For the second Slam in a row, we’ve seen more rain than play it seems. But, despite the paucity of play, there have still been some memorable moments so far.
1. RC Cola meets Moet
If only I had stuck with my pre-teen love of RC Cola and candy bars, I, too might have had a shot to play Roger Federer on Centre Court. Well, maybe not. Even though this was rightly touted as a Cinderella story, the match itself was surprisingly competitive. Marcus Willis, for all of his self-deprecation, showed some good tennis skills, even though he never really came close to challenging Federer. As for the Swiss vet, he was the perfect foil for Willis’ feel-good story, content to truck along to the finish line, while letting his unexpected opponent bask in the glory of his moment.
But more than its storyline, the match shows how small the margins can be in sports. No doubt Federer and his elite player colleagues are blessed with more talent than the average club player, but Willis shows how talented even the average club player is. Also, the focus that elite players generally show shot after shot and point after point is as much honed over years of training as it is innate. Still, with his new-found fame, one suspects Willis may be able to snag some wild cards this summer, and perhaps parlay this into another year on the tour. I do hope he snagged some free RF swag from Federer (he bought (!) the RF shirt he wore during the match) and took all of the official towels he could get his hands on.
2. Two Time Champion on Court 18, Please
I’ve heard many commentators note how Petra Kvitova is a small town girl at heart, and often finds the bustle of large cities, like New York, overwhelming. There was little chance of her being overwhelmed with her placement on Court 18. Seems like an odd choice to put a two-time champion on Court 18, especially when there are at least three larger show courts where she could have played. Kvitova took to her bucolic surrounds and defeated Sorana Cirstea 6-0, 6-4 before the rains came. Perhaps she is onto something here.
3. Mugu Conquers Giorgi
Camila Giorgi is a confounding player, who has collected her share of top ten wins — in fact, she’s won more of her matches against top ten players than she has lost. Needless to say, she is not an ideal opponent for a first-time Grand Slam winner looking to return to earth and win seven matches in a row again. But, the match that we got between Giorgi and second-seed Garbine Muguruza was a joy to watch — one of the hardest hitting matches we’ve seen in a while, with both players hitting winners at will. Eventually Muguruza pulled the match out, which was a good way for her to get grounded at Wimbledon.
4. More Roofs, Please
I know, building roofs over tennis courts is expensive. And not every tennis court can have a roof, at a tournament that has nearly two dozen courts where official matches are held. But, one roof for the leading tournament in tennis? It’s not enough, not even close.
Here’s the thing about tennis tournaments — they actually need all of the players in the draw to function. Sure, most fans (both in person and on TV/internet) are tuning in to see the top names, but tournaments need seven rounds of matches to sell tickets for two weeks, and, perhaps more importantly, to sell the broadcast rights for those matches. This is a very lucrative business — even the top players don’t see that much of the revenue generated by a tournament like Wimbledon. But, for the vast majority of the players to work in vastly inferior conditions to those present on Centre Court is unacceptable.
As of now, there are two players who are in the third round — Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. They have also played both of their matches on Centre Court. There are almost 30 players in the men’s and women’s singles draws who haven’t even completed their first round matches. Needless to say, as the tournament goes on, more of these players are going to have to play back to back matches to catch up, while the two players who have the most resources to recover and train can sit back and relax.
It’s not the players’ fault — they play where they are scheduled. And it’s hard to expect ticketholders and TV rights holders to not want to see the biggest draws on the one functioning court. But, it’s up to the ATP and WTA tours to look at the bigger picture and to make demands for better facilities — more roofs, player challenges available on all courts, etc. that will benefit the entire draw. Only so many matches can be played on Centre Court, and if the rain holds up, they will have to start playing all matches there 24 hours a day to catch up. Or worse, play on Middle Sunday.