Tradition or Madness?
I'd like to think this was going to be an essay of some sort on the topic above. Really, though, all it will be are my mid-fortnight ramblings about the first week of The Championships.
But with weather being what it is today in London and with the forecast being what it is for the week, not scheduling matches today is a show of madness by the AELTC.
Five out of six days were troubled by rain, including the last. Which means Wimbledon is behind schedule. As the tournament grows more intense for all professional participants, common sense dictates that you make the playing field level for all. Or at least try.
As it is, the men unlucky enough to be in the bottom half of the draw must prepare themselves for fighting their battles in a condensed time frame. Best of five-set matches back-to-back-to-back. Weather permitting.
Add to that, Roger Federer's round of 16 foe, Tommy Haas, withdrew today with a bleeding and torn abdominal tear. So Raja gets to go shopping with Mirka and hit a few balls on the indoor courts, relaxed and mentally at ease, and won't take the court until Wednesday at the earliest. Weather permitting.
Leo Luck strikes again. Yes, he's a great talent. But he's also the luckiest champion I've ever seen.
I wonder, if Raja should win it all, will his accomplishment be dismissed as a gift from the AELTC, much as Andy Roddick's was from the USTA, by many, many people, on the outside and the in, after the 2003 US Open. I disagreed with that sentiment, of course. But my rationale has nothing really to do with my point. The situations were eerily similar. I simply wonder if people like Martina Navratilova will cry out, loudly, about the unjustice done to the other players in a fortnight wracked by rain. I doubt it.
A tennis player walks past the Emmanuel Church of England that erected this sign in its garden. The church is located in the Wimbledon village and a 20 minute walk from the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
From Steve Tignor's The Wrap (emphasis mine):
Federer clothing: I actually think he looks pretty good in the white-on-white-on-white, though I wonder what he’s going to do next year, go out in a white overcoat on top of the jacket on top of the sweater on top of the shirt? It’s half cool throwback, half pointless contrivance. The problem I have is that, when the world’s best player comes out in look-at-me get-up, there's an element of preening to it.
Quote - and understatement - of the week. Especially since Tignor's lips were sealed about Raja's big old purse, a smaller version of which can be seen below. Perhaps Raja might want to ditch the stripper pants and the shorts and give the handbag its just due. (Thanks, Savannah. Oh, and for those of you [karen] who wanted the Of Tards and Tennis - WTA version, check it out right here.)
Darren Cahill is smart and intelligent. But even he surprised me when discussing the What The Hell Happened To Juan Carlos Ferrero question. Darren thought Ferrero succumbed to the pressure and added expectations heaped upon Slam champions and world No. 1's. Chris Fowler, who's everyone's entertaining foil, had no idea. I like both these commentators (Fowler covered the car bomb incident with more skill than a news anchor), but I was miffed that no one seemed to know Ferrero was stricken with chicken pox and injuries for most of '04 and '05. If you're a grown man and you've had chicken pox, you know that your core strength has never been the same. J.C.'s surprise run to the second wek represents a nice comeback. He hasn't been this far at Wimbledon since 2003 when he lost to Raja. J.C. might be headed into the quarterfinals to set up a rematch. Janko Tipsarevic might have something to say about the Spaniard's resurgence, but not much. The Serb, making his own surprise debut appearance in the second week of a Slam, played a lot of tennis to get this far.
I'm beginning to enjoy listening to Mary Jo Fernandez. I've thought her a bit too milque toast for my tastes, but when speaking of the ups and downs of the Williams sisters, injuries is the first thing out of her mouth. How refreshing.
Meanwhile, Brad Gilbert is revealing his own dance with madness. Perhaps his association with the LTA has exposed him to madness. (The Madness of King George just flashed before my eyes.) Peter Lundgren, Raja's and Marat Safin's old coach, was given a leave of absence until the Davis Cup tie in September, for slurring his words in a meeting. Brad's telling us the courts are playing faster this year, that Amelie Mauresmo is practicing her serve and volley game against Mara Santangelo, and that middle Sunday should have play because the AELTC needs to earn more money.
(Did I mention that weather was beautiful in London today?)
Speaking of the surface. I could swear the grass is playing like rebound ace covered with sod. Apparently, the ball is bouncing 7.5 inches higher than it was in times past. (I can't remember the year they compared it to, but 7.5 inches is a lot.) Sure, grass is grass and will always be slick. So if you can knife a good slice deep and low, you'll likely win the point.
But the high bounce makes it play like a hardcourt. What's the point of having different surfaces if they are all sped up or slowed down to make them suit all styles of play? If that's the point, make all the Slams medium-paced hardcourts and move on. Clay should be dirty and slow, grass should be slick and soft, Decoturf should be hard and fast, and rebounce ace should be sticky and bouncy.
Oh, wait. There won't be any more rebounce ace. Which I must not take issue with given all the ankle injuries it causes. But then make Melbourne a slow, sandy hardcourt and put the extreme back in clay and grass. When Raja can make the finals of all majors without testing his all court skills, the sport suffers by becoming too predictable.
And if you think I got this from Pat Cash, I did. I just happen to agree wholeheartedly with him on this issue. The rarest of rarities.
A little bird told me that France ought to consider putting Roland Garros on grass if it wants to have a homegrown champion any time soon. Well, if you look at France's success at this year's Championships.... The French Quarter features Richard Gasquet, national hero Paul-Henri Mathieu, and junior US Open champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. (If Andy is to advance to the semis, he'll have to defeat two Frenchman. I thought this was Wimbledon, not Davis Cup.) Mauresmo has dropped just 10 games in three rounds and has a draw she can beat. If she defends her title, I would not be surprised. Marion Bartoli equals her best Slam performance with back-to-back round of 16 showings. And she'll likely face again the woman who defeated her in Paris. Jelena Jankovic is a better player than Shahar Peer, but if Maid Marion can control the center of the court and yank her opponent side to side, she has a good chance of exacting revenge here.
And speaking of revenge. I enjoyed the tone of the discussion that Mary Jo and Cliff Drysdale had about Serena's chances of avenging her Paris loss against Justine Henin if they should meet in the quartes. Which seems to be a given. But Patty Schnyder has been doing something I've never seen: she's won not one but two matches 8-6 in the third against decent opponents on her worst surface. And her last two meetings against Justine went three sets. And she won one of them. As for Serena, well.... Daniela Hanthucova loves grass as much as anybody and she knows she can defeat Serena at a Slam. Would I be shocked if neither of the favorites advanced? No. I would be surprised, though. But that's beside the point.
If all the ESPN commentators could disagree with that level of intelligence and respect, it would be much easier to listen to them.
I love Wimbledon Live video on demand. With no play today, I'm able to catch up on the matches I missed, or others that were televised only in snippets. Pure heaven.
And the weather outside is beautiful.