Wimbledon 2011: Federer and Williams dominate first week
A look back at some of the stories of the first week of 2011 Championships at the All England Club
They promised rain and they were right. The first week of Wimbledon tried to dodge the showers but as the days went by, the schedule unravelled.
By Friday, the show courts butted round two matches up against round three, and by Saturday, Juan Martin Del Potro was completing his sixth straight day at the All England Club. His opening match on Monday was cancelled and twice his subsequent matches were carried over to a second day.
But by Sunday, against all the odds, it was not just the players who could enjoy their day of rest -and Wimbledon is the only Major still to offer an across-the-board day off at the halfway point.
The organisers could sleep soundly in the knowledge that everything in the singles draws was where it should be.
The sun arrived for the busiest day of the Championships -middle Saturday -and even a security alert that delayed the opening of the All England Club for 45-minutes could not dampen the day. The sun and the champagne broke out all over SW19.
There may have been tea and cake on the balcony for Roger Federer as he carried out his latest interview, but champagne was surely the order of the day back home after he swept through his old friend and adversary, David Nalbandian, in Round Three in straight sets.
The Argentine, blighted by injury in the last two years and playing only his sixth tournament of the year at Wimbledon, has been returning to form with a vengeance.
He has beaten Federer -and Rafael Nadal, come to that -numerous times in the past but his lack of match fitness got the better of him in the second set when he sought treatment on a recurring groin strain.
Two big shot-makers going head to head is still a dazzling affair, and even at match point, Federer needed three attempts to quash the Argentine flair.
The No3 seed has yet to lose a set and has looked more uninhibited with each win: even the flashy young Adrian Mannarino looked like a junior in his presence. However, Federer’s quarter of the draw now faces a succession of strong seeds.
Robin Soderling has been the biggest men’s seed to fall, going out in straight sets to the young Australian, Bernard Tomic. Courtesy of the win, this rising star will become the highest ranked Australian man after Lleyton Hewitt fell to Soderling in the previous round in one of the matches of the week.
Hewitt, a former No1 and the champion here in 2002, had played only 12 matches this year prior to Wimbledon -another man who has fought back from surgery. He dominated Soderling with a two sets lead but Soderling dug very deep for an eventual win.
There were, though, few more popular losers in the men’s draw this week.
Age does not wither Date-Krumm
If Hewitt was one of the most popular men’s losers, Kimiko Date-Krumm was certainly a contender for that title on the women’s side after her stunning fight against Venus Williams.
Date-Krumm played her first Wimbledon in 1989 and reached the semi-finals in 1996. She promptly retired from tennis but now she is back, 12 years later and 40 years of age, playing some of her best tennis. She took the opening set, a tie-breaker, thrilling the Centre Court crowd with her old-fashioned all-court game, speed and grit.
She eventually lost the match to a steadily improving Williams, but she continues in the doubles draw, beating the Italian duo, Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta.
Double the effort
Schaivone and Pennetta are one of the most charismatic pairings in the doubles draw but their campaign fell on stony ground after their opening match came within hours of both women leaving the singles draw in two of the week’s longest women’s matches.
Pennetta fought it out with Marion Bartoli for over three hours, eventually losing 9-7 in the third set. Schiavone was on court for two hours in the third set alone against Tamira Paszek, losing it 11-9. But the first two sets had lasted an hour and 40 minutes, too.
Little wonder, then, that they finally faded in the third set of their doubles against Date-Krumm and Shuai Zhang: That was some day’s work.
Grigor Dimitrov has had tongues wagging since he arrived on the Wimbledon scene in 2008 by becoming junior champion. The reason was not simply his talent but that his talent bore some of the hallmarks of another former junior champion, Roger Federer.
The 20-year-old Bulgarian, now the youngest man in the top 100, claims Federer as his role model, has a similar single-handed backhand, is as happy at the net as at the baseline, and even uses the same racket.
He finally announced his credentials in a dramatic, rain-interrupted match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. He took the first set but eventually lost out to Tsonga in a close fourth-set tie-breaker.
Dimitrov, though, is still honing his all-court game nicely in the doubles competition under the watchful eye of a paternalistic Peter McNamara, who sat just metres away as his charge, alongside the experienced Dmitry Tursunov, advanced to the second round.
The Bulgarian star-in-the-making then got a taste of what the future holds as he was held up for 10 minutes signing autographs. A few more people have also seen what the future holds in men’s tennis, and it looked good.
Lisicki lights up Centre Court
Sabine Lisicki is another player returning from long-term injury but she was offered a wild card at Wimbledon after a stunning run on the grass of Birmingham to win the title.
In the second round, she faced Na Li, the French Open champion, on a gloomy day under the Centre Court roof. The German, though, had already beaten Li this year in Stuttgart in straight sets and she was a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon in 2009.
Sure enough, despite Li powering through the first set, breaking in the third, having match points at 5-3, and serving for the match at 5-4, Lisicki resisted with some outstanding tennis both off the ground but particularly on her serve.
She saved the match with a sequence of four serves that began at 120mph and finished at 123mph: with that, she had the crowd in the palm of her hand.
What’s more, Lisicki sailed through her next match and next faces the unseeded Petra Cetkovska. There are now many who relish the possibility of her meeting Serena Williams in the semi-finals: the two biggest serves in women’s tennis head to head.
Two quarters of the draw have opened up in the most unexpected way. Novak Djokovic, after losing his first set of the tournament to Marcos Baghdatis, now faces what looks like a smooth run to the semis via Michael Llodra and then one of two unseeded men, Xavier Malisse or Bernard Tomic.
The major seeds in his segment have gone: Soderling, Jurgen Melzer, Nikolay Davydenko and Viktor Troicki.
The other segment that has opened up will favour Andy Murray if he comes through what promises to be one of the fourth-round matches of the tournament against Richard Gasquet.
But the quarter-final will hold either Feliciano Lopez -a strong grass-court, serve-and-volley player who has found some great form this year -or the more surprising qualifier, Lukasc Kubot.
The 29-year-old Pole is more renowned as a doubles player and this is only the second time he has played the main singles draw at Wimbledon. He first beat Arnaud Clement in five sets, then took out the dangerous Ivo Karlovic in three and won his fourth-round place with a four-sets victory over No9 seed, Gael Monfils.
If that was a shock, his on-court celebration was even more of one. Few men break into a can-can: Kubot did.
The joy of winning
And if anyone questions why all these men and women push themselves to the limit, day in, day out, in sunshine and in rain, win or lose, the face of victory has the answer.
David Ferrer has one of the hardest routes to the final: Tsonga next, probably Federer in the semis, and ultimately Djokovic, Murray or Nadal for the title. But he loves every step of the way.