A great couple of days with more surprises, one of which was the defeat of 2002 champion Leyton Hewitt by qualifier and 189th ranked Dustin Brown. Dustin, at the age of 28, is demonstrating exceptional talent. Having spent most of career so far in the challengers.
He came through three rounds of qualifying last week, in which he had not lost and was clearly match tight. He gave Hewitt no chance to get any rhythm, looking to end the points quickly. Maybe he has something of the laid back style of Derrick Rostagno – early in his career he travelled from tournament to tournament in Europe in a camper van funded by his parents. Not the privileged funding of some of the underachieving British players but also a little of the unconventionality in the way he hit some of his shots. Hewitt, for all his grit couldn’t come to terms with Brown and the mixed bag that he was dealt.
Yesterday Feliciano Lopez dispatched the talented Frenchman, Gilles Simon. Lopez has the game for grass with a big serve and a great volley – someone who can benefit during the first week when the balls stay low.
Watch out for Fernando Verdasco, now ranked 54, the former top 10 player overcame Julien Benneteau, no slouch on grass himself (he took two sets off Federer at last years Wimbledon). Verdasco served magnificently and hit well off the ground and used slice effectively.
Unfortunately, his next match won’t be against Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, who retired with a knee injury today, when two sets to one down against Ernests Gulbis. Another story today has been the surprising number of retirements – dropping like flies it seems – along with Tsonga, Steve Darcis, Nadal’s conqueror, failed to make the second round following a shoulder injury he sustained while playing Nadal, Victoria Azarenka dropped out with an injury following a fall in her first round win, Radek Stepanek retired in the second set of his second round match and John Isner retired after only two games of his match today, while Marin Cilic also failed to make the start of his second round match.
Questions are being asked about the courts, however, one thing that might be the issue of player movement. A number of players have commented in recent years that tennis has become more homogenized, the grass does not play quite as fast as it used to and on all surfaces, grass, clay, hard, in the slams the same players tend to make the final stages relatively consistently. What hasn’t changed, however, is the different movement demands of each surface, sliding on clay is relatively consistent throughout a tournament, whereas the grass at Wimbledon tends to have more moisture in it and be slightly softer early on. Consequently, there is a greater tendency to slide early and a need to get down lower. So while there is always more of a risk of injury on grass earlier in the tournament it doesn’t explain why there has been such a spate of withdrawals so early this year.
And in a post script in the battle of the grunters – the good folk of SW19 will now know what it’s like to live in the Heathrow flightpath, after today’s match between Maria Sharapova and Michelle Larcher de Brito, two of the tour’s prime grunters. The result was unexpected – Sharapova slipped during the match and was heard to complain about the state of the court but Larcher de Brito still had to go and win it. Sharapova joins that other glamour girl, Caroline Wozniacki, exiting the tournament. Yes, today they seem to be dropping like flies!