Big Ben’s Timely London Win

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Bill Simons

Wimbledon

NEWSFLASH NO 1: The youngest of children know that after a long night, day emerges. And following a long winter, spring does arrive at last. And, on this island, after seemingly endless days of British gloom, bright sunshine does break out. 

NEWSFLASH NO. 2: Today’s doubles match, which featured Andy and Jamie Murray, was the first first-round doubles match to be on Centre Court since 1995.

NEWSFLASH NO. 3: Through the second round, there have been 29 five-set matches – a Wimbledon record. And there have been nine successful comebacks from two sets down. That equals the Grand Slam record. 

BIG BEN IN LONDON: Katie Volynets said that the one thing she wanted to see in London was Big Ben. Maybe after losing today, she should have rushed over to Court 18 to catch another timely performance from big Ben Shelton. As raucous Americans chanted “USA! USA! USA!” the powerful 21-year-old scored his second consecutive five-set win as he downed the rising South African, Lloyd Harris, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(7). Shelton told the media that the key to his play in tiebreakers is to get to the net and force his foes to hit a perfect shot.

Shelton, the No. 14 seed, next faces Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

ROGER’S GOT ANDY’S BACK: Roger Federer came to Wimbledon today in support of his pal Andy Murray. 

COCO’S PUFFY DRAW: The third quarter of the women’s draw is incredibly open. Goodness, Emma Raducanu has a chance to go far, and the top player left in the quarter is Maria Sakkari. But the Greek, who is the No. 6 seed, has never gotten beyond the third round at Wimbledon.

Coco Gauff’s quarter (the fourth) isn’t quite that easy. But, in large part due to Aryna Sabalenka’s withdrawal, the draw is wide open. Coco Gauff has a good shot at reaching the final. So far, the 20-year-old has beaten No. 51, American Caroline Dolehide, Romanian Anca Todono, who’s No. 142, and next she plays the Brit Sonay Kartal, who’s ranked No. 298. After that, Coco might play Emma Navarro in the fourth round and possibly Madison Keys or Jasmine Paolini in the quarters, and Sakkari in the semis. Then again, US Open champ Gauff has never gotten beyond the fourth round here.

MIXED REVIEWS ON MIXED: Some dismiss mixed doubles and say it should be scrapped. And, truth be told, some mixed matches are less than memorable. Still, all eyes were on Andy Murray and his partner, Serena Williams, when they teamed up. And he and Emma Raducanu will soon pack Centre Court.

THE KEY TO KEYS: We caught up to the still-great-after-all-these-years Madison Keys, and had a lightning round with her.

FAVORITE TOURNAMENT: Charleston.

TOUGHEST STROKE FROM AN OPPONENT YOU’VE EVER FACED: Serena’s serve.

FAVORITE MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER: Winning my first title.

IF YOU COULD GET A QUALITY OR STROKE FROM ANY OTHER PLAYER, WHAT WOULD THAT BE? Everything from Serena.

IF YOU COULD CHANGE ONE THING IN THE SPORT OF TENNIS: Ban five sets.

BEST PART OF TENNIS: You always have another opportunity the next week, no matter what. It’s so fun to watch, just being able to be a fan and seeing how one week can completely change someone’s life.  

NOT-SO-BEST PART OF OUR SPORT: The three-week offseason.

BEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD: Taverna Trilussa in Rome.

THREE PEOPLE YOU’D INVITE FOR DINNER AT THAT TAVERNA: Jenny Brady, because she’s always a good time…I just want Jenny there. Quality rather than quantity, right?

A RECORD YOU DON’T WANT: China’s Zhang Shuai lost her 21st match in a row as she equaled Vincent Spadea’s record for the worst losing streak in tennis history.

GO FIGURE: Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula are only seeded No. 11 in doubles…Iga Swiatek will hold on to her No. 1 ranking, regardless of her result here at Wimbledon.

COMEBACK KIDS: Thanasi Kokkinakis saved four match points and overcame assorted other challenges to defeat Felix Auger-Aliassime 4-6, 5-7, 7-6(9), 6-4, 6-4. Tomas Machac came back from 0-5 down in the fifth set to beat David Goffin.

OH, NO, TIAFOE: Frances has only won back-to-back matches at two of the 15 tournaments he’s entered this season.

JANNIK SINNER AND THE HONOR OF PLAYING TENNIS: Jannik Sinner has it all going. He’s No. 1 in the world. He just beat his pal Matteo Berrettini. He’s got an attractive Russian girlfriend, Anna Kalinskaya, who is No. 18 in the world, he has a Gucci contract, one of the best coaches in the world and a net worth of $15 million. Sure, they say he looks more Austrian than Italian, but he’s a rock star at home. Virtually every bus in Sicily features him promoting coffee. Sinner-mania is gripping the country. 

Still, the 22-year-old, who won the Aussie Open, is humble. When Inside Tennis asked him what he loved the most about tennis, he replied, “I’m very lucky because it started off as a hobby and now it has become my job. In my mind it’s still a hobby. I love to go on court and just play. There’s no better place to do it than in big stadiums with a packed crowd.

“I consider myself very lucky. There are no negative things at the moment. I’m happy to go on court… It’s always a huge honor to step on court. I’m taking nothing for granted… and just having fun. That’s the most important.”

ROYAL BOX ATTENDEES OF THE DAY: Professor Lord and Lady Nicolas Stern of Brentford.

NOT A GOOD LOOK: Okay, athletes need to focus on their craft. Still heads spun  when Emma Raducanu was asked whether she was going to vote today in Britain’s general election. She replied, “No I think I’ll have a lie-in, then I’ll come to practice. I didn’t even know it was tomorrow…Thanks for letting me know.”

AMERICA WATCH: In addition to Shelton and Keys winning, other Americans who prevailed on July Fourth were Taylor Fritz and Danielle Collins. No. 5 Jessica Pegula lost in three sets to Wang Xinyu and JTCC product Robin Montgomery fell to Ons Jabeur.

THE MAN FROM THE HIGHLANDS LANDS LOW: He’s won 24 fewer Grand Slams than Novak Djokovic. At No. 277, Jake Fearnley is only ranked 275 slots below the Serb. He’s earned $169 million less career earnings then Nole and earned his way into the draw because of his nationality. He’s a Brit – well, actually a Scot. And unless you’re a Horn Frog fan who religiously follows TCU sports, you probably haven’t heard of the well-bearded 22-year-old, who today was out on Centre Court playing the match of his life. 

Yes, Djokovic quickly marched to a two-set lead. But, backed by a throng of boisterous Brits, Fearnley became more bold, more brave. His groundies improved – there was little hesitation. 

Jake managed to score the first break of serve against Novak in the tournament. He won the third set 7-5, had two breakpoints to go up a break in the fourth. He faltered, but fought on to even the set 5-5. 

But tennis is a sport of narrow margins. It’s all about execution at crunch time. The Scot revealed that he was a rookie playing a bit above his pay grade and played a nervous service game. In a flash, the Serbian master won the 1,105th victory of his illustrious career, 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 7-5.

Also reporting Vinay Venkatesh.

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