Nightshift Sports: 5 July 2018
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Continuing with our Golden Season of Classic Sports coverage, it’s time for the Big W, Wimbledon (Officially “The Championships Wimbledon”), which started on Monday July 2nd and will end on Sunday July 15th. Wimbledon is, arguably, the largest and most famous tennis tournament in the world. It’s the last of the four major tennis tournaments (U.S.Open, Australian, French, Wimbledon) to be played on grass (at one time the U.S. Open was played on grass but…that Forest Hills era is long gone) and is the most traditional of all the tournaments while, simultaneously, being one of the most advanced–Wimbledon pioneered the use of “Hawkeye”, the electronic line-calling replay system that is used to settle disputed in/out calls (at the French, the umpire looks for the mark in the clay, which some players have been known to erase before the umpire can get to it).
With all of its traditions, it’s no surprise that Wimbledon has become ever-bigger and impressive. For years, Breakfast at Wimbledon, with Strawberries and Cream (and some champagne) was a Saturday and Sunday tradition in many households throughout America and the world. And Wimbledon has a formal dress code for the players (all white )and an informal one for the spectators (conservative helps as does discretion).
Wimbledon also treats it’s former Champions with great respect (winners become Members of the All England tennis club, which hosts the event). Chris Evert, who has won the Women’s Singles Title three times, remarked during her TV commentary this year that Wimbledon treated former Champions with great kindness and respect: when she asked if she obtain tickets for the tournament for friends and family, Wimbledon gave the tickets to her (good seats, too); at other majors, the players have to beg and scream to receive the right to buy tickets. In short–it’s a classic tournament and it’s run in a classy way.
The US telecast is via ESPN, which fields a good team for the coverage–John McEnroe, his brother Patrick, Chris Evert (graceful, even in the announcing booth), Martina Navratilova. All good, professional, well informed and, with coach/commentator Brad Gilbert mixed in, it’s a very good team. Missing: the energetic and contagious enthusiasm of tennis writer/commentator Bud Collins, who died in March of 2016. Collins was very knowledgeable about the sport (he wrote “The Bud Collins Tennis Encyclopedia”) and reached the finals of the French Open men’s senior doubles. Collins was funny, bright, and totally unique; paired with Dick Enberg for NBC, he became one-half of a legendary play-by-play team. His spirit is missed this year, as it will be every year at the majors.
Results to Date
The favorites–current and sentimental–are still in the game. Federer and Nadal are working their way through the draw as is former champ Djokovic. On the Women’s side of the draw, Serena Williams, seeded No. 25, is also moving through, along with her sister. Serena’s seeding was a matter of some controversy. Some wanted the multi-time Champion to be seeded higher; others thought even seeding her created a modest form of competition protection, because, with a No. 25 seed in the Women’s Singles, she wouldn’t face another seeded player until the 3rd round. Sports is nothing without controversy and even at the Big W, there is always a daily topic to debate.
Rafa Nadal is on court as this is being written and Cillic is trying, again, to get through his match against Pella. The match started yesterday and was interrupted by rain. It will continue this morning. Cillic is up two sets to one. Later this morning, Australia’s talented but mercurial Nick Krygios will take the court. He can be brilliant or he can be stunningly inept–it all depends on his mindset during the match.
Novak Djokovic will also be on court this morning, hoping to regain the form that brought him three Championships. A big day for the men at Wimbledon.
Milos Raonic, the Canadian men’s singles player (he was born in Montenegro), a finalist two years ago, cranked a 147 MPH serve in his match with Australian John Millman. The serve was so powerful it practically knocked Millman “out”. Raonic went on to win the match, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6. Wimbledon’s fast grass surface has always favored big servers; you simply do not win at Wimbledon without a good serve, but a great serve is often enough to take you to the finals as Roscoe Tanner proved when he made the finals against Borg. Tanner, with his very short toss, had one serve that was timed at 153MPH. The grass surface not only accentuates the speed of the incoming ball because the ball doesn’t slow down much when it hits the surface (on clay, the ball does slow down when it hits the clay) but increases the difficulty of returning it because high speed serves have a tendency to “skid” when they hit a grass court. This skidding complicates setting up for and timing the return; all in all high speed servers on grass are tough customers.
