We probably talk about the “top guys” and the men's “Golden Age” too much these days. There’s not a whole lot that hasn’t already been said about the absurd dominance and consistency of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and to a certain degree Murray. On the other hand, there isn’t that much else we can say when it comes to the ATP. Even the Top 4's early losses just point up how rarely they occur.
Watching Rafael Nadal look helpless against a possessed Lukas Rosol, part of me was shocked, but another part thought that this is supposed to happen every once in a while. Maybe not a loss to No. 100, but every champ has taken an early round lump or two. It’s just that the current champs do it so infrequently that you forget that in reality, not all that much separates No. 1 from No. 100 on a given day. So I’ll take this moment to mention, once again, the fact that Federer hasn’t lost before the quarterfinals of a major since the 2004 French Open; that Djokovic hasn’t lost before the quarters of one since the 2009 French Open; and that as of yesterday Rafa hadn’t lost before the final at Wimbledon since 2005. Those stats, rather than any upset, are what’s shocking.
On to see what the papers have to say about yesterday’s events, both the seismic and the less-than-seismic.
Taking the Local Angle
The Mail gets both stories of the day into their headline:
BOUNCED OUT! NADAL IS STUNNED BY UNKNOWN CZECH ROSOL AND OPENS THE WAY FOR ANDY
But no pressure or anything, Muzz. Just try your best, that’s all we can ask. If you do that and still manage to blow it, we’ll only say nice things about you.
The bigger controversy, and thus the better headline, comes a little later:
IT’S A FIX! MURRAY’S WIN WAS BENT, SAYS ANGRY KARLOVIC AFTER SW19 EXIT
Ivo Karlovic stormed away from Centre Court with the extraordinary accusation that Wimbledon was fixed in Andy Murray’s favor
Dr. Ace was called for an unprecedented 11 foot faults, by far the most in his career, he said—the most “since I was 8 years old.” Karlovic said the calls always came at crucial moments, and that even after backing up, he was still tagged for them.
Elsewhere in the Mail, columnist Mike Dickson points out that up to 50 percent of Wimbledon’s linespeople come from outside the U.K.
Simon Says Some More
The Independent put the latest episode in l'affaire Simon this way:
GILLES SIMON HAS ANOTHER SWIPE AT WOMEN . . . AFTER LOSING
The Frenchman, known as the “little chicken” for his spindly legs, caused a stir in the henhouse when he suggested that women did not deserve the equal prize money they receive at Wimbledon
This time Simon, rather than focusing on the time-on-court issue, went the “entertainment” route.
“I am for equal pay in life,” the sensitive Simon said, “but not in entertainment. . . . I believe men’s tennis is more interesting than women’s tennis. You have to be paid on that basis.” Simon also claimed that, even if they didn't admit it in public, every player in the Wimbledon men’s draw agreed with him.
He could be right. Then again, you could search for a long time before you’d find any group of people who don’t want more money for what they do. Simon’s idea that one tour is more “interesting” than the other, and thus deserves more money, is obviously just an opinion (slightly biased, perhaps), and a non-starter as an argument. The more plausible reasoning is that fans buy more tickets, and pay more, to see the men, so the men should see more of that money.
A few thoughts about that, with regards to the Slams in particular:
—It’s my feeling that, for most people, when they buy a ticket to the U.S. Open or Wimbledon, they’re buying a ticket to the event as a whole. Roger Federer may be the big draw for some people; Serena Williams may be for others. Mostly, fans want to be part of the spectacle, and women players have always been part of that spectacle. The Slams wouldn’t be what they are, and wouldn’t have as broad an appeal, if they weren’t dual-gender extravaganzas of tennis.
—Much of the money that a Grand Slam earns comes from television. Should we consider this when we divvy up the purse as well? Ratings for the men at Wimbledon have been higher in England, but the country has had two men, Andy Murray and Tim Henman, in contention in recent years. The nation also tuned in to see Virginia Wade when she was a contender in the 70s. A few years ago, in the heyday of the Williams sisters, Kournikova, and Capriati, it was the women who brought in higher TV ratings in the States.
—We need to make a distinction between the majors and the dual-gender tour events when it comes to prize money. At the latter—Indian Wells, Key Biscayne, Madrid, Rome, etc.—the tours provide the prize money, and the ATP, the richer organization, provides more of it than the WTA. That really is a hard economic fact. The Slams, which aren’t tour events, allot their prize money as they see fit.
Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man
SWISS MAESTRO STILL A PLEASURE TO SAVOUR BUT YEARS ARE AGAINST HIM
From one artiste to another: Simon Barnes considers “Late Period” Roger Federer in the Times. The result, as you probably guessed, is kinda lethal.
“Shakespeare brought us the reconciliation of 'The Tempest,' Beethoven the Late Quartets and the Ninth Symphony. Joyce ended his last great book with the river merging with the sea, death merging with life. There is something of this elegaic mood in Late Period Federer. After his tyro works and his Middle Period of matchless dominance, he is now bringing us a different kind of brilliance. And it is no longer about mere winning.”
Barnes go on to claim that Federer is “taking pleasure in being one of life’s semifinalists,” and that, like us, he realizes “that there is pleasure to be taken in his tennis unconnected with its effectiveness as a medium for victory."
To which I say: Go watch Dolgopolov if you like graceful tennis unconnected with effectiveness. The beauty of Federer is that he became more than Dolgopolov, or Gasquet, or Malisse, or Haas, or a hundred other pretty players. What’s historically special about him isn’t his elegance, but the way he has made elegance work; the way he became, like John McEnroe, more than an artist, and more than one of life’s semifinalists.
Watching the Matches
Forget Rafa, Muzz, and Gilles, it’s the Mirror that tells what we really want to know:
PIPPA MIDDLETON’S WIMBLEDON PHWOARDROBE. DISCUSS
Game, set, matchy-matchy: Pippa plays it safe at Wimbledon in blue hues. Do you rate it, or do you hate it?
The Mirror’s verdict: “It’s not a look that’s about to set the world on fire, but it is oh-so Wimbledon."
The best part of Pippa’s ensemble? Her biggest accessory: "Hubba hubba brother James.”
I’ve been wondering over the last couple of days what clever phrases the papers would come up with for Heather Watson while she’s still in the tournament (or before she’s “dumped out,” as they put it over there). I didn’t expect this:
TERRIER HEATHER WATSON OFF LEASH AND WINNING FRIENDS
From bubbly girl to vicious terrier in a day. Such is life in the papers.