What I'm Watching
Gentlemen's Singles (first round)
Roger Federer  v. Victor Hanescu (Match No. 1, Centre Court)
Marin Cilic  v. Marcos Baghdatis (Match No. 2, Court 2)
Stan Wawrinka  v. Lleyton Hewitt (Match No. 3, Court 1)
Andy Murray  v. Benjamin Becker (Match No. 3, Centre Court)
Ladies' Singles (first round)
Lucie Safarova  v. Lauren Davis (Match No. 1, Court 17)
Sloane Stephens  v. Jamie Hampton (Match No. 4, Court 18)
Petra Kvitova  v. Coco Vandeweghe (Match No. 4, Court 2)
Marion Bartoli  v. Elina Svitolina (Match No. 4, Court 12)
What I'm Eating
Strawberries & cream pancakes.
(No, they do not use whipped cream at the All-England club. Call this a slight Americanization, though there is real cream involved, too.)
And as soon as I figure out the most common beer (that I can get in mid-Missouri) sold in or around Wimbledon, I'm off to get some. Because I'm dedicated to my art.
We combined the Alton Brown pancakes recipe with ... uh ... one from some book (Southern Living, maybe?) to make what we think are pretty much the perfect pancakes.
6 cups of all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. kosher salt
3 tsp. baking powder
1.5 tsp. baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
2 egg whites
4 tbsp. melted butter
2 egg yolks
Whisk together Wet 1 and Wet 2, then combine and pour over two cups of the dry mix. Stir, pour on a 350-degree griddle, flip when the bubbles appear, etc. They're thick, fluffy, and get crispy on the outside like a hoecake. They're lovely.
And since I mentioned Alton Brown ... a mini-rant of sorts:
Food Network sucks.
When I began working from home for SBN a couple of years ago, I pretty much sat in my recliner to write and had Food Network on in the background all day. I gained about ten pounds and realized at some point that I was probably walking <1,000 steps per day (ten steps from the bed to the recliner, another ten steps to the coffee-maker, rinse, repeat). That needed to change. So now I hit the treadmill most mornings and stand in the kitchen during my work day. The TV doesn't really come into play (unless there's tennis on), but that's okay because Food Network lost me a while back anyway.
Food Network has quickly followed the MTV path: get popular because of the first word in your title, then make (reality) shows that take you further and further away from the act of making the first word in your title. Shows like Mystery Diners and Restaurant Stakeout are cynical and mean and have nothing to do with teaching people how or what to cook for dinner. They spit out dumber, cheaper, angrier shows, and if they find one you actually like, they drive it into the ground, dig a deeper hole, and drive it into the ground further. I enjoyed Chopped, then stopped enjoying Chopped when it started occupying about 17 hours of a given programming day.
(Side note: the aforementioned awful, new shows have actually made me appreciate Chopped again because I'm just relieved to see it on instead of one of the aforementioned awful, new shows.)
Food Network has even made me hate Southern cooking. I love Southern food (the hoecakes reference above was in no way forced), but I began watching Food Network to learn things. I know about Southern food. And even if I didn't before Food Network, I definitely do now. I don't need an hour of Paula Deen, followed by an hour of Paula Deen's offspring, followed by Pioneer Woman, followed by Trisha Yearwood, followed by an hour Paula Deen, with some Giada and Guy Fieri mixed in somewhere for "diversity."
(And yes, Paula Deen is something I don't have to worry about anymore. Kudos to Food Network for getting this one right -- no matter how much of a sweetheart and/or money train she is, once she acknowledged saying ignorant, spiteful things, even if she really somehow didn't know they were spiteful, you can't have her representing your network. It was the easy and right call, but I was actually a little worried that they wouldn't make it.)
To find actual, interesting cooking shows for cuisine I don't already know like the back of my hand, I had to tune in at, like, 6:30 a.m. CT on Saturday mornings to catch Aarti Sequeira or someone similar. Now showing at 6:30 a.m. on Saturdays? Guy's Big Bite. I have long since given up.
(And don't even get me started on the trainwreck that is
Next Food Network Star. Even the show's saving grace -- that it usually picks the winner correctly even if the first two-thirds of the show are set up for petty, generic reality show drama and catfights -- was wrecked last year. They picked the right winner in 2012 but haven't figured out what the hell to do with him. But I digress. Actually, this whole thing is a digression. Let's talk about tennis, huh?)
