Coco’s and Madison’s Maddening Losses

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Photo by Getty Images

Bill Simons

Wimbledon

WHAT A DAY: Rain, sunshine, rain, sunshine, rain, sunshine. The two best young male players of our generation – Sinner and Alcaraz – were in action. The sun set on Britain’s brightest player. Plus, there was a lot of American interest, including wins by Navarro and Paul and the painful losses of Shelton, Coco and Keys.

WIMBLEDON COUPLES: There have been four couples playing at Wimbledon. Jannik Sinner and Anna Kalinskaya are still both in. Stefanos Tsitsipas is out and his girlfriend Paula Badosa just lost in the fourth round. Alex De Minaur is still in, but Katie Boulter is out. Gael Monfils is out, but his wife, Elina Svitolina is in.

JASMINE’S JAZZ: Jasmine Paolini is no rookie, but she has the same freshness that Naomi Osaka had when she first started on the tour, and she has as generous and inviting a smile as Alcaraz.

THEIR EMMA LOSES, OUR EMMA WINS: Just after Briton’s Emma Raducanu failed on Centre Court, America’s Emma Navarro triumphed. To many it was a shock. 

After all, Navarro had lost to her fellow Floridian, Coco Gauff, in January in New Zealand. But Emma said she had it within her to beat the No. 2 player in the world. And, boy, did she. Composed and in the zone, her game surged as she attacked her foe’s famously flawed forehand. Coco, who was so mentally strong when she claimed last year’s US Open, now seemed so frustrated. For once she showed her age. The 20-year-old lost her focus. Where was her belief? 

As her groundies flew all over the court, she put her head in her hands. She suffered a whopping 32 errors, including 16 on her forehand. 

Up on his feet, her coach Brad Gilbert implored her. But Coco, who had lost only ten games going into the fourth round, was at a loss. She confided, “I felt I didn’t have any solutions…Mentally a lot was going on. I wanted more direction from the box…I don’t think today we were in sync. But I have no one to blame. I’m the player…I have to learn from today.” 

Wimbledon radio was unsparing, saying “Navarro has absolutely battered and destroyed the No. 2 seed.”

In the second round, Emma had dismissed the four-time Slam winner Naomi Osaka 6-4, 6-1. This was Navarro’s second Top Five win and the triumph of her pro career. She’ll next face Jasmine Paolini, who’ll be hoping to score back-to-back wins over Americans. But Emma has a 3-0 record over the Italian.

MADISON KEYS – SO VERY SENSIBLE, YET A TAD INSANE: When Madison Keys was young, she convinced her family to move from Illinois to a more tennis-friendly region. The other day, she conceded, “The fact that my parents let a 10-year-old decide that she was going to move the whole family to Florida to play tennis was insane.”

What has also been a tad bit insane is Keys’s career.  She was a junior phenomen. She turned pro early and it was said that once he learned how to curb her power and craft points, the tennis world would be her oyster. One year, they clocked her groundstrokes at the French Open. They were faster than any others at Roland Garros. She rose to No. 7 and battled her way to the 2017 US Open finals against Sloane Stephens. But she came out flat and suffered a definitive loss that hasn’t exactly vanished from her mind.

Oh well, she’s won seven titles and earned over $18 million. More importantly, these days she’s a happy woman. She’s engaged to the former ATP player Bjorn Fratangelo. In Paris, she told Inside Tennis what the most important lesson she’s learned from tennis. “As I’ve gotten older and gotten therapy, I’ve learned that tennis is an amazing part of who I am. But it’s not who I am. When you figure that out, and just enjoy yourself and not get too wrapped up in tennis being your one-and-only identity, the wins are better. The losses are easier…That makes you step back and fully appreciate the moments that you have in these amazing stadiums, in front of the crowds.”

Today, as she began her fourth round, Wimbledon Radio commented, “Madison Keys is absolutely walloping her forehand.” American spirits were high. Keys had crushed her foe, Jasmine Paolini, 6-1, 6-1 in Montreal last summer. Before this year the Italian had never won a grass court match, and she was 0-3 at Wimbledon.

But Paolini is fluid and gritty. She’s turned scampering into an art form. Today Radio Wimbledon said, “She’s just marbleizing Madison’s shots…Keys is making a mess of her groundies.” The 5’ 4” French Open singles and doubles finalist took the first set 6-3.

