Wimbledon has wrapped up its first week of competition and the final 16 for both the men and the women have been decided. There have been plenty of surprises, upsets, and new heroes during this first week. Tennis Frontier looks back at the Top 10 moments, and some foolish yet brave predictions for the final.
Serena Williams escapes another close one. Boy, that was close! Serena won the first set pretty handily and looked to be cruising for a change but then she tightened up for whatever reason, and local favorite Heather Watson played a really smart, tough game to come that close to ending Serena’s Grand Slam dreams. When Watson was up two breaks and serving at 3-0 in the third, or serving for the match at 5-4, how many thought it was over for Serena? She clearly was flustered by the home crowd cheering for their heroine, but Williams screamed, hollered, fought, and willed herself back into the match. She looked almost in tears when the match was over. Is the pressure of a Grand Slam getting to her? She has fought 17 Grand Slam matches this year. She has won them all but eight have gone to three sets, and she has dropped the first set six times. And now comes maybe her toughest test left in the tournament: her sister Venus. They will meet in a Grand Slam for the first time since 2009 Wimbledon. Venus is playing extremely well and she just might be the one, ironically, to end Serena’s Grand Slam.
Roger Federer is aiming for his eighth Wimbledon title. Federer has looked very solid in his first three matches. He did drop a set against Sam Groth but the other two were relatively easy straight-set wins. He won his eighth title at Halle, and his preparation for this year’s Wimbledon went perfectly. If seeds go to form, he’ll face Roberto Bautista Agut, Tomas Berdych, Andy Murray, and then finally Novak Djokovic in the final. Whether he can win the tournament or not depends on how fast he can win his matches. He cannot afford to get into a long battle with Murray in the semifinals if he hopes to be able to take on Djokovic at full strength.
Rafael Nadal handed another early round loss. From the minute the draw came out, everyone pointed to the second round and a potential upset of Dustin Brown over Nadal. With dreadlocks flying, Brown did what he does best on his favorite surface and sent Nadal home in four sets. For any other player, two titles, two quarterfinal finishes in Grand Slams, and a Top 10 ranking would be a rather successful year, but Nadal is not your average player. He is one of the greatest players of all time and a two-time Wimbledon champion, so it has been alarming to see him struggling the way he has been this year. He now has one more chance at the U.S. Open to extend his record of at least one Slam win a year since 2005. As for Brown, the curse of the victor of Nadal falling in the next round continued and he could not build on his win, but it was probably a career moment for him.
Petra Kvitova shocked by a veteran. Who saw this one coming? Kvitova looked absolutely dominating in her first two matches in her defense of her Wimbledon crown. Her 35-minute win in the first round had her apologizing to her parents who had come from the Czech Republic to see her play. But then Jelena Jankovic happened in the third round. Jankovic has seen her best days but at times she can prove to be a tough opponent for any top player, as she proved by her runner-up finish at Indian Wells back in March. She stayed with Kvitova, played her own game, got Kvitova frustrated, and finally outlasted her in three sets. How far will Jankovic go now?
Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, and Grigor Dimitrov continue to disappoint. At the end of 2014, it looked as though the next generation was finally making its move to oust the Top 4 from their decade-long dominance of men’s tennis. Their challenge this year has been colder than a bucket of ice water. Nishikori had to withdraw from his second round match with a hamstring injury. Raonic has not recovered from his injury during the clay season, and was beaten by Nick Kyrgios in the third round. Dimitrov has just been floundering the entire season and lost in straight sets to the original Baby Fed, Richard Gasquet. They are all still young at 24 to 25 years of age so there is still time, but they had better get busy because there is a whole new generation of young players starting to make their mark on the tour. If they are not careful, they could be passed by before winning a single Major.
Simona Halep and Eugenie Bouchard fail to build on their 2014 successes. Just as the men’s young trio has stalled, Halep and Bouchard have not taken the steps forward that many fans were expecting and hoping they would. Halep has had some success here and there since her 2014 French Open final appearance, but she was ousted in the second round of this year’s French Open and now in the first round of Wimbledon. Bouchard is even more alarming. After her quarterfinal finish at the Australian Open in January, last year’s Wimbledon finalist has three wins and eleven losses. She will now be ranked in the mid-20s, and will have to face the top players in the early rounds again. She definitely needs to find some answers before it gets even worse.
James Ward almost makes it to the second week. Wildcard entry James Ward rode a bit of luck and his country’s cheers to the brink of the fourth round. The Briton, ranked No. 110, caught a break when his opponent, 7th seeded David Ferrer, dropped out of the tournament and left Ward facing lucky loser Luca Vanni in the first round. He went on to win his first two matches and came oh-so-very-close to the final 16 before going down in the third round, 8-6 in the fifth, to Vasek Pospisil. This will move Ward up to around No. 90 in the rankings — a career high.
Venus Williams is suddenly the one who could stop Serena’s Grand Slam run. It is so great to see five-time Wimbledon champion Venus playing well at Wimbledon again. It’s a bit cruel that the Williams sisters have to meet so early but here they are. This will be their 26th meeting, with Serena leading the head-to-head 14-11. However, Venus won their most recent encounter last summer. If Venus takes the first set, she just might do it, but she will need to win in straight sets to pull it off.
The young players and some new faces rise up. On the men’s side, we have last year’s quarterfinalist Nick Kyrgios (defeated No. 7 Raonic in the third round), Denis Kudla (faces No. 9 Marin Cilic in the fourth round), Vasek Pospisil (2014 Wimbledon doubles champ will take on No. 22 Victor Troicki), and David Goffin (in his first Grand Slam fourth round since the 2012 French Open). It will be interesting to see how much damage they can do on Monday. On the women’s side, there is 18-year-old Belinda Bencic (she’ll take on Victoria Azarenka), Zarina Diyas (defeated Andrea Petkovic), Coco Vandeweghe (in her first Grand Slam fourth round), Garbine Muguruza (first time in the Wimbledon fourth round), Monica Niculescu (in only her second appearance in a Grand Slam fourth round), Olga Govortsova (past the second round of Wimbledon for the first time ever), and Madison Keys (aiming for her second Grand Slam quarterfinal). The women’s side could really open up and we just might see a couple of new faces in the final come Sunday.
Don’t forget about us! Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Maria Sharapova, and Caroline Wozniacki are quietly putting together very solid runs. Wawrinka has yet to drop a set, Murray looks strong but that shoulder issue during the Andreas Seppi match is a bit concerning. Maria Sharapova has quietly (if that’s possible) moved through the rounds and could face Serena or Venus in the semifinals. Wozniacki has struggled this season but she has played well the first week here. She has a tough test in the fourth round, though, against Muguruza.
Predictions: The men looked formidable and it’s hard to imagine anyone other than one of the Top 4 taking the title. The semifinals should see Djokovic get some revenge against Wawrinka for his defeat in the French Open final. Murray looks ready to finally get to the final and end his losing streak against Djokovic. Serena has proved time and time again that she is tough to beat when her back is up against the wall. Once she gets past Venus, she could see a new face in the final, such as Muguruza or Keys. Murray and Serena should be taking the titles one week from today. But this is Wimbledon and the unexpected often happens. So set those alarm clocks, and get ready for some history to be made!