Juan José: So 2007…Where was the ATP back then? Federer and Nadal had consolidated themselves as the duopoly at the top. The interesting thing is that their dominance was surface based: Nadal had the clay, Federer had everything else. As we know, Federer kept knocking at the door at the French (to no avail), and Nadal had made the Wimbledon final the year before, threatening Federer’s favorite event. Murray and Djokovic had arrived on the scene, but they were not quite ready to challenge Fedal for majors yet. Roddick and Hewitt were trying to come to grips with the reality that they might be pushed further down the rankings pretty soon.
Lindsay: For some context on the season, the semifinalists for the French Open had been Federer/Davydenko and Djokovic/Nadal, and the semifinalists for the Australian Open had been Federer/Roddick and Haas/Gonzalez. (Federer made both finals, beat Gonzo in Australia and lost to Nadal in the French Open.)
But the big news was Djokovic and Nadal taking the March Masters–Nadal won Indian Wells and Djokovic won Miami. Federer had also won Hamburg on clay that year. So, like you said, Nadal was really becoming a factor on surfaces other than clay and Djokovic was showing that he was ready for the big time. But there was no Big Four domination like there would be in the future–still room for other guys to have runs.
Juan José: Yep: I was just going to bring up the Masters Series up to that point in 2007: Nadal over Djokovic at IW, Djokovic over Cañas (!!!) at Miami, Nadal over Federer in Monte Carlo, Nadal over Gonzo in Rome, Federer over Nadal in Hamburg. Some firsts among that list: Djokovic’s first ever Masters 1000 was that Miami win. And Federer snapped Nadal’s ridiculous clay winning streak in Hamburg.
What if we look at the seeds for the 2007 Wimbledon so that we can see what the landscape looked like at the start of the event?
Lindsay: The thing that sticks out for me is Gonzo–what a year he was having. A Masters final on clay and a Grand Slam final too.
Juan José: That year was definitely Peak Gonzo. He never played as well as he did in that Australian Open. Had he faced anybody else in the final, I’m pretty sure he would’ve won.
Lindsay: Also, this is a nice reminder about how long Tomas Berdych has been a factor in the Top 10. He’s often scolded–and rightly so–for his failures on the big stage, but perhaps he should also be praised for his consistency over the past six years.
Juan José: I agree – it’s really, really hard to stay in the Top 10 in tennis. The guy has definitely been relevant for quite a while, and he’s beaten everybody. However, given his talent level, it still feels like he’s underachieved.
Lindsay: Looking at the rest of the seeds, it’s so nice to see so many of the older guys who are still around seeded then. Blake, Davydenko, Robredo, Haas, Youzhny, Hewitt, Ferrer–those guys were veterans back in 2007!
Juan José: Yes they were! It’s interesting to see where they are right now: Davydenko looks set for retirement, and the same can be said for Blake. Robredo and Haas have been the comeback kids, and Youzhny showed signs of life as recently as last week. I don’t know where I’d lump Hewitt.
Lindsay: Hewitt is in a category all by himself, where he rightly belongs.
Juan José: By the way – Youzhny was playing his absolute best in the early part of 2007. Unfortunately, he kept running into Federer, and we know how that head-to-head works.
Lindsay: And to this day that is the story of Youzhny’s career. Sigh.
Juan José: Interesting to see Nalbandián ranked so low…we know what he did later that year in the indoor season. And there’s Ferrero, Moyá and Safin, all Slam winners, and all ranked on the fringe of the Top 20. And Richard Gasquet is around where he is now. Some things never change. Also, Marcos Baghdatis is there, a year after making the semis at Wimby and the final at the AO.
Lindsay: Indeed. But I think it’s interesting to remember how many of these guys were not at all a factor on grass. I mean, Gonzo, Kolya, Robredo, even Blake never could have a Wimbledon run. It’s different now.
Juan José: Gonzo wasn’t that bad…but the rest, yes. Non-factors.
Lindsay: Really at this Wimbledon all the focus was on Roddick, Djokovic and Hewitt. The event lost a lot of hype for the Brits when Murray withdrew…he had upset Roddick the year before.
