‘Manic Monday’ sees all the fourth round matches at Wimbledon take place, making it one of the best days of the year for tennis fans everywhere. But it also sadly means the Championships are half over. Fortunately, the first week of play at the All England Club was one of the most thrilling we’ve seen in recent years, with thrills, upsets and some magical tennis. Here’s what we learned…
Maybe there are too many seeds
I’m yet to be entirely convinced that the Grand Slams have made the right decision by choosing to halve the number of seeds in the draw from 32 back to 16. The logic behind it makes sense because the first week of a Slam can often be a fairly dull procession of easy wins for the top players against opponents that lack the quality to challenge them. That’s particularly a problem in the men’s draw, with the best-of-five format making matches, even demolitions, longer, and upsets less likely.
The seeds in both draws hardly made a resounding case for why they deserve protection last week. In the women’s singles, there is only one top ten player left, the seventh seeded Pliskova, who had never been beyond the second round until this year. The defending champion, last year’s finalist and the world #1 have all been knocked out. In the men’s game, perhaps fittingly, half of the 32 seeds were knocked out before the last third round match had even begun.
It was certainly an exciting week. But it also raises a valuable question about what we want from the Grand Slams. Are upset filled tournaments the end goal? There’s no doubt that it creates an exciting start to a Slam, but it can also hurt the second week. Is it better to see top names go out early and have an anti-climactic finish? Or to have the big players cruise through a dull first week to set up a blockbuster finish? I would favour the latter, many the former. There’s no right answer, but it’s not a question to forget.
Wimbledon’s organisers disappoint
Wimbledon may be the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, but its organisers need to take a look at the way they’re running their tournament. On Tuesday they made the insulting decision to put Novak Djokovic, and even more unforgivably, defending champion Garbine Muguruza on Court No 2 to play their second round matches. It’s hard to imagine that ever happening to one of Djokovic’s big four rivals. And it’s impossible to imagine it happening to a men’s defending champion.
It’s not the first time that Wimbledon has been behind the times with women’s tennis, and it’s a problem area they need to tackle sooner rather than later. Equal pay is a great start, and something that should certainly not be up for debate, but Wimbledon continues to fail to treat its female competitors with the respect they deserve. Wozniacki complained last year, and rightly so, about too many women’s matches being scheduled away from the main show courts. It’s disappointing to see the organisers weren’t listening.
Djokovic coming good, but disrespected again
The Wimbledon crowd, once amongst the most respectful in the sporting world, have also tarnished their reputation after their behaviour during Djokovic’s match with Edmund. Understandably emotions (and blood alcohol levels) were running high after England’s victory in the football, but that’s no excuse for their behaviour towards Djokovic, one of the sport’s greatest ever champions. Though he was taking his time before serving, he was for the most part within the rules. and accepted his deserved time violation without complaint.
To boo and whistle him in the aftermath was a fairly shocking breach of the decorum expected at a tennis match. The fact that fans behind him continued to try to put him off thereafter only makes it worse. Ultimately, it didn’t work. His clash with the crowd seemed to only fire him up and he ended up rather dismissing the challenge of Edmund in a performance that went someway to re-establishing his credentials as a contender.
Djokovic criticised the crowd’s behaviour in his post-match press conference and was right to do so. He has no entitlement to the love of tennis fans, and considering the duopoly of Nadal and Federer that he muscled into, it’s understandable why many see him as something of an interloper or villain. But he does at least deserve respect. He’s generally sporting, the most gracious of losers and played a vital part in a golden age for the sport. Fortunately in the end, it was the Serb, not the crowd that came away smiling.
Federer and Serena again?
Djokovic may have done much to put himself back into the conversation about possible winners, as did world #1 Rafael Nadal, after promising weeks for both men. Juan Martin del Potro also impressed in reaching the second week for the fourth time. But whilst they are all in the same, crowded bottom half of the men’s draw, all eyes are on one man in the top half: Roger Federer. The eight-time champion was utterly untroubled in the first week and reaffirmed his status as heavy favourite.
On the off chance Serena Williams’ thought of herself as a long shot for the title at the start of the Championships, she certainly won’t do now. With so few seeds left in the draw, a 24th Grand Slam title seems to be beckoning for the great American. There are still players left with the potential to challenge her, including two-time Slam champion Angelique Kerber and the dangerous Jelena Ostapenko. But none have that same magic as Williams. Don’t bet against seeing two very familiar faces reigning at the end of the fortnight.
What was your biggest takeaway from week one at Wimbledon? Let us know in the comments again?