Kamis, 27 Juni 2013

Fewer Waves at Wimbledon as Talk Turns to Return of Serve and Volley

But there was nothing no plaque being hammered onto a green wall to commemorate a wild Wednesday no upset shocked victims receiving treatment no orange soled shoes visible inside what the British call a dustbin.

Instead order had been restored at Wimbledon even if Roger Federer Jo Wilfried Tsonga and Victoria Azarenka were no longer around to appreciate the amenities and even if Maria Sharapova was hanging around only to watch her boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov dig deep into a fifth set before rain ended the suspense for the night.

Thud Thursday still featured a few more slips on the slick grass as well as two more retirements from the veteran Frenchmen Michael Llodra and Paul Henri Mathieu that brought the tournament total to 12 after two rounds.

But there was no sign of Wednesday s electricity the sense of possibility that made stars feel vulnerable and outsiders feel as if this day simply had to be the day they could crash the party.

By early afternoon Thursday it became apparent that for all the upsets and the superlatives the 81 year old coach Nick Bollettieri called Wednesday easily the craziest day of tennis I have ever seen Wimbledon had not been kicked that far off the rails after all.

Although Rafael Nadal and the defending champion Federer are out after two rounds the No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Andy Murray have yet to lose a set. Djokovic advanced on Thursday with a 7 6 (2) 6 3 6 1 victory over Bobby Reynolds a 30 year old American qualifier whose departure left the United States with no men in the third round in singles for the first time since 1912 (when no American men played at all).

As for the women s draw Serena Williams the overwhelming favorite and defending champion remains hale and hearty. She underscored the pecking order with a 6 3 6 2 victory over Caroline Garcia 19 of France who confessed that Wednesday had given her however briefly a little more zip in her step.

It does give you ideas she said.

But Williams had other ones and she said she followed the tumult closely.

The first thing I do is I m like O.K. Serena stay focused she said. This happened before. I don t know when. I want to say it was the U.S. Open though. A lot of players were losing. I thought definitely want to stay focused and stay serious. So that s what I did again yesterday.

Garcia lifts her eyes to the sky well before she tosses up the ball to serve and it ultimately seemed like a fine idea to seek help from above in light of Williams s current form. Williams rolled to her 33rd straight victory and has also won 28 straight sets which meant that after all the drama tinged news conferences and pretournament public apologies she could settle into a much more lighthearted vein on Thursday.

It included a debate about a would be battle of the sexes with Murray.

Opening question Andy Murray has challenged you to a showdown in Las Vegas. What is your answer

Williams He s challenged me

That led to discussion of Williams s long ago match (and defeat) against the cigarette smoking German journeyman Karsten Braasch in Australia in 1998.

I was really young I m a lot more experienced now Williams said before considering Murray.

He s probably one of the top three people I definitely don t want to play she said. But yeah maybe we can have a little bit of a showdown. That would be fine. I get alleys. He gets no serves. I get alleys on my serves too. He gets no legs. Yeah.

Williams will get the chance to feel young again in her next match when she faces Kimiko Date Krumm the enduring Japanese player who at nearly 43 is the oldest woman in the Open era to advance to Wimbledon s third round in singles.

The two have never played and if anyone can throw Williams off rhythm it is Date Krumm who once almost chopped and changed tactics enough to knock the other five time Wimbledon champion in the Williams family (Venus) out of the singles.

I did see that match I think I lost four years of my life watching that match so I will definitely be talking to Venus Serena Williams said.

But even as Williams talked about the future there was still plenty of talk about the past (as in Wednesday) about Federer s increasingly evident fade and about the revival (even if ephemeral) of the serve and volley style that has most of the middle age former stars on the grounds licking their chops with something that could be called nostalgic anticipation.

We all want to see serve and volley back said Mats Wilander 48 a former world No. 1 from Sweden.

It was back in full risk taking flow on Wednesday on Centre Court as 116th ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky decided that the only way to nudge the odds in his favor was to deprive Federer of time by following his serve to net preferably after delivering a serve to his weaker backhand wing.

Such clarity can help a tennis player. If you have just one legitimate option sticking by that option is the easiest path to take. The enormous surprise was that Federer even in his diminished 2013 state could not find a way to solve the riddle and he will drop to No. 5 or worse in the rankings after the tournament.

His chances of winning an 18th Grand Slam singles title are not over but his days of doing it as the favorite certainly seem to be done. Federer a seven time Wimbledon champion still hit some brilliant shots but he also hit too many shaky ones to avoid putting an exclamation point on the long flowing Fitzgeraldian sentence that was Wednesday.

Thursday was much more suited to Hemingway even if it ended in typical English fashion under umbrellas.

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