Odds are on at Wimbledon
This year has been extremely odd. Things have not quite gone according to plan or perhaps to the considered order of things
The way the men’s single’s draw has opened up at Wimbledon means that with the exits of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga from the bottom half, the highest potential seed world number 2 Andy Murray may face is Jerzy Janowicz (ranked 24). Juan Monaco (22) is down two sets against the unseeded French player Kenny de Schepper.
This is a peculiar situation in a Grand Slam and particularly in the men’s draw where the top players are known for their consistency. Federer’s remarkable 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals apart, most of the top 10 manage to make their mark into the second week.
But this year has been odd, extremely odd. Things have not quite gone according to plan or perhaps to the considered order of things in the tennis world. You cannot walk anywhere in Wimbledon without coming across references to the greats who have prevailed here as champions.
But 2013 has sent several former champions home before their assumed time! Murray’s path to the semi-finals includes players who are formidable on their day like Mikhail Youzhny, Jurgen Melzer and Janowicz.
But equally, there are surprises like Kenny de Schepper (ranked 80), who defeated Juan Monaco, and Luckas Kubot, who beat Benoit Paire. There are other unexpected entrants to round four like Adrian Mannarino who defeated Dustin Brown who defeated Lleyton Hewitt.
Sergiy Stakhovksy taking out Roger Federer may be about the fear of the floater. But Wimbledon 2013 is not just about dangerous journeymen or end of ears or even slippery grass. It is about the dangers of jumping to conclusions.
Richard Gasquet may be the higher ranked player but when he met Bernard Tomic on Centre Court on Saturday, there could have been little doubt that Tomic was the future while Gasquet had had many chances.
As Tommy Haas and Feliciano Lopez fight it out (their head to head is 2 to 1) for a place in the fourth round there is also proof that age is still not a disadvantage regardless of how the world tries to spin on youth alone. (As if to underline that, Andreas Seppi has defeated Kei Nishikori!)
But at the end of the day, what does all this mean? It means that Murray has only to negotiate his way through a draw which is unpredictable and not playing to form. It means that everyone out there is smelling blood and no dominant player remains to stamp his authority on this tournament.
Of course, Novak Djokovic remains the number 1 seed but he faces enough challengers. Tomas Berdych might see a chance for himself as will David Ferrer having finally experienced a Grand Slam final at the French!
Juan Martin Del Potro might even think he deserves another while Jeremy Chardy might try to spoil the party. If one could look into the future, for Wimbledon it could mean that it’s not quite what it seems to be.
Laura Robson is the first female British player to make it to the fourth round of Wimbledon since 1998 and Sam Smith. She is a couple of matches away from meeting defending champion Serena Williams.
But the women’s draw is missing some really big names here — where are Maria Sharapova or Victoria Azarenka? In fact of the top five seeds, only two are left — Williams and Agnieska Radwanska.
Big names like Caroline Wozniacki, Sara Errani, Maria Kirilenko, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic all lost in early rounds. The top 10 is in disarray. But even lower down the ranks, there are some surprising names still around as we are ready to go into the second week.
Angelique Kerber of Germany — who troubled many in her run last year to the semi-final — lost to Kaia Kanepi, the female version of a journeyman if there ever was one. Seeds like Sorana Cirstea (22) and Lucie Safarova (27) who are expected to make life tough for their fellows have all gone.
It’s hardly surprising that the British press sees chances for Laura Robson (as well as Andy Murray of course) even as the formidable Serena Williams looms close — if she gets past the oldest player in the single’s draw, Kimiko Date-Krumm (42, age not ranking which is 84).
Of course, the women’s game is never as predictable as the men’s and barring the Williams’ sisters there has been no overt dominance by any one
player. The top four are not expected to turn up again and again in the last stages of tournaments and no man can make to number 1 on the ATP tour without winning a major title.
Be that as it may, the women are still bucking normally expected trends. But what this does mean is that many players who were waiting in the wings now have their chances to shine. Agnieska Radwanska is an incredible talent.
Marion Bartoli was tagged to go much further than she has with her unique style of play. The young Sloane Stephens is touted as a young Serena, even there appears to be little love lost between them.
Given the form that Serena Williams has shown so far, it is possible that all the walkovers, retirements and early losses of so many tennis stars across the women’s draw will make no difference to the Universe at all.
Or it could be that there’s a “whole lotta shaking goin’ on”. After all, Sabine Lisicki (23) of Germany has just defeated Samantha Stosur (14) of Australia out on Centre Court.