Thursday Story Lines
So I survived yesterday's Wimblegeddon.— Sloane Stephens (@sloanetweets) June 27, 2013
1. Boring day, please. We all need to catch our collective breath. After one of tennis' strangest, most jarring days, we enter Day 4 of the Wimbledon Championships without a seven-time Wimbledon men's champion (Roger Federer), without a five-time men's finalist (Rafael Nadal), and without seven of the top 13 women's seeds. Another day like yesterday, and we could end up with finals of Andy Murray v. Feliciano Lopez and Sabine Lisicki v. Marion Bartoli. And hey, good for them if that happens; but while upsets are good, some star power is good, too.
As strange as this week has been, the top half of the draw on both the men's and women's side has been mostly unaffected by upsets/withdrawals, it's the bottom halves that have been hit with nuclear bombs.
Okay, fine, and if we have to have another crazy day, let it be because of upsets and not injuries, please.
#wimbledon PA guy: "In the interest of safety, pleas do not run." Is this intended for fans entering gates? Or for the players?— Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) June 27, 2013
2. Can Murray, Djokovic or Williams be touched? Nadal was still limping a bit. Azarenka was limping a lot. Federer is old. A lot of this week's upsets can be explained at least a little bit if we stretch. But the top-two men and the top woman still remain in the draw, and it would take an even more monumental upset to keep them from at least the semifinals. Murray can get to the finals without beating a single top-ten grass court player, Djokovic has reached 12 straight semifinals, and Williams is ... Williams. If one of these three fall, we've reached a whole new level of upsets. Can it happen? And can that next tier of stars -- Tomas Berdych, Aga Radwanska, David Ferrer, Na Li -- avoid too much peril as well?
3. Most interesting matches of the day:
- Mona Barthel  v. Madison Keys (Match No. 1, Court 17). Keys looked good in disposing of Heather Watson in round one, but now the 18-year-old must face an opponent who is both seeded and ranked slightly higher than her on grass (Barthel is No. 29, Keys No. 32 ... not that the rankings have mattered at all this week). But Keys did beat Barthel, 6-3, 6-2, two weeks ago in Birmingham. Get past Barthel, and a really interesting third-round match with Radwanska could await.
- Bernard Tomic v. James Blake (Match No. 2, Court 18). James Blake looked tremendous in round one, but the eccentric/maddening Tomic looked pretty good in taking out Sam Querrey. The biggest intrigue in this match could come from Tomic's hamstring. It forced him out of the doubles draw yesterday.
- Novak Djokovic  v. Bobby Reynolds (Match No. 3, Centre Court). This match has no reason to be interesting, but after yesterday, you may want to watch the big names just in case.
- Laura Robson v. Mariana Duque-Marino (Match No. 4, Court 2). With a mostly dominant win over Maria Kirilenko, the No. 10 seed, on Tuesday, Robson opened up the draw for herself in impressive fashion. She can reach the fourth round of a major for the second time in a year by beating Duque-Marino (No. 159 on grass) and either Shuai Peng (No. 41) or Marina Erakovic (No. 66) in the third round. Robson got a call from the prime minister for winning in the first round. I wonder who would call if she took down Angelique Kerber in the fourth?
What I'm Eating
Fast food. Probably McDonald's. A sausage-egg McMuffin is one of those old-reliables that I can still throw down in a pinch. With no Chick-Fil-A or Bojangles in Columbia, MO, my fast food breakfast options are basically McDonald's, Hardee's, Sonic, Steak 'n Shake, Panera (fast-ish), a local and awesome bagel place (B&B) or Burger King. (I have no idea why Taco Bell has been so slow to enter this race -- you already have tortillas on hand, so you basically just need to come up with a reliable, easy and probably gross way of making eggs quickly. Also: Waffle Taco? Really? You have tortillas on hand already.) Hmm ... I haven't actually tried the Steak 'n Shake breakfast before...
6:25 a.m. ET
Wimbledon's new head groundsman said on Thursday he was "100 percent happy" with the grass courts despite a string of players tumbling out of the tournament through injury.
Reflecting on his baptism of fire as Wimbledon's number one "Turf Man," Neil Stubley said: "We are still confident this morning coming in that we are still producing the best tennis courts in the world." [...]