7:15 a.m. ET
ESPN showed impressive restraint in waiting about 15 minutes to talk about the Serena-Sharapova spat. (In case you haven't been paying attention, start here.) Chrissie Evert, who is guaranteed to be a star of this live blog in the coming days, blames social media, says "You know, I hate this stuff," and calls both Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova "good girls, good people," then Brad Gilbert says wacky Brad Gilbert things.
My take? (Because I know you've been wanting one more Hot Sports Take on the subject.) I enjoy it any time we are reminded that every workplace is the same. Every workplace has competition, bitterness, and behind-the-scenes tension only insiders know about. People don't always get along, and in tennis, an individual sport in which the "competitive workplace" is multiplied by about 100, you probably have all sorts of instances of drama behind the scenes. Randomly getting glimpses of the spats is fun. Of course, it will stop being fun in about a day or so, once the British media has gotten a hold of it, killed it, gotten a hold of it again, and killed it again.
You know what, though? Good for Maria. Serena shoots her mouth off at times and got a little too comfortable with the Rolling Stone reporter following her around back in March. She has had to walk back a few different comments she made, and her PR team has taken over. But two days after Williams said she apologized to Sharapova, Sharapova still fired back at a press conference on Saturday. It was probably catty and unnecessary, but I understand why it happened. A few weeks ago, Sharapova admitted in the lead-up to the French Open final that she basically had no idea how to beat Williams on the court. She hasn't for almost a decade, and despite playing really, really well in the finals (much better than she did in taking out Vika Azarenka in three semifinal sets), she fell in straight sets. She's searching desperately for an edge, and even though forgiveness would be the easy thing here, she has decided to hold onto it and try to find a level of anger and hostility from it that she didn't otherwise have, just in case the two meet in the Wimbledon finals 12 days from now. Sharapova is a walking corporation, but she's a tennis player first. It's fun to be reminded of that.
7:35 a.m. ET
The first day of unscarred Wimbledon grass is a beautiful, beautiful thing.— Dan Rubenstein (@DanRubenstein) June 24, 2013
And it will be dead by Wednesday. :-(
8:00 a.m. ET
Roger Federer walks out onto Centre Court for the seventh time. It's hard to see him, really, because his opponent, Romanian Victor Hanescu, is enormous, but he's there. He took out Tommy Haas a week ago to win just his second title since last year's Wimbledon, and if he's going to win an 18th slam title, it's probably going to be at the All-England Club on a surface that draws him the closest to the others in the Big Four.
8:05 a.m. ET
Puerto Rican Monica Puig routs No5 Sara Errani 6-3, 6-2. Errani a total grassophobe, but that's a great performance by Puig. #Wimbledon— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) June 24, 2013
Errani is the precise definition of "clay-court specialist," with her spin and defense and hustle. But you need a little bit of power on grass, and you need a second serve that is more than just a 60 mph rally starter.
8:55 a.m. ET
Tennis is just so damn weird. You watch a clay-court match, and you are quickly reminded how grueling and physically demanding the sport is. It demands a marathoner's stamina with a three-point shooter's muscle memory and a wide receiver's hand-eye coordination. It can be exciting and exhausting to watch, and it is a sport where a blue-collar upbringing can take you quite far. Just ask players like Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams.
It is also a sport that features this in the front row.
These dudes are not going to get invited to my house for strawberries and cream pancakes.
9:05 a.m. ET
Up 6-1, 1-0, Victoria Azarenka gets wrong-footed by a nice service return from Maria Joao Koehler and crumples to the ground in a heap. That unscarred Wimbledon grass is making players slide all over the place. Over the next 45 minutes we will see trainers attend to her knee, groin and hip. We will also see her finish off Koehler in straight sets because she's really good at tennis. Still, a few hours into Day 1 at Wimbledon, we've already seen the No. 5 seed go down and the No. 3 seed get hurt. We already kind of figured we'd get a Serena-Sharapova Soap Opera Saturday final. The odds of that have already improved (more because of Azarenka's injury than Errani's downfall, of course -- Errani was no threat whatsoever here).
9:20 a.m. ET
Federer closes out an easy 6-3, 6-2, 6-0 win over Hanescu. Pretty sure the announcers just said he's dropped seven points on his serve. That can't possibly be right. But it does emphasize what I've been saying about Federer for about the last year or so: his serve is not the problem. His return is not nearly as effective in creating easy points and breaks against elite competition, but his serve is pretty much as good as it has ever been. And he is three matches away from his 1,147th (give or take) consecutive grand slam quarterfinal.
