Five thoughts on a spectacular day of action at Wimbledon.
1. "I don't know what to say."
"Lukas Rosol, where have you BEEN?"
-- ESPN's Chris Fowler
When Rafael Nadal loses in a slam, it's either to an all-time great or because he's hurt. Or, on random occasion, some guy just swings as hard as he can on every shot, and they all land in. Robin Soderling blew him off the court at the 2009 French Open, and Juan Martin Del Potro did the same at the 2009 U.S. Open.
But they were seeded players. They were not the No. 100 player in the world.
Quite simply, Lukas Rosol looked amazing on Thursday. He went for winners on seemingly every shot, and when the match was over, he had racked up 65 of them, along with 22 aces. This doesn't happen to Rafael Nadal, one of the fastest, best defenders tennis has ever seen.
When interviewed after the match, Rosol repeatedly just said, "I don't know what to say." And honestly, neither do I.
In March Madness, this would have not only been a 16-seed beating a 1-seed, but winning by about 12 points. When Nadal won the fourth set, 6-2, I assumed he would do the same in the fifth. Instead, as the roof was closed on Centre Court, Rosol gathered himself, rested a bit and came back throwing caution to the win. Rosol's fifth-set stats: 20 winners, seven aces, two errors. How do you beat that? Actually, you don't.
So now the question becomes, what can Rosol do for an encore? If he plays like he did on Thursday for the next week and a half, he will win Wimbledon. Nobody can compete with that. But he will more than likely come back to earth instead. He faces No. 27 Philipp Kohlschreiber on Saturday, and if he wins, he might have to get past Brian Baker (the Comeback Kid, who has looked fantastic so far) and then Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to reach the semifinals. Bottle that up, Lukas. I want to watch that level of play again, and again, and again.
2. Andy Murray's section is murderous.
Sometimes, your bracket implodes upon itself (see: Nadal, Rafael). Sometimes, chalk reigns. For No. 4 Andy Murray's section of the gentlemen's draw, it's been the latter.
Of the eight seeded players in his section, seven have yet to lose; the only one who has, No. 32 Kevin Anderson, was the lowest-seeded of the eight, anyway. Granted, No. 21 Milos Raonic's second-round dogfight with American Sam Querrey was postponed by darkness in the third set at 7-6, 6-7, 3-3. But even if Raonic loses, there are some serious heavyweights standing between Murray and his fourth straight semifinal: No. 7 David Ferrer, No. 9 Juan Martin Del Potro, No. 16 Marin Cilic and No. 30 Andy Roddick are all still alive and looking strong.
And before Murray gets to any of them, he must first shake the ultimate ankle-biter, 27-year-old former Wimbledon semifinalist Marcos Baghdatis. Facing Baghdatis -- who will fight, scratch, claw, break racquets, dive into the stands and do whatever it takes to stay in the match before most likely falling -- and then Cilic/Raonic/Querrey, then the winner of the Ferrer/Del Potro/Roddick battle royale, Murray will have to very much earn his ticket to the semis. The good news, of course, is that he won't have to face Rafael Nadal if he gets there.
3. Victoria Azarenka has it made.
Meanwhile, No. 2 Victoria Azarenka's bracket has been a parting sea. No. 7 Caroline Wozniacki: gone in the first round. No. 9 Marion Bartoli: gone in the second. No. 32 Svetlana Kuznetsova (a two-time slam champion): gone in the first round.
Azarenka looked incredible in dispatching of Romina Oprandi, 6-2, 6-0, on Thursday, and only one top-20 seed remains in her section: No. 14 Ana Ivanovic. Meanwhile, in Petra Kvitova's section, No. 6 Serena Williams and No. 10 Sara Errani (who has been dominant thus far) still linger.
Not too long ago, Azarenka looked unstoppable. She plowed through the field at the 2012 Australian Open and didn't lose a match for a couple more months. But clay-court season wasn't particularly kind to her, she ceded the No. 1 ranking to Maria Sharapova and she faded into the background when it came to discussion of Wimbledon favorites. She still obviously has work to do, but of the top seeds, her path to the semifinals is very much the easiest remaining.