Maria Sharapova was overheard on the court microphone calling her court "dangerous" as she slipped a number of times before eventually departing the tournament via the scoreboard.
Asked about that comment, Stubley said "It's her opinion. Lleyton Hewitt played on the court an hour before and thought it was fine."
I mean, you should perhaps at least pretend to be concerned instead of saying "The complainers are wrong," but that's just me. I'm not a groundskeeper. Meanwhile, there's a chance for light rain in the evening. Where the hell was that yesterday when I was begging for it?
6:55 a.m. ET
3 points in and Li has already already slipped, nearly hurting her ankle. Please not again.— Tumaini (@tumcarayol) June 27, 2013
7:05 a.m. ET
Well, we reached the beginning of the ESPN telecast without a serious injury. So we're already ahead of yesterday (Isner). The lights did just go out, mid-conversation, on Mike Tirico, Mary Joe Fernandez, Patrick McEnroe and Darren Cahill, though ... FOREBODING.
7:25 a.m. ET
Oh man. I guess I knew this and wasn't allowing myself to acknowledge it, but the ESPN ticker just pointed out that James Blake is the highest-ranked American remaining in the field. James Blake. In 2013. In the second round.
And speaking of old people (sorry), Kimiko Date-Krumm just took the first set against Alexandra Cadantu. She's one set away from the Wimbledon third round ... which she first reached in 1994. Here's Billboard's No. 1 song in July 1994:
I love Kimiko Date "Number One songs" factoids. Please don't ever retire again, Kimiko, even if Serena Williams double-bagels you in the next round.
Meanwhile, Keys is up 6-4, 3-2, on Barthel, and Sabine Lisicki has taken the first set from Elena Vesnina -- Lisicki is flaky but typically brings her A-game to the All-England Club (quarterfinalist in 2009 and 2012, semifinalist in 2011). Sam Stosur is cruising, and Na Li ... was cruising. She took the first set, 6-2, but is down 5-0 in the second. Well then.
7:45 a.m. ET
Mercy. Madison Keys just smoked Barthel, 6-4, 6-2. You've been warned, Aga Radwanska.
(And I guess I should have seen this Brad Gilbert nickname coming.)
Great job from Madion Ave Keys with easy work over Barthel next up huge match with Agi Rad— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) June 27, 2013
Sam Stosur and Sabine Lisicki have also advanced easily. Na Li, up 2-0 early in the third set, is in the only interesting match of the day so far. Hey, I wanted boring...
7:55 a.m. ET
Pam Shriver just said on ESPN2 that she played Kimiko Date 23 years ago...— Randy Walker (@TennisPublisher) June 27, 2013
Date-Krumm just broke Cadantu to go up 5-4 in the second set, by the way. She'll serve for the match. And Blake-Tomic just got started as well. Average age of the players currently on court at Wimbledon: 37.3.
8:00 a.m. ET
Okay then. Cadantu breaks with ease, and it's 5-5. Meanwhile, Na Li, after almost getting bageled in the second set, is up 5-0 in the third. Tennis is weird.
8:10 a.m. ET
Boom. Date-Krumm closes it out, 7-5, and Na finishes up as well. Date-Krumm will almost certainly play Serena Williams in the third round. Their first meeting? ... wait ... they've never met? How is that even ... oh right, Date-Krumm retired in 1997. I was all geared up for a "Number One Songs in 1999" Kimiko Factoid. Oh well.
Oh yeah, and Tomic is up 4-1 on Blake.
9:15 a.m. ET
And we're back from McDonald's, dropping the wife off at work, etc. Caroline Garcia is hanging with Serena Williams, or trying (she just got broken and trails, 6-3, 4-2), and I'm staring at the first McMuffin I've eaten while not on a road trip in, um, 20 years? 25? And the baby got her first taste of McDonalds Hash Brown Log today and enjoyed it a disturbing amount.
I could have gotten an Egg White Something-or-Other at McDonald's, but I went with the old standby. Everybody does, right?
I've actually thought a lot about what needs to happen for Americans to actually eat healthier and not end up even fatter than before. I've long enjoyed the thought of a fat tax, so to speak. Taxes have long been used to encourage certain types of behavior, and I've wondered if setting up a system of tax credits for healthy foods