10:20 a.m. ET
Oh, hey there, Condoleeza Rice.
10:40 a.m. ET
Of course, a key component of the Serena-Sharapova story line is Sharapova actually winning her first-round match. She just had to work like crazy to take a first-set tiebreaker from Kristina Mladenovic.
10:45 a.m. ET
10:50 a.m. ET
On Rafael Nadal: "His only opponent was uncertainty." You've still got it, Tom Rinaldi. And I've still got my gag reflex.
11:15 a.m. ET
Nadal's opponent is now another first-round deficit. Belgian Steve Darcis just took the first set from Nadal in a tie-breaker. This was a really, really fun set. Darcis is flying around and hitting a crazy slice with reckless abandon, and while Nadal is attempting to stay aggressive, he's not doing an amazing job of it. Lots of errors mixed in among some fun winners. Darcis closes the set with a lovely volley, and we've got ourselves a match. I like what Brian Phillips always has to say about Nadal -- that he is more capable of producing great matches out of the other members of the Big Four than anybody else -- but as Federer homer, I'm not going to pretend I'd be upset with him losing. (And he's probably not going to lose.) Meanwhile, Sharapova closes out a 7-6, 6-3 win over Mladenovic.
11:45 a.m. ET
Number of times the word knee has been said on BBC in the last minute: "98". #wimbledon— Tumaini (@tumcarayol) June 24, 2013
Two things. Darcis isn't Rosol. He's not blowing Nadal off the court with power. However, Nadal is not moving well, missing badly at times.— Brodie (@MindTheRacket) June 24, 2013
They're on serve in the second.
11:55 a.m. ET
No. 14 seed Janko Tipsarevic, in a slump for most of 2013, is gone. Viktor Troicki took him out in straight sets. He's going to go from Top 10 last year to unseeded by the end of this year.
12:05 p.m. ET
Well then. Nadal breaks at 5-5 in the second set ... and then gets broken right back. We're going to another tiebreaker. Nadal is far more error-prone than is customary, but Darcis is hitting some huge shots, too. Or, to put it another way:
Steve freakin' Darcis!— Devang Desai (@DesaiDevang) June 24, 2013
12:15 p.m. ET
Darcis double-faults to allow Nadal back to 2-2 in the tie-break, but a crazy Nadal error (he ran about an extra 10 feet just to hit an awkward, inside-out forehand instead of just hitting a simple backhand) gives Darcis a 4-2 lead as they change sides. It probably goes without saying (okay, it definitely goes without saying), but there's a huge difference between being down one set and two sets. Nadal has no confidence in his backhand, Darcis is still slicing like crazy, and Nadal's on the edge.
At 4-2, Darcis gets unlucky. He paints the line with another slice backhand and is, at worst, 50-50 toward winning another point on Nadal's serve, but the shot is called out. Hawkeye corrects the call, but Nadal wins the point with an easy 1-2 punch on the replay. Darcis takes two points on his serve, earns another 6-3 tie-break advantage ... and then tightens up like crazy. He gets an unlucky netcord on the second set point and bombs an easy forehand on the third. A big serve earns Darcis a fourth set point, but Nadal saves it, too. A Nadal drop shot earns him a set point, but he slices a backhand into the net. Darcis bombs in a serve down the T to earn a fifth set point, Nadal blows a forehand, and I knew you had it all along, Steve.
Darcis up, two sets to none.
12:30 p.m. ET
And then Darcis breaks easily to start the third set.
Steve Darcis became a father three weeks ago. Little daughter Camille might be/ should be watching this! #Wimbledon— Dewulf Filip (@GraveyardFilip) June 24, 2013
That explains it. Science has proven that men always get a huge ego bump when they successfully procreate. It's a widely believed fact.— Hannah Wilks (@newballsplease) June 24, 2013
I love tennis on Twitter.
12:35 p.m. ET
And oh, by the way...
#Sharapova: "Just because you're in the same sport doesn't mean that you have to be friends with everyone just because you're categorised."— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) June 24, 2013
So there you go. You don't have to like your coworkers.
12:45 p.m. ET
I'm pretty sure my backhand is better than Nadal's right now.
12:55 p.m. ET
Darcis has begun to tighten up as the finish line approaches, but Nadal has begun favoring his left leg as well. Nadal gets a break point down 3-4, then dumps two shots into the net; Darcis closes out a tough service game with a nice serve-and-volley, and he's up 5-3. Meanwhile...
