June 24, 2010

How Do You Top That?

Wimbledon has a way of outdoing itself.

Remember last year when Roger Federer and Andy Roddick went thirty games in the fifth set before a champion was crowned? Well that wasn't quite good enoughfor us, so this year we had to go 138 games in the decider of a first round match before we decided who would advance. And we're not even through the first week yet!

So how on earth can this fortnight get any better? Well here are a few possibilities that would make the Championships even more amazing than they already have been.

Fabio Fognini, the Comeback King

It wasn't long ago that the Italian's second round match against Gael Monfils was the most talked-about darkness-suspended match in tennis. After losing the first two sets, the then-#92 Fognini rallied to even the score against the hometown favorite, endured a much-maligned discussion about whether to continue play, and ultimately notched the upset 9-7 in the fifth. He didn't have to deal with darkness in London today, but he did again trail the U.S.'s Michael Russell after about ninety minutes of play and spent the next two hours fighting back. He was down a break to start the decider, but proved himself to be quite the five-set master when after another sixty minutes he pulled off another win.

So maybe that will be his "thing" -- letting his opponent get comfortable before plowing through from behind. At Roland Garros the hangover was apparently too much to handle, and Fabio lost in the next round, but maybe he's learned from that experience. Next up at Wimbledon he faces Julien Benneteau, a man who's already played two five-setters himself this week -- I wouldn't be surprised if he got the upset. And with either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who's never gotten past the fourth round here, or qualifier Tobias Kamke waiting for him next, this could be Fognini's opportunity to break out.

And if he happens to improve his five-set record on the way, all the better.

A Qualifier Wins the Trophy

I made a mistake earlier this week when I classified Goran Ivanisevic as a qualifier when he won the Wimbledon title back in 2001. As it turns out, he was simply the lowest ranked player ever to win at #125 in the world. Obviously it would be difficult for someone who already battled through three preliminary rounds to then endure another seven, but hey, it could happen. This year the women's draw boasts two ladies who might just have a chance -- if not to win, at least to cause more damage than they already have.

Thirty-one year old Greta Arn lost the first set of her final qualifying match but was able to force her way into the main draw for only the third time in her career. The Hungarian was originally supposed to play Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in the first round, but when the Spaniard pulled out she was replaced by a slightly less dangerous Kateryna Bondarenko. Arn, who'd only won a single match at Wimbledon before this year, took her first set in a decisive tiebreak and held tough after dropping the second to get the win. She then battled through a feisty Alicia Molik to notch her best ever appearance at the All England Club. It'll be a battle to get past former runner-up Marion Bartoli in the next round, but if she does she could have a clear road to at least the quarters.

On the top half of the bracket former top-twenty player Kaia Kanepi followed up on her #1 seeding in the qualifiers and stunned French Open runner-up Sam Stosur in the first round. She took a little more time to dispatch Romanian Edina Gallovits in the second, but ultimately set up a date with up-and-comer Alexandra Dulgheru. The two have never met, but Kanepi has got to like her chances better than she did a few days ago -- one more win gives her a ton of momentum in a quarter that's really wide open.

Sure, it's a long road from the third round to the final, but we've seen just how strange things can get.

Nicolas Mahut Wins the Doubles Crown

Actually the only titles the runner-up in the Best Match Ever -- you certainly can't call him a loser -- has won have been in doubles. Just a few hours after heart-breaking defeat, Mahut returned to Court 18 with partner Arnaud Clement to play his first round doubles match. And for the third straight day his play was suspended for darkness with the Frenchmen losing the first set tiebreak.

There's no reason the pair can't rally tomorrow to take out Colin Flemming and Kenneth Skupski, but their bigger challenge would come the following round when they would meet four-time finalists Bob and Mike Bryan. Still no one is invulnerable, and it would be a sort of poetic justice if Mahut came away from this tournament with a little bit more.

They Meet Again

Somewhere down the road, the paths of John Isner and Nicolas Mahut will cross again, so why shouldn't it be at the U.S. Open? Maybe even the first round?

One thing's for certain though -- should that happen, we're sure to get a slightly quicker resolution as there are fifth set tiebreaks at Flushing Meadows. Though maybe officials would suspend that rule for the rematch. Just the once.

Yes, I know these are all long shots, and I can't even pretend I expect any of them to happen. But in a world where Roger Federer is almost ousted on the first day, where the Queen of England graces Centre Court with her presence, and where one match lasts three sun-filled days, I won't count anything out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting predictions, we'll have to see how they all play out!

Nice blog.

I've linked to yours from mine: