The first week of Wimbledon 2012 showcased some of the more interesting early round matches in recent history. While the ATP tour has been criticized for its top-heavy predictability, there have been quite a few surprises on the Wimbledon grass thus far. Only eight of the top sixteen seeds in the draw have survived to the famed Wimbledon second Monday; a jam-packed Sweet 16 with all the best men and women playing. And with those results in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most interesting story lines of week one.
Big Man Tennis. Lukas Rosol was ranked number 100 in the world prior to his second round match on Centre Court against Rafael Nadal. Not only had the journeyman Czech player never made it past the first-round before on grass, he had never made it past the first round of qualifiers. His five-set thriller against Nadal was not only unexpected, it was spectacular. Rosol took Nadal completely out of his element, blasting 100 mile per hour forehands while appearing to be in a complete trance throughout the match. The fifth set was particularly fascinating. Rosol was never spooked against the bullish Spaniard, and overpowered Nadal en route to one of the most unexpected upsets in grand slam history. Unfortunately, Rosol’s magic only lasted one match, as he fell on Saturday to Philipp Kohlschreiber in the next round. If you were unable to witness the match, I urge you to watch these fifth set highlights to understand how high Rosol’s level of play truly was:
American Endeavors. Americans were busy during the first week. John Isner (of 10-hour match lore) had yet another extended fifth-set first rounder, this time falling to Colombian Alejandro Falla 7-5 in the decider. Elder statesman Andy Roddick and tour vet Sam Querrey also were knocked off during the first week. Roddick losing to Spaniard David Ferrer, and Querrey to Croatian Marin Cilic (in a grueling 17-15 fifth set). Both Americans were out in the third round. There does happen to be two Americans still alive for the second week, and both have tremendous stories to their names. Brian Baker, a 27-year old qualifier from Nashville, Tennessee, has missed seven years on tour due to a number of nasty surgeries. He’s here in the round of 16 now though, benefiting from Rafa’s early exit, and is someone to watch moving forward.
Another unlikely American hero is Mardy Fish. While he’s still the top ranked American at number 11 in the world, Mardy recently unveiled that he had been suffering from an irregular heartbeat in the Spring. For someone to come back from heart scares to the 4th round of Wimbledon shows serious resilience, and he happens to be playing in one of the more promising matches of the tournament on Monday, against the theatrical Jo-Willy Tsonga.
The Pride of Britain (Scotland). With Nadal’s loss, the UK’s eyes shifted squarely on Scotsman Andy Murray, their only hope to end the 84-year UK grand slam drought. Nadal has been the world number four Murray’s chief obstacle on grass in the past, beating him at the All England club 3 of the past 4 years. While he still has to navigate a tricky bottom half of the draw, he would not face any of the big three until the finals. The pressure may still derail Murray, but this may be his best chance he gets to win his first slam.
Super Monday. After a crazy first-week, there are some fascinating match ups primed for the best day of tennis the pro tour has to offer. Here are my picks for the matches Monday has to offer.
Djokovic vs. Troicki- The all-Serbian affair should have some great shotmaking on display. Djokovic in Four.
Gasquet vs. Mayer- Gasquet is hot, and while he could lose to anyone, he’ll beat Mayer in three easy sets.
Federer vs. Malisse- Malisse is a tour veteran, who always seems to have a second gear when it comes to slams. But Fed will be focused coming off a five-set scare. Fed in Three.
Istomin vs Youzhny- The least publicized match may ultimately be the most interesting. Istomin in Five, grueling sets.
Ferrer vs. Del Potro- Neither of these men are comfortable on grass. Their styles also contrast immensely. Together that makes for a close, intriguing matchup. Del Po in Five.
Murray vs. Cilic- Had to put this on here solely because Murray is under the microscope. He should beat a tired Cilic in three.
Tsonga vs. Fish- These two played a wild five-setter at the US Open last year. Tsonga is in better shape right now, but Fish won’t go quietly. Tsonga in Four.
Baker vs. Kohlschreiber- Will Baker’s magical run continue? He will have to put out a serious effort against the exciting German Kohlscreiber, but I think his run continues for one more match. Baker in Five.