Nadal one game away from losing in straight sets. Still only 6/5 to win.— Chris Chase (@chaztopher) June 24, 2013
...Nadal is still the betting favorite.
1:05 p.m. ET
Time for Darcis to serve for the match. He immediately goes down 0-15 after Nadal hits a patented winner, but he chases down a lovely dropshot from Nadal to hit a winner and go up 30-15. Nadal mishits a forehand, and Darcis quickly has two match points. He only needs one. Like Lukas Rosol, Darcis closes out the match with an ace. Wow. 7-6, 7-6, 6-4.
1:10 p.m. ET
1:35 p.m. ET
In his immediate post-match interview, Darcis admitted that Nadal didn't appear to be at the top of his game. The Spaniard's backhand was faulty, to put it mildly, and his serve was iffy from the start. And as Darcis began to tighten up late in the second and third sets, Nadal did him all sorts of favors with errors and mishits. Nadal likes to ease into grass court play, and he began to limp a bit as the match progressed; that's obviously a bad combination.
But you still have to play well to beat Rafael Nadal. And while Darcis doesn't the power that a Rosol might have, he made up for it with shot-making and hustle. He dove for balls like Boris Becker. He hit punishing backhand slices like Steffi Graf. He chased everything down, he made Nadal pay for every short approach shot, and he answered every Nadal winner with a winner of his own.
1:45 p.m. ET
Okay, so ... let's reset! On the men's side, Andy Murray handled Benjamin Becker with ease, 83-year old Lleyton Hewitt is serving to close out the first set on 11th seed Stan Wawrinka, John Isner and big Jerzy Janowicz cruised, and Nadal conqueror Lukas Rosol lost in five sets (because of course he did).
On the women's side, Sloane Stephens has taken the first set from a probably tired Jamie Hampton, and because of Nadalapalooza, I didn't even realize that match had begun yet. Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic cruised, Americans Melanie Oudin and Lauren Davis lost quickly, and American Christina McHale advanced. Meanwhile, 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova has been taken to a third set by American Coco Vandeweghe. Hey, hey!
Oh, and hey, ESPN, we just saw the Nadal-Darcis match. You should probably be showing Stephens-Hampton instead of Nadal-Darcis highlights. Just a thought.
2:10 p.m. ET
Well then. Jamie Hampton was smoking hot coming into Wimbledon, having advanced to the fourth round of the French Open and the finals of the Eastbourne tuneup last week. But whether she was tired or just overrun by a better opponent ... she was overrun by Sloane Stephens, 6-3, 6-3. For the last year-plus, Stephens has played her best at the biggest tournaments, and that seems to have continued, at least on Wimbledon Day 1. Meanwhile, Vandeweghe and Kvitova are on serve early in the third set after Kvitova was forced to take an injury timeout with a hip issue.
2:30 p.m. ET
Darcis was asked what his first reaction was when he saw the draw and that he was playing Nadal. Darcis's answer: Shit— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) June 24, 2013
2:40 p.m. ET
2:45 p.m. ET
Down 3-5, 0-40 in the third set, Vandeweghe serves her way out of three match points as commentator Mary Joe Fernandez says "You don't really know what to expect from Kvitova." Kvitova will serve at 5-4. Meanwhile, Lleyton Hewitt goes up two sets on Wawrinka, and ESPN cuts to Chris Fowler, Brad Gilbert, and John McEnroe in the studio. Please don't talk through Kvitova's service game, okay?
2:50 p.m. ET
And they cut back to Kvitova-Vandeweghe just in time to see Kvitova close out the match. Nice fight from Vandeweghe, who could have used a big upset on the résumé.
3:00 p.m. ET
Alright, there are still some matches going on, and lord knows Hewitt-Wawrinka could last until Wednesday if Wawrinka can find fifth gear (he probably won't), but let's wrap this up for the day.
Fun day, huh? A lot of the seeds took some punishment before advancing, Federer and Murray looked great (it would be quite foolish to go ahead and assume they'll meet in the semifinals, but it's impossible not to think about it at least a little bit), and we had ourselves another major upset. And I had some pancakes and found out that a lot -- like, a lot -- of people on Twitter feel the same way I do about Food Network. I call that a successful day. Can't wait to see how Wimbledon one-ups itself tomorrow.