As week one of Wimbledon draws to a close, Online Sport Editor Oli Davis assesses four of the main talking points from an engrossing week at the All-England Club.
It seems almost appropriate that these scorching, record-breaking temperatures sweeping the nation over the past week have coincided with the event signalling the start of summer- Wimbledon. As tennis fans and players from all over the world congregate in South-West London for two weeks of strawberries, queues and grunting/shrieking, here are the 4 main talking points from week one.
Nadal exits early…again
Is it psychological? Physical? Mechanical? Whatever ‘it’ is, the Rafael Nadal of the past few years is not comparable to the swashbuckling performer who did battle with the iconic Roger Federer on an annual basis. Dustin Brown, a qualifier ranked 102 worldwide, was his conqueror this time as Nadal once again crashed out to a player outside of the top 100. The dreadlocked Brown, a German but of Jamaican descent, was irrepressible. Time after time, Brown would wallop a return past the stranded Spaniard whilst also serving up delightful drop shots that ‘Rafa’ simply could not read. Brown would lose to the in-form Viktor Troicki in the next round but not before he won over the tennis world with ‘dreddy tennis’.
Murray, Watson and Ward lead the British charge
British tennis is in fine fettle with Andy Murray at its helm however the supporting cast has performed admirably in week one. 21 year-old Liam Broady won an enthralling five set match against Marinko Matosevic in the first round and James Ward was inspired to reach the third round, going out in five sets to Vasek Pospisil. This was the first time the 28 year-old wildcard had reached the third round of a major. Heather Watson also reached the third round before losing out in a nail-biting match against her childhood hero Serena Williams. The 23 year-old Watson was serving for the match at one stage only for the Number one to show her experience and grind out the win. Watson’s disappointment was clear to see but this was a monumental effort from the young Brit.
Federer, Djokovic, Murray and Wawrinka untroubled
Despite not playing anywhere near full capacity, the top four ranked players have breezed through the first week. Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka especially have progressed without really having to exert themselves. That can prove costly; headline players in the past have been unable to really get going and peak at the right time in the second week despite a smooth first week. Federer, in typical fashion, has dominated Centre Court by brushing aside his opponents with his usual elegance. It remains to be seen how much longer the iconic Swissman can remain at the pinnacle of the tennis rankings, he is 33 years-young, however he has been at his irrepressible best the past week.
Kvitova a surprise exit
The women’s game has seen numerous high-seeded casualties in the first week, Eugenie Bouchard, Simona Halep, Ana Ivanovic, Ekaterina Makarova and Sabine Lisicki are all notable players who would have been expecting better. However, the biggest shock of all has been Petra Kvitova. Having only dropped 3 games in her previous two matches, blowing away her opponents with some scintillating tennis, Kvitova suffered a surprise third-round loss to former world number one Jelena Jankovic. Few would have predicted such an outcome, especially in light of Kvitova taking the first set 6-3.
As ever in tennis, regardless of the tournament, it is dangerous to predict outcomes as the complexion of any draw can change with a single match. However Djokovic is still the favourite in the men’s side of the singles game, he is in fine form at the moment and will be spurred on further by his painful loss in the French Open final. Wawrinka, Djokovic’s conqueror that day, is a potential dark horse to make a run at the iconic Wimbledon trophy. In the women’s game, Maria Sharapova has gone quietly about her business, displaying some of the same powerful groundstrokes that saw her win the final in 2004. Serena Williams is perhaps unsurprisingly the favourite to go all the way again although Caroline Wozniacki could pose a threat, aiming to build on her improving run of form.