Juan José: Yep – what a bummer that was. And of course, everyone was wondering if Wimbledon would see the second Fedal final in a row, and once again in consecutive Slams.
Lindsay: Shall we get onto Section 1?
Juan José: Yes! Look who’s there!
Lindsay: Man, there are sooo many names in this section. Juan Martín del Potro might be my favorite. How old was he then? 18?
Juan José: Del Po was 18 at the time. That second round match had to be daunting for him, no? To play an all-time great in the 2nd round of Wimbledon, which happens to be played on your worst surface? Also,that was the first time Federer and Del Potro played each other. They’ve played 16 more times since.
Lindsay: Wow, pretty amazing–who would have thought!
Lindsay: Also, you had a Federer/Safin third round match. Of course, Safin hated grass and he was not in prime form in 2007, so it went to Federer easily.
Here’s an article on the match, and some amazing quotes:
Federer: “I don’t know if I played phenomenal. I just played the right way. I kept the ball in play, served well when I had to and neutralised him from the baseline.”
Safin: “I don’t see anybody who can hurt him. No-one has enough weapons to beat him on grass. … It was my first time on Centre Court for many years and it was strange for me. It took me two sets to get used to it. I’m not taking anything away from Roger but it was tough to play my game.”
And, in case you want to watch, here’s a video of some highlights!
Lindsay: Yup, but that is Safin on grass. It was never a match made in heaven. (Until Djokovic came along…)
Juan José: Also, Haas withdrew from the Federer QF with a torn stomach muscle. As usual, Haas having bad luck with injuries.
Lindsay: Oh Tommy Haas. And how very Tursunov to lose in four sets to the guy who would withdraw the next round!
Anyways, it’s also interesting to see Qureshi in there as a qualifier in singles. And an unseeded Almagro playing a tight match against Tursunov in the first round.
Juan José: Anyway…Gonzo´s section! As we mentioned above, you’d think he was going to have a good Wimbledon.
Lindsay: Oh man, I remember that Tipsarevic/Gonzo match. Here’s the write-up.
Juan José: Tipsarevic was ranked 64th in the world at the time. And had just turned 23 years old. Funny to see that he played three straight five-setters!
Lindsay: Of course Gonzo had match points.
Juan José: Not only match points–he served for the match!
Last bit about Gonzo: he was 16-9 lifetime at Wimbledon. Made it out of the 3rd round only once: in 2005, when he lost in the QFs to Federer.
Lindsay: I told you he wasn’t good on grass!
But back to Tipsarevic, this was really the height of the Serbian boom, and this was Janko’s first real push to join them.
From the article:
With Novak Djokovic ranked fourth in the world, Jelena Jankovic third and French Open runner-up Ana Ivanovic sixth, these are heady days for Serbian tennis. Belgrade-based Tipsarevic, whose sports teacher father Pavel once scraped together money to finance his son’s career by renting skis in his spare time, struggles to explain the rise. “People keep asking me, how is this possible?” he told reporters. “What is happening in this country? Maybe some radiation from the (NATO) bombing or stuff. “The situation in our country was really bad, there were no sponsors, no Federation, no nothing. I’m not blaming anybody, the political situation was a mess and you could only imagine tennis, one of the most expensive sport in the world.
Juan José: That’s fascinating about Tipsarevic. A few weeks later, Troicki would announce himself on the stage, too (in a more understated way), when he beat Djokovic in Umag (Djokovic had made the final there the year before). Sadly for Troicki, he’s lost to Djokovic 13 straight times after that.
Lindsay: Really though, this section was all about Ferrero. His run to the quarterfinals was so much fun and unexpected.
It was the first time he made the quarterfinals of a major since the 2004 Australian Open.
He would only make one other major quarterfinal in his career, at Wimbledon in 2009.
Also, he gave the best description of Tipsarevic ever:
Q. How would you assess your opponent today?
JUAN CARLOS FERRERO: He tries to serve very good all the time. He make a little bit mistakes in important moments like 5-5 in the first set or in the second. I think mentally he was a little bit down because he lost the first set. In the third he tried. I mean, I play good and he tried, but I think I play better.