Until the modern era that we are in now, big servers or serves who had excellent command of placement, played a serve and volley game; after hitting the serve, the server would rush the net to put away a (weak) return. That strategy–John McEnroe was our last great serve and volley player, but Rod Laver might have been the best ever at that style of play–went away as players moved from wood to composite to graphite racquets, and started hitting the ball harder than ever before, and became more comfortable with the overall increase in speed of the game, including returning high speed serves. Now, a good return is every bit as much of a weapon as a good serve–although if an opponent is throwing up 140MPH plus serves, even a great return game is not going to help a player stay in the match.
With a big serve that’s almost impossible to return, the advantage mathematically goes to the server–the assumption is that he will win all of his service games (i.e. not get broken) and thus all of the pressure is on his opponent (the one without a really big serve) to hold serve each and every game just to stay level. That’s a ton of pressure, and even making it to the tie-breaker doesn’t assure a more even chance because, again, the big server has an advantage. However–not all big servers have a solid all-around game. Big servers have been known to decompress on court, losing control of their serves (and the match) and then watching their groundstrokes disintegrate under relentless attack from opponents do not have big serves but have built their entire game around precise, powerful groundstrokes. One thing is for sure as tennis evolves–the game is not going to get any slower. It’s a fast, fast world. Adapt or face early exits.
The World Cup takes a break today, with competition resuming tomorrow and Saturday in the Quarter Finals. England plays again on Saturday against a big and talented Swedish team. Can England make it through? They will be counting heavily on World Cup scoring leader Harry Kane to show them the way and on their stellar goalie, Jordan Pickford, to close the door on Sweden’s scoring chances. Kane has scored 6 goals on only 9 shots so far and Pickford came up very, very big in the shootout victory against Colombia. Some very great matches still to come in the World Cup.
The grounds were abuzz with talk about two amazing shots yesterday; one was Raonic’s booming serve (above); the other was a Gael Monfils shot. Monfils, the talented but sporatic French player, hit a behind the back shot against Paolo Lorenzi had the crowd cheering. Wimbledon’s a very good place to show off. Wimbledon has not yet made THE SHOT available for view in the U.S. (why not?) but, as a very good option, here’s a compilation of Monfils’ greatest trick shots.
Monfils is loaded with talent but has yet to break through for a major win. Tennis played above the shoulders, as our Resident Tennis Coach (and consultant)Ricco notes, and having great strokes is just not enough. But it’s a heck of a good start.
We have added a link to Wimbledon’s YouTube channel to our resources. Signup to see exclusive videos and special features. Maybe even get a chance to see the Raonic serve and Monfils behind the back groundie. If you’re a tennis fan, it can’t hurt to check out. Enjoy today’s matches.
You know the drill by now: Nightshift Sports provides overnight updates on the previous day’s play, along with relevant links to the best coverage (print, on the net, TV, and streaming) and an amazing collection of photos from the event. Let’s start with some basics:
Direct Link to The Official Wimbledon Website
The Wimbledon Dress Code
The 2018 Draw
Time Magazine Deep Background on the Wimbledon Dress Code
Wimbledon Background and History
Wimbledon Results (updated Continuously)
Where to Watch Wimbledon
Wimbledon Apps Link
Wimbledon YouTube Channel
The Guardian Covers Wimbledon (great print coverage, continuous update)
The Fine Print: Embed courtesy of our friends at Getty Images (gettyimages.com) who have photographic history of the 20th and 21st century on file. This photo has not bee altered in any way. We thank them, deeply, for sharing. Nightshift Sports is produced by Perception Engineering and The Media Bunker. All rights–except those expressly reserved by others–are reserved by donald pierce. All text, copyright (c)2018 donald pierce. Enjoy the tournament, and check in often, as the site will be updated as often as possible. And…enjoy the Fourth!!
Nightshift Sports: 5 July 2018