Taylor’s Swift Comeback

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Bill Simons

Wimbledon

America’s gritty powerhouse Taylor Fritz coulda-woulda-shoulda beat Rafa Nadal to get into the 2022 Wimbledon semis. Today, broadcaster Barry Cowan was unsparing: “Let’s be honest – he choked.” 

Fritz did beat Rafa to win the 2022 Indian Wells title, but he’s never gotten beyond the quarters of a Slam – and last year at Wimbledon he fell in the second round. 

Today, against the French Open finalist and No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev, it seemed the long admired Californian would again suffer a devastating loss. 

Zverev, coming off his run to the French finals, held a 5-3 head-to-head lead over Fritz. And, deep into a long rally, the Olympic gold medalist took advantage of Taylor’s too cautious play and stepped into a mighty backhand to break. Soon he’d sprinted to a 6-4, 7-6 lead. In the friend’s box, Taylor’s girlfriend, Morgan Riddle, looked grim. There were few American smiles on Centre Court. 

But Taylor is a gritty competitor with a lofty tennis IQ. He knew he was playing well and told himself, “It sucks to be down two and to lose it on Centre Court. It was just a couple of points here and there. I’m going to take it one set at a time.”

Then Zverev’s serve, which had been such an untouchable weapon, betrayed him. He double faulted. Taylor broke to send the match into the fourth set as he brilliantly lifted his game with some seriously great tennis. His massive serve was a weapon. He pounded forehands to the corners, showed us delicate drop shots and half volleys, and tapped into his inner Boris Becker to hit a diving volley winner. He prevailed in the fourth-set tiebreak 7-3. 

“Zverev looks like a beaten man,” commented Rupert Bell. Sascha, who against Cam Norrie suffered a knee contusion, said, “It was fairly obvious that I wasn’t 100% today, right?…I wasn’t moving really the entire match…I was on one leg today.” He also was annoyed by the loud backers in Taylor’s box.

But nothing seemed to faze the Rancho Santa Fe, California native – such focus. Taylor hit clean blasts, took risks and unleashed a flurry of winners and avoided costly errors as he scored a stunning victory from two sets down, 4-6, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 6-3.

In a way, the long-time pro seemed to come of age. This was the Grand Slam win of his career. And he’s never lost on a fast surface to his quarterfinal foe, Italian Lorenzo Musetti. Along with his best friend Tommy Paul, America will have two Wimbledon quarter finalists, a first since 2000.

MARATHON MARK: The Taylor Fritz-Alexander Zverev match was the 35th to go five sets at Wimbledon this year, a mark that ties the record for the most at any Slam event. And Fritz’s comeback is the 11th from a two-set deficit at this year’s Wimbledon, a Slam record. 

NOLE GOES AFTER THE CROWD: During his match against Holger Rune the often reactive Novak Djokovic thought that the crowd that was chanting ‘RUUUNE’ was booing him. So after he won, he expressed his upset: “To all the people who chose to disrespect the player, in this case me, have a ‘GOOOOD’ night, have a ‘GOOOOD’ night, ‘GOOOOD’ night.” When told that the crowd was just cheering Rune, Nole said no, that he’d been on the tour for 20 years and “knows all the tricks. You can’t touch me.” But clearly, at least at some level they did. And, by the way, why in the world would you want to go after Wimbledon’s crowd?

FLOWERS FOR COLLINS: Actor Matthew McConaughey tweeted, “Danielle Collins is one of the secretly great sport/life stories of 2024. Major proof of ‘1st time’s the last’ mental state.”

I AM DANIELLE COLLINS – HEAR ME ROAR: Is the ever lively and unafraid Danielle Collins the only player who has referenced the “F” word while speaking to a Wimbledon crowd? We think so.

After winning Saturday, she observed, “I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m someone who’s not afraid to be myself. I think as women we should really embrace that and support each other and be able to use that passion to fire us up. We get framed as emotional and frustrated and this and that. I just say ‘F it. I’m going for it.’” But she fell today to Barbora Krejcikova 7-5, 6-3. Before Wimbledon, the former French Open champion hadn’t won a match in five months, but now the Czech veteran is into the quarterfinals.

FRANCE PLAYS ITS PERRY CARD: While literature and Hollywood did their thing with the Da Vinci code, tennis has its Perry Code. For decades, tennis czar Perry Jones, who long ruled California tennis, was a critical figure in American tennis. Perry Rogers was Andre Agassi’s agent. As for Britain, decades before Andy Murray, Fred Perry was their dominant player. Now it’s France’s turn to play its Perry card. Their rising 21-year-old, Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard, is a wonder. The 6’ 8”, 218-pound lion from Lyon looks like a cross between an NBA power forward and an NFL lineman. The lucky loser is now out of Wimbledon, but he was the sensation of the first week, and, according to commentator Marcus Buckland, he “hammers down aces for fun.” 

WHAT A SHOWMAN: Wimbledon Radio noted the showmanship of the young Frenchman, Arthur Fils: “To him, style is important. He wants to entertain. He’s a swashbuckler. But it’s hard to be beautiful and successful in any sport.”

PLAYER OF THE SEASON: The French Open singles and doubles finalist, Jasmine Paolini, is into the Wimbledon quarters. And if you’re into such things, you might claim that the 5’ 4” Italian, inch for inch, is the best player in tennis.

MONDAY, MONDAY – CAN’T TRUST THAT DAY: At the end of almost every first set of good tennis, there’s a letdown. It’s time to get a drink. Similarly, after the first week of virtually every big tournament, there’s a lull. Everyone catches their breath. 

Of course, for decades, the incredible exception was the second Monday at Wimbledon. Until 2022, there was no play on Sunday. Then Wimbledon would roar back, with all the men’s and women’s fourth-round matches being played. It was called Manic Monday. Unless you were a Super Saturday loyalist, it was considered the best day in tennis. At first, Wimbledon’s second Monday this year seemed modest. Then there was magic. Taylor Fritz pulled off an astounding comeback win. 

SUN BURNS: Lulu Sun saved match points in the second round of qualifiers. She hit 52 winners against Emma Raducanu. Prior to Wimbledon she hadn’t won any Grand Slam matches and overall she had made only $300,000. Now she’s certain to pocket at least $480,960.

WHAT A REVERSAL: Daniil Medvedev punished the young Jannik Sinner, winning six times in a row. Then the Italian turned things around and now has won five matches in a row. 

THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE LIVES ON: We were amazed by the surge in Italian tennis. In Paris, Jannik Sinner became No. 1 and Jasmine Paoline soared. Italy’s excellence has hardly diminished on Wimbledon’s grass. Sinner, Musetti and Paolini are still in the draw.

SILVER LINING: Both Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula crashed out of the singles, but in a doubles match with plenty of undercurrents, they downed the French Open finalists, Sara Errani and Paolini.

THERE’S JOY ON THE STREETS OF WALNUT CREEK: The Walnut Creek duo of the former doubles No. 1 Rajeev Ram and No. 69 Katie Volynets, who replaced Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu, are through to the third round in the mixed.

MICROWAVABLE: Brad Gilbert said that Jelena Ostapenko, who is into the quarterfinals, is like a microwave. “When she’s on, she’s hot. Watch out!”

THE BEST FEEL-GOOD COMMENTARY AT WIMBLEDON: Sunday there were three rain delays in 12 hours. No wonder fans were thrilled when a commentator quipped, “No umbrellas up. And that’s fantastic news.”

IF YOU’VE GOT IT, SHOW IT: Broadcaster Kate Kearns bemoaned the fact that ATP players no longer show off their legs by wearing short shorts. She insisted, “If you’ve got it, show it.”

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