Wins for tennis's Big Three and farewell to Andy and Serena
WIMBLEDON, England — It’s their tournament, isn’t it? I mean, they do call it the All-England Lawn Tennis Championships. So if a Brit who isn’t even entered in the singles gets the same attention as Roger, Novak and Rafa — please, you don’t need last names — then fine.
The men’s quarterfinals were played Wednesday, and other than those guys, “The Big Three” — we’ll get to scores in a bit — the only other winner was someone with a name that’s at least recognizable, Roberto Bautista Agut.
Wimbledon is really about itself, as much a tournament built on gossip, celebrity and what scandal can be contrived as it is about tennis.
It’s two weeks, a fortnight — an old English team derived from “14 nights,” not a military outpost — of sport and tradition.
Yes, strawberries and cream, but also a time to get noticed. A time to give the locals a chance to feel good about their nation and their athletes. Which is why Andy Murray, in conjunction with Serena Williams, had become a huge part of this Wimbledon.
For mixed doubles.
Nothing wrong with mixed doubles, but when did it become as important as men’s singles quarters? Answer: When the local hero, Murray, got involved.
After all, in 2013 he made history, became the first Brit in 77 years to win the Wimbledon men’s singles. So now, recovering after hip surgery, if he’s limited to doubles, have him join Serena, maybe the greatest woman player ever.
That will get people talking. And, no less importantly, writing.
Life is all about name recognition, isn’t it? And about local heroes. Murray, although born in Scotland, is as local as they come these days, based in London. Hero? The first British male to win Wimbledon since the 1930s? Are you kidding?
Unfortunately for them and for the Wimbledon vibe, Andy and Serena were beaten by Bruno Soares of Brazil and Nicole Melichar of the U.S., 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
Somehow the tournament will survive. It does still have Novak Djokovic, who beat David Goffin in their quarterfinal, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2; Roger Federer, a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 winner over Kei Nishikori; and Rafa Nadal, who defeated Sam Querrey, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2. The other semifinalist is Roberto Bautista Agut, who beat Guido Pella, 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Maybe it won’t be quite as big as the Duchess of Sussex showing up to see her friend Serena, or as that Murray-Williams team. (“We had so much fun,” said Serena. “We weren’t ready for it to be over.”)
But it will have to do.
One men’s semi will be Federer against Nadal, the first time they’ll meet at Wimbledon since the great 2008 final won by Nadal. In the other, Djokovic, the defending champ, will be trying to get to his fifth final.
“I’ve been playing my best tennis in this tournament the last two rounds, fourth round and today,” said Djokovic. ”I’m very pleased with the performance.”
He should be, and the organizers should be pleased with this Wimbledon, which has the three top-ranked men in the Friday semis; had Murray, regaining his timing, as a special attraction; and then had, in the remarks of Johanna Konta, a small degree of controversy.
Konta is English and under tremendous pressure to do well in England, as all English players are. It’s not an easy task, especially in a nation where the media can be demanding.
When Konta reached the women’s quarters on Tuesday, the news value was equal to that of Murray-Serena. She took a 4-1 lead in the first set — and then collapsed, losing 7-6, 6-1 to Barbora Strycova.
Then it became personal. A reporter asked Konta whether she should “look at yourself a little bit about how you cope with these big points.”
Wow. Konta growled, “Is that your professional opinion? You’re being quite disrespectful. Please don’t patronize me.”
You’d never hear an American say “patronize.” Wimbledon has its charms.