He tried. Bless his heart.
Juan José: That’s amazing. At some point I’d like to delve into what really happened to Juan Carlos Ferrero. He really should’ve won more majors than he did.
Lindsay: So, random observations from Section 2: You had a 19-year-old Querrey making his first appearance at Wimbledon, and that did not go very well at all.
Juan José: Nope – poor Sam.
Lindsay: To me, the weirdest result here is Serra straight-setting a Top 30 Kohls. Bizarre.
Juan José: I’m guessing Roddick wasn’t all too pleased to be drawn into Federer’s half, no?
Lindsay: Nope. Sigh.
Juan José: Still, that’s a clean sweep for A-Rod through this section, no? Onto the QFs without dropping a set.
Lindsay: Yup, he was playing so well. I had very high hopes that year. He looked like he was playing great. And then…okay let’s not get into that quite yet.
Juan José: Another big guy with a big serve who was awful on grass: Ivan Ljubicic. In a related note… he coaches Milos Raonic!
Lindsay: And that is working out swimmingly so far!! #not
Juan José: Ljubicic was 24-26 lifetime on grass…but somehow won a title at ‘s-Hertogenbosch. He was 8-11 at Wimbledon. Never made it past the third round. And lost in the first round six times. Great hire for the grass season, Milos!
Lindsay: The classiest Americans Justin Gimelstob and Vince Spadea are in this section. Ljubicic was so bad on grass that he let Spadea have a set.
Juan José: Also, look at Ferrer: got swept pretty easily by Mathieu. Funny to think that Ferrú was the No. 17 seed at age 25….and now he’s the No. 4 seed at age 31. That’s nothing short of remarkable.
Lindsay: Ferrer would have his big breakthrough later that year at the U.S. Open, making the semis of a major for the first time. At this point he was pretty unknown except to diehards.
Juan José: Ferrer had won all of three titles at that point in his career – he has 20 now! He hadn’t even been in that many finals, either: he had just three runner-up appearances before 2007. But like you said, he had his breakthrough at the U.S. Open that year, then won Tokyo, and ended up playing the Masters Cup final against Federer. Got annihilated there, but still.
Lindsay: Gives you hope for some of the young guys now. I mean, he was 25 then, so not a spring chicken.
Juan José: Great point, Linz: the Ferrer story should definitely be inspirational for the young underachievers.
Lindsay: I mean, if you had told tennis fans at Wimbledon that year that Ferrer would be playing the Masters Cup final in five months they would have had you committed.
Juan José: LAPENTTI ON GRASS. Predictably, it ended badly. But it’s nice to see my country’s flag there. He played Wimbledon 10 times. Lost in the first round five times. But made the quarters in 2002, and lost to Nalbandián in a really bizarre quintuple 6-4 scoreline (Nalbandián won the first two sets)
Lindsay: Crazy. Look at Tsonga there. This was such a big tournament for him–he started to actually play tennis and not just spend all his time in the infirmary. He had such terrible luck with injuries early in his career.
Juan José: I remember! This was the year he came out of the Challenger circuit and made a splash in the grass season. A look into his playing activity for 2007 is hilarious: after losing to Roddick in the 1st round at the Australian Open, he played 8 Challengers and 1 Future event. Jo-Willy won 3 out of the last 4 Challengers he played, including the Surbiton event on grass. After that, Jo went through the qualies at Queens, where he upset Hewitt in the second round before losing to Cilic. And then he showed up at Wimbedon. That’s quite a strange season.
Lindsay: This was only his third major EVER. Think about that. He had played one French Open (2005) and one AO (2007) and had never won a match at a major. Then he found his form at Wimbledon, made the third round of the USO that year, and then of course made it to the AO final in 2008.
But he had never won a match at a major before this Wimbledon. I can’t get over that.
Juan José: That’s nuts. How old was Jo back then?
Lindsay: He was 22!
From his Wikipedia:
After turning pro in 2004, Tsonga suffered a string of injuries beginning in late 2004, with a herniated disc that caused him to be out of action until March 2005. Then came two right shoulder injuries later in 2005, back and abdominal ailments from October 2005 to February 2006, and the recurrence of an abdominal injury at the end of 2006. In all, he played only eight tournaments during that time.