But, despite ongoing errors and her inability to hold serve, Keys was brave and hit a brilliant half volley to win the second set. She faked Paolini out at the net, and her trademark forehand dictated. She raced to a 5-2 third-set lead.

Madison had reached the semis at all the Slams except Wimbledon. Now she might battle on to reach that mark. But the Italian stormed back. Still, Maddy came within two points of victory. She had the upper hand. Then disaster struck. While she was serving, something went terribly wrong in her groin. She winced – the pain was clear. All was lost.

The well-respected American, whose career has been hampered by a string of disheartening injuries, was now kicked in the gut by fate. Beside herself and in tears, she had to withdraw at 6-3, 6-7 (6), 5-5. Her Wimbledon hopes vanished.

You just might say it was a bit insane.

QUOTEBOOK:

“It was a Biblical downpour, but now it’s now just a colossal storm.” – Wimbledon Radio

“The tagline for this year’s Wimbledon should be, ‘Thank God for the roof.’” – Wimbledon Radio

“In an era of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, the person to end Andy Murray’s Wimbledon career is Emma Raducanu.” – Scott Barclay on X

“They are tumbling like flies out there.” – Wimbledon Radio, after Grigor Dimitrov, Madison Keys and Emma Raducanu all suffered on-court injuries on the slippery grass

THE SUN ALSO RISES: On a day of incessant showers, the Sun came out (okay, Lulu Sun’s name is pronounced “Soon,” but oh, well). The qualifier scored her seventh straight grass-court win in London, a stunning 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 victory over the wildcard, home favorite Emma Raducanu, whose young career has been so turbulent.

Lulu used her effective serve, aggressive play and fine volleys to take down the wildcard. Sun has a Chinese mom and a Croatian dad. She grew up in New Zealand, lived in Switzerland, and led the University of Texas to the NCAA title in 2022.

Broadcaster Clare Balding said the sun has set on Raducanu’s Wimbledon. But the ever optimistic Billie Jean King stated the obvious: “The sun will rise tomorrow.”

IT’S TOUGH BEING THE COACH’S SON: Ben Shelton explained why it was tough being on the tennis team at University of Florida that his father coached. “I’m the coach’s son, so he has to show that there’s no favoritism..[So] I’m running more sprints than everyone else…I’m getting chewed out more. If I lose a match, it’s a bigger deal than everyone else.”

REFLECTIONS ON SINNER’S SENSE OF INVINCIBILITY: Jannik Sinner raced to a two-set lead over Ben Shelton. Then the American rallied. Commentator Rupert Bell noted, “What determined effort by Shelton. That was an 18-shot rally – and the world No. 1 Sinner cracked. Now Shelton has an extra zip. Sinner’s aura of invincibility has gone away for now. The steam rolling is over. The Italian is on a bit of a bother. Tennis is such a marathon.”

Shelton was hoping to win his fourth five-set match in a row. But late in the match Sinner saved three points and prevailed 6-2, 6-4, 7-6(9). He’ll next play Daniil Medvedev.

GO FIGURE: Ben Shelton works not to hit too many big serves in order to save his arm, and keep his big bombs for big moments.

FEDERER AND THE SHADOW OVER ZVEREV: Visiting stars and dignitaries always sit in the Royal Box or other special seating on Centre Court. So on Saturday, Roger Federer watchers were curious when, as part of his Wimbledon visit, the Swiss watched multiple matches on Court 1. Was this a snub of Alexander Zverev, who was on Centre Court?  And why?

The No. 4 player in the world is important in Federer’s world. Four times Zverev has been featured at Roger’s Laver Cup. And certainly the German star will be a featured player when the Laver Cup comes to Berlin in September.

Insiders recall that Federer broke off his friendship with Tiger Woods when the golfer got entwined in a dicey controversy. Was Roger possibly making a statement about Zverev?

Sascha has said he knows what he has done and what he hasn’t done relating to the domestic violence incident with the mother of his child. But he won’t tell us. He claims that his recent court case in Berlin proved his innocence. But the settlement made clear that there was no determination of Zverev’s innocence or guilt. And Sacha’s defenders pointed out that people are innocent until proven guilty.

Zverev was once represented by Federer’s Team 8 agency. They parted company when the first round of accusations emerged that claimed that Sascha had attacked his former girlfriend.

Also reporting – Lucia Hoffman

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