4. Mirjana Lucic still very much exists.
As amazing as Brian Baker's comeback story has been (and Mardy Fish's advancement to the third round just a few weeks after a heart issue is pretty impressive, as well), it still might only be the second-best story of the week.
In late-June 1999, Jennifer Lopez's "If You Had My Love" had just unseated Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca" as the No. 1 song in America, "Touched By An Angel" was still a popular TV show, people had only recently been introduced to Jar Jar Binks, and 17-year-old Mirjana Lucic took out Monica Seles on her way to the Wimbledon semifinals. On Thursday, in only her second Wimbledon since then, she thumped No. 9 Marion Bartoli, the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up, 6-4, 6-3.
Riding a huge serve (nine aces, 84 percent of her first-serve points won) and a serious aggressive streak (33 winners to Bartoli's 10), Lucic advanced easily to face No. 21 Roberta Vinci in the third round. You do not know how badly I do not want to make a "Hit me, baby, one more time indeed" reference here, so I'm just going to end this paragraph.
After 1999, Lučić's suffered a series of personal and financial problems and she failed to make any further significant impact on the tour. She then proceeded to take an extended hiatus from competition; her career-high world rankings were World No. 32 in singles and World No. 19 in doubles (both achieved in 1998). Since then, she has returned to the WTA tour and won her first qualifying match in the 2007 Region championships. Her last appearance on the tour before that was in 2003.
Mirjana Lučić gave an interview in New York Daily News in April 2006 explaining why she stopped playing and describing her life with an abusive father, vowing that would not stop her and she will continue to fight to the end. She had been training with a new coach, Ivan Beros, and said she was fit and ready to continue tennis.
Lucic has been toiling on the Challenger circuit for YEARS, and there she was on Thursday, whipping a top-10 player on Court No. 12.
Side note: How horrendous was music in 1999? I mean, seriously. In a single year, we went from "Doo Wop (That Thing)" and "The Boy Is Mine" to "... Baby One More Time," "Livin' La Vida Loca," "Wild Wild West" and "Unpretty." This song was No. 1 in the country.
5. Moving Day was kind to Americans.
In my daily preview, I said that Thursday was Moving Day for Americans and Brits.
But [Thursday] is put-up-or-shut-up day for both countries. On the American side, five men (including both remaining seeds: No. 10 Mardy Fish and No. 30 Andy Roddick) and three women (including both remaining seeds: No. 6 Serena Williams and No. 28 Christina McHale) attempt to reach the third round. On the British side, two unseeded women (Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong) attempt to join Watson in advancing, unseeded James Ward does the same ... and then there's Andy Murray.
Nothing came easy, but both countries fared reasonably well, albeit in different ways. For the Brits, the draw was just too difficult. Anne Keothavong got smoked by French Open finalist Sara Errani, while Elena Baltacha won just four games (all in the second set) versus defending champion Petra Kvitova. On the men's side, James Ward battled mightily but fell to No. 10 Mardy Fish. But hey, Andy Murray did win. He had to work for it -- enormous Ivo Karlovic took him to two tie-breakers and won one of them -- but with the match on the line, Murray stayed strong and Karlovic folded. And as mentioned above, Rafael Nadal lost, which is a victory for Murray in and of itself.
The Americans, meanwhile, almost had a perfect day. Fish survived Ward, Andy Roddick won in straight sets, Brian Baker looked fantastic in doing the same, Sam Querrey fought No. 21 Milos Raonic to a first-day draw, and all three women -- Serena Williams, Christina McHale and Varvara Lepchenko -- won in straight sets. The only blemish: Jesse Levine won the first set against up-and-coming Belgian David Goffin before falling in four. But when eight Americans play and only one loses, it was an incredibly successful day, especially considering both Fish and Baker are in Nadal's section.