Juan José: Wow – I remember reading about that, but hadn’t thought about it in a while. Jo was nearly the French Brian Baker, no?
Lindsay: Almost. He had so many Frenchies in this section. Tsonga got his first win over Benny…because of course. And Mahut and Clement played in the first round, and then you also have ERV making the third round as a qualifier, which is surprising.
Juan José: Hey, is this the only time Gasquet has made it past the fourth round at a Major?
Lindsay: It is!
Wow–look at Henman there. How old was he then?
Juan José: 32 years old. So three years younger than Haas is right now!
Lindsay: That Henman/Moya match. Wow I remember that so vividly. It was a two-day match, and I remember being riveted. Remember, Murray had pulled out so all the focus was on Tim. But he was used to that.
I mean, 13-11 in the fifth. AND MOYA DOUBLE FAULTED ON HENMAN’S SEVENTH MATCH POINT
Juan José: Henman was nearly a year removed from his last ever appearance in a tour final…and almost four years since his last title.
Lindsay: Yeah, this was the swan song. It was actually his last win at Wimbledon, he retired later that year. That’s a pretty good one.
Lindsay: Aaah, prime Davydenko. Making the fourth round of Wimbledon took some form for him.
Juan José: Vliegen! Dancevic!
Lindsay: Monfils! ToJo!
OMG GULBIS/BAGHDATIS. Crazy to think how different their storylines were back in 2007.
Juan José: It makes me sad to see Baghdatis having a good run here. I mean…at some point I’d like to dig into what the heck happened to him. At least here, the wheels hadn’t fallen off yet.
Lindsay: Yeah. But can we LOL at him bageling Nalby?
Juan José: Yes, yes we can. At that point, Baghdatis had won three straight matches against Nalbandián.
Also, since we’ve laughed at Lapentti’s and Ljubicic’s grass “prowess”, we have to include Davydenko here: 10-20 on grass lifetime. He’s played Wimbledon 11 times, lost in the first round seven times. But yes, he made the fourth in 2007, somehow.
Lindsay: I mean..he had to come back from two sets down to GUCCIONE. So it’s not like it was a run for the record books. Nobody looks less like a tennis player than Guccione.
You have Pico in this section too, losing in the first round to Vliegen, not a surprise.
Lindsay: That Santoro/Karlovic match…hard to think of a bigger contrast in styles, isn’t it?
Juan José: Look at Cañas – making his way to the third round and losing to Hewitt in four. Backing up the early success of that year. And then you have Djokovic’s run, which was epic.
Lindsay: Oh man, that Djokovic/Hewitt match. How did we survive?
Juan José: Remember, this is the Wimbledon that got absolutely screwed by rain.
Lindsay: Oh, that Wimbledon. Right.
Juan José: But here’s Djokovic, making his first big Wimbledon push. It was just his 3rd Wimbledon (was 20 at the time), and had made steady progress: R32 in 2005, R16 in 2006, and then this run to the semis in 2007. Here are the match times for Novak’s matches: Kiefer (219 mins), Hewitt (252 mins), Baghdatis (300 mins) That’s good for 12.85 HOURS, just in three matches!!! And they were played on consecutive days because of the stupid rain and Wimbledon’s decision not to play on middle Sunday!
Lindsay: LOL. Though I still think giving up seven games to Potito on grass might be the most embarrassing part of that run.
Juan José: Starace is 1-11 on grass, lifetime. The only person he’s beaten is…ACASUSO!!!
Juan José: Who retired after losing 2 sets. Epic. Acasuso has to do a walk of shame of sorts for that.
Lindsay: So Potito Starace has never converted a match point on grass in his career.
Juan José: That was a huge match for both: Acasuso ended his career 0-8 in grass matches. So somebody was getting their first grass win when they met at Wimby that year!
Lindsay: Bjorkman, man. Bjorkman.
Juan José: Bjorkman…who was 35!
Lindsay: Yup, and the year before that he had made the semifinals at age 34. Insanity.
