Wow, what happened to “Greatest Day in Tennis”? Monday was more like the gloomiest. Sabine Lisicki, with her toothy smile and joyful tears – not to mention her booming serve – was a welcome bit of sunshine on this cloudy and cold “Manic Monday,” though she sent Maria Sharpova walking off the court under a storm cloud. Maria will rightly hold onto her own shining moment, when she took the title and the No. 1 ranking at Roland Garros. But it shows the sport’s cruelty that just a few weeks after her great victory, she’s relinquishing the top spot and answering questions like this one in a bored monotone:
Q. You talk about the motivation you would take out of here. How would the possible loss of the top ranking that you have worked your way into play into that?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m not sure. I don’t know. It’s all kind of irrelevant at this point. Obviously what I achieved a few weeks ago doesn’t just go away in a few minutes. I’ll have that for the rest of my career.
But the tennis world always keeps going. You have to raise your level at that point, even when your opponent plays really great tennis. Just today wasn’t my day.
Today wasn’t Roger Federer’s day, either, though he had a better day than Maria and his opponent Xavier Malisse. Roger’s pain was evident midway through the first set, as his back stiffened like the cold breeze that was whipping around Centre Court. Then we saw a very strange thing, indeed: a GOAT who couldn’t bend his knees. Almost as strange, Roger Federer took an injury time out. Extreme times call for extreme measures, and the bit of treatment coupled with Malisse’s untreatable and seemingly chronic strain of Headcase Disease, allowed Roger to miraculously take the first set in the tiebreak. From there, the rains came down and the roof went up, Roger received more treatment during the break and came back with a bit more spring in his step. Roger won the match in four sets – credit to Malisse for conjuring that fourth set – but the match still left a serious sense of foreboding in the hearts of Fed Fans.
As for Roger, my theme continues: He’s so damn hard to read. It took a while to figure out he was struggling physically – again with the face of stone – and then after watching him fight through the match we listen to him chirp with positivity in the press room. Yeah, your guess is as good as mine:
Q. How is it feeling right now?
ROGER FEDERER: Okay. I mean, way better than a few hours ago, so that’s pretty good. But honestly I’m not too worried. I’ve had bad backs over the years. I’ve been around. They go as quick as they came.
But of course I have to keep an eye on it now. I have one and a half days, which is a lot of time, to be quite honest, to work with. Two good night’s sleeps and I’ll be 100% on Wednesday.
I’m pretty convinced, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to pull out the match the way I did today.
Roger’s convinced. Are you? If like me, you’re too nervous to trust his prognosis, take moment to bask in his amazing streak of 33 consecutive quarterfinals. He looks forward to meeting Mikhail Youzhny in #33, a man he’s beaten all thirteen times they’ve played.
Novak Djokovic had a fairly straightforward day, taking out countryman Troicki 6-3, 6-1, 6-3. He’ll wait to see who he plays in the quarters, as five of the eight men’s 4th round matches were either suspended or postponed due to weather.
There was plenty of pain going around in the women’s draw today. Besides Maria’s disappointment, Kim Clijsters suffered a 1-6, 1-6 loss to Angelique Kerber in her farewell match at SW19. I’m sad to see her go, but not sad to see this version of her go. Kim seemed a bit zombie-like all tournament, her passion for the game at lackluster levels. It’s not the way you want to see a champion say goodbye – I’m hoping we’ll experience a very different Kim at her beloved US Open. Serena Williams avoided her own painful upset, stretched 7-5 in the finals set vs. the impressive Yaroslava Shvedova. She’ll play Petra Kvitova in a blockbuster quarterfinal, Petra having survived her own three setter vs. Francesca Schiavone. Perhaps the most painful match of the day belongs to the often tragic Ana Ivanovic, who was ground into the grass by a victorious Victoria Azarenka: 6-1, 6-0.
And the there was this, during the Tsonga vs. Fish match (suspended):
Let’s hope for a more cheerful continuation of the second week. The women’s quarterfinals are set, with some surprises and the guarantee of a first time finalist:
S. Williams vs. Kvitova
Lisicki vs. Kerber (first all German women’s quarterfinals in the Open Era)
Radwanska vs. Kirilenko
Paszek vs. Azarenka
I’m looking forward to all these quarterfinals, a nice mix of specialists and underdogs, rising stars and Major Champs. Which match are you most excited about?