Lopez was about to serve in Eastbourne when a seagull swooped low. Lopez paused for a moment, and was promptly called for delay of game.

CLOSET  COMMENTARY: Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, and Amelie Mauresmo all came out of the closet. Boris Becker conceived one of his children in a broom closet in a London restaurant. And rising junior Francis Tiafoe on occasion would sleep overnight on a massage table in a 10-by-14 storage room some have likened to a closet, at Maryland’s Junior Tennis Champions Center, where his father—an emigrant from Sierra Leone—lived when he was the facility’s janitor.

I’LL HAVE WHATEVER HE SAID: When the Bryan brothers were asked about their closeness, one said, “We’ve been playing together since we were six. That’s thousands of matches. We’ve been together from the womb. That’s 37 years and nine months. But we don’t talk much on court. That’s why our matches are so short.” At which point the other Bryan interrupted and said, “Yeah, exactly, that’s it—exactly what he said.”

NICE ‘HOOD: Genie Bouchard grew up in the Westmount section of Montreal, on the same street as former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, whose home recently went on the market for $7 million.

BASKING IN THE RAYS OF GENIUS: The London Times said, “We admire genius without hope of emulation, and identify heart and soul with the possessor of genius without for a moment fancying that we have it, too. We just want to be where it is, to bask in its rays, to feel its beneficent current.”

“MOLLYCODDLING THE ENORMOUS EXPENDITURE”: British critics said their players were spoiled. Similarly, Judy Murray observed that British juniors live in a “comfort zone,” and encouraged a move away from “mollycoddling of the enormous expenditure.” She added that British tennis might make better decisions if the wealthy Lawn Tennis Association were poorer.

CHRIS EVERT IS NOT A MAN: Dialogue heard near the Musketeer statue garden:

French fan No 1: “Who was that guy who always smashed his rackets?”

French fan No. 2: “Chris Evert.”

French fan No. 1: “Chris Evert wasn’t a man.”

OH CANADA: The Czech Republic had a great Wimbledon and Canada had an even better one. Milos Raonic and Genie Bouchard reached the semis and finals, but Vasek Pospisil was the only Canadian to nab a title, when he and American Jack Sock prevailed over the Bryan brothers in a thrilling five-set battle to win the men’s doubles. Still, it was Raonic who offered the most moving ode to Canada. He recalled that though his educated mom and dad came from Montenegro barely speaking English, they nonetheless got jobs on the same day on their first try. Milos said he didn’t “know if that would have been possible in different places … [We went] from living in a tiny apartment with my grandmother to having a comfortable middle-class life in a nice Toronto suburb.” Raonic added that life in Canada has helped put him in contact with diverse cultures, and that other places might not have the same “personal freedom” found in Canada, where “as long as you work, opportunity will be there.”

COACH BORIS: Boris Becker said it was an honor to work with Djokovic, and that Novak can absolutely win the French Open. “He’s a point away. Losing to Nadal is no shame. Novak is knocking at the [French Open] door very loud.”

NICK SAVIANO AND THE SACRED TRUST: Genie Bouchard‘s coach Nick Saviano told IT, “It’s a sacred trust when you work with a child and their parent. In your heart and soul, you have to know you are always going to do the best for that child. Some insist this is just a business. It’s not just a business. When you work with young people, there’s a higher standard. The goal is for [Genie] to play every point as well as she can, with absolutely no errors. I have to make sure she continues to play Genie Bouchard tennis. Aggressive, taking the ball early, big serving, big returning, dictating. She is a determined, hard-working, committed, world-class athlete. She’s relentless and that’s something we cultivated. Before she plays, I tell her, ‘What I want is not that you win, but for you to play as well as you can.’ When she’s doing that, I enjoy it, win or lose.”

WOZILROY UPDATE: The dissolution of the planned marriage of Caroline Wozniacki and Rory McIlroy came as a shock, especially since the invitations had been sent. Chris Evert—whose engagement to Jimmy Connors also ended abruptly early in her career—told IT that Wozilroy’s breakup didn’t surprise her. “To look at two players that are in their prime and striving to be No. 1 … I mean, I was married in my 20s to my tennis. That was the only way I could put all my emotions and energies into that goal. I was in awe that it worked as long as it did … I understand 100%, you’re married to your career.”

THE LOUDEST VOICES EVER HEARD IN THE WIMBLEDON PRESS ROOM: French writers yelling during the World Cup.

MIGHTY MARKER OR MEANINGLESS MEMORY? Will June 21—when Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe both won titles—turn out to be a significant marker? It was the first time two American women reached finals in the same weekend since 2002.

DJOKOVIC—STORIES WE NEED TO LISTEN TO: After floods hit Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia, Novak Djokovic noted that the Slavic countries “showed [a] solidarity and support [that] hasn’t been [seen] for 20 years, since the last war that didn’t bring any good to any of the people. Maybe Yugoslavia cannot be an official country again … but at least we can use the situation to show respect and help each other and become a prosperous and a better people … For 10 days, everything was forgotten. It was very calm, very positive … One of the first countries that helped was Croatia. One kid was close to drowning and a Croatian volunteer saved her.

These are the kind of stories that we need to listen to. At the end of the day … I think there [is] going to be a significant change in the relationship between the countries, and this is a very positive thing.”

TALKING HOOPS: NBA players like Kobe Bryant, Charles Barkley, Chris Mullen, and Dirk Nowitzki have all visited Wimbledon. Still, we think Shaq is the biggest man ever to sit in the Royal Box. The closest NBA/ATP friendship is between Rafa and Pau Gasol, who was at the French Open last year. The best NBA/WTA romance was between Maria Sharapova and Sasha Vujajic. John Lucas played both pro tennis and pro hoops, and the NBA star with the best tennis game was Rick Barry. Women’s hoops star Nancy Lieberman was Martina Navratilova’s controversial coach and friend.

BEST NEW NAMES: Spain’s Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor and French junior Johan Sebastien Tatlot.

THREE-YEAR ITCH: Federer, Sampras, Djokovic, and Petra Kvitova all won their second Wimbledon three years after winning their first.

JUST HOW UNIQUE IS TAYLOR TOWNSEND? She’s a lefty, with a stout physique unlike any other player. She has two coaches, trains in Rust Belt centers, has an uncanny court sense, and a sweet touch. She leans into her groundies with power, and—get this—she actually plays serve-and-volley ball. She even starts her warmups at the net. Plus, she likes the media.

GERMAN COMMENTARY: Many Europeans assert that Germans now rule on the continent. Broadcaster Andrew Castle said the wise German Andrea Petkovic will “be running the tour some day” … That the German Jurgen Klinsmann coached America’s soccer team brings to mind that controversial legend Bill Tilden was the coach for Germany’s Davis Cup team in the ’30s. When Tilden openly cheered for Baron Gottfried von Cramm in his famous Davis Cup match at Wimbledon against American Don Budge, the late entertainment figure Ed Sullivan became enraged. BTW: Sir Bobby Charlton, the hero of England’s epic 1966 World Cup win over Germany, was in the Royal Box.

TWEET WORD OF THE SEASON: Rafamazing.