Juan José: Career high of No. 4 in singles, six titles. Not bad at all…but he was a phenomenal doubles player. No. 1 in the world, and 54 titles! Won all four Slams in doubles, three of them more than once.
Lindsay: His scoreline in the loss to Berdych is pretty funny. Two bagels.
Juan José: Love that scoreline. And that the only set he won was in a tiebreaker. He used to serve & volley a ton, and when he was on, he sure was fun to watch.
Lindsay: That’s why doubles players do well in grass in singles. Or they used to.
Juan José: Agustín Calleri! I miss that guy. Had a bomb of a forehand. Also..Stan Wawrinka!
Lindsay: Yup, was just about to say! Stan before he was The Man.
Juan José: Was 22 at the time. Ranked No. 43…and that Wimbledon first round loss was the third of a streak of four he had at that point in 2007.
Lindsay: This was also the last Grand Slam for Wayne Arthurs. Made the third round after qualifying, taking out Robredo. Not bad for a 36-year-old.
Juan José: Nope, not bad at all.
Lindsay: This is the dramatic section. I mean, Rafa had to WORK. The Soderling match was INSANE (Video here).
Juan José: Oh, man. Yes. And took forever. And you had the “incident”
Lindsay: Yup, and this was signs of my favorite Rafa…DIVARAFA. He was not happy with Soderling at all, and pretty much trash-talked him to the press. Said that nobody in the locker room liked him at all. Soderling wouldn’t be able to shake the reputation for years.
Juan José: Nope – until he hired Magnus Norman. Also, Nadal had to play five straight days to make the final. Which, again, could’ve been averted if they had played on that middle Sunday.
Lindsay: Yup. He got in trouble again against Youzhny in the fourth round, had to come back from two sets down.
Juan José: I’ve always been curious how that match would have played out had Youzhny not injured his back. Nadal had already started to play more aggressively and improve his form in that third set, but once Youzhny became hampered, the match became somewhat anticlimactic.
Lindsay: Once again: siiigh. Your favorite guy Jarkkkko is here, JJ.
Juan José: Seeded 18th.
Lindsay: Beat Mayer in five sets in the second round–a good win on grass. They’re so similar, it would be fun to watch a Jarkko/Mayer match at Wimbledon.
Juan José: Eh…no it wouldn’t.
Lindsay: HAHAHA. Just going to add that it is nice to see WC Cilic showing his grass promise already. Though losing to Simon on grass is embarrassing for anyone.
Juan José: Yes, and yes.
Juan José: I remember Ferrero taking a set off Federer and people freaking the hell out. There’s also the 300 minute Djokovic-Baghdatis extravaganza. Berdych struggling with wind and being dismantled by Nadal? That’s not news. I’ll leave Roddick/Gasquet to you.
Lindsay: Wait, before we get there I want to bring up this one thing that I came across earlier that I feel like really sums up where the men’s game was in 2005-2008. In press after his fourth round match (before his QF match against Federer), Ferrero was asked this question:
“Q. With Federer and Nadal gone, which of the Grand Slams offers you your best chance of victory?”
That is just an insane question to ask a former No. 1 and Grand Slam champion. But that’s how it was then. Nobody else in the conversation.
Juan José: Nope, and what I found disturbing is that the tennis world LOVED IT that way. 2005-2007 were the prime Fedal years, and they played their best match in 2008. They really owned the tour back then.
Lindsay: Anyways, I guess I’ve stalled long enough. Gasquet-Roddick. Without a doubt one of the most shocking losses at Wimbledon from Roddick because I honestly did not see it coming.
Lindsay: Yes. Why I would say it’s the most shocking, I can’t say it’s the most heartbreaking, though, because Gasquet played so well. I mean…so, so, so well.
From the write-up:
Gasquet might have been unbeatable just based on his ratio of winners to unforced errors — a stunning 93-to-29. Roddick’s was a more than respectable 60-to-24, a stat that would have won a vast majority of matches. “I thought I played pretty well,” Roddick said. “I thought he played very well.
Juan José: 93 to 29…that’s…nuts.
Lindsay: 93 to 29. That’s insane. I mean, if Roddick has a 60 to 24 W/UFE ratio I would back him 100% of the time.
Juan José: So, essentially, the recipe for Gasquet to advance past the QFs at a Slam is to CATCH FIRE IN AN INSANE WAY.
Lindsay: Yup. And he did. Roddick let up a bit, but it’s not like he completely choked and dropped his level. It’s just Gasquet went superhuman.
Juan José: Funny that a different Frenchman pulled off a similar comeback, in the same round, four years later, no?
Lindsay: Yes, I enjoyed that one a lot more. In this case, Roddick hadn’t dropped a set all tournament and was up two sets and a break over Gasquet. Gasquet hadn’t beaten a Top 100 player all tournament, and had never made it that far in a slam before.
Oh gosh, I love this tidbit from the write-up:
It wasn’t exactly “Dewey Defeats Truman,” but the network jumped the gun with a press release e-mailed to journalists, dated Friday, that said, “After a rain-filled week, Andy Roddick and Roger Federer will meet again on the grass here at Wimbledon in the semifinals tomorrow. Will Federer roll again to his fifth straight Wimbledon championship or will Roddick finally capture the Wimbledon title that’s eluded him
Juan José: LOL.
Lindsay: I mean, that’s how set-in-stone it seemed. I remember sitting there and watching as Gasquet came back, and it really was just mind-boggling. There was nothing Roddick could do. The tiebreaks hurt though. Roddick was great at tiebreaks in his career, but obviously there are a few that sting.
If I can keep going on a bit, Roddick’s quotes after the match really stuck out to me:
I’ll probably wake up tomorrow with a better sense of perspective. I’m sitting here feeling pretty crappy right now. But I promise you I’m aware in the grand scheme of things I’m still pretty blessed and very lucky and very fortunate. That being said, you know, when you put your blood, sweat and tears, everything you have into something, and you can almost taste it, you envision something and it doesn’t work out, it’s not easy. “But that’s what makes you addicted to the competition, you know, is the feeling when you do win. That’s what gets you back on the horse.
Lindsay: Anyways, on that note I would love to move on! Please!
Juan José: After some fun QFs, we had some pretty boring, even incomplete semis.
Lindsay: Yup, complete duds. Djokovic was just done.
Juan José: Gasquet had very little left in the tank against Federer, and Djokovic wasn’t even sure he could play against Nadal – I remember that it was a last minute decision to go out and play. He had a serious issue in his feet, and who could blame the guy: he had played 12 hours of tennis just in his last three matches! Nearly 13, actually.
Lindsay: Back then lackluster semifinals for the men were pretty old hat. But then we had the final. It would be remembered much more fondly if not for the 2008 epic. You could see how close Nadal was getting.
Juan José: Yep – he was very, very close. Heartbreakingly close. He generated break- points at 1-1 and 2-2 in the fifth set and couldn’t convert. One was a backhand down the line that just missed. Against Federer at Wimbledon, you need to capitalize on those moments, and he came up just short.
Juan José: Nope – this was his 5th straight title there. Sampras won 7 out of 8 at one point, but never 5 straight. Only Borg had done the 5 straight thing before.
Lindsay: Just incredible. He truly was the king of grass.
I do remember him saying in the trophy ceremony, “I’m just glad to win this one before Nadal starts to win them all.” If only he had knew how true that really was, hah. This was actually the last time he beat Nadal in a Grand Slam.
Juan José: He really owned that place…but Nadal was hell bent on taking him down. Luckily for Nadal, he would have his opportunity again the following year.
Lindsay: Yup–it was really incredible from 2006-2008 to watch Nadal figure out how to play on grass in front of our eyes. Showed what a thinker and problem solver he really is.
Juan José: What I find interesting about Nadal at Wimbledon is that he’s mentioned several times that that’s the major he cherishes the most. That’s the one he wanted to win, as a dream.
Lindsay: Djokovic has said that too.
Juan José: Yup, the greats all dream to get a hold of that ugly trophy (it has to be said, it’s the ugliest of the 4 Majors, by far), and only a few lucky ones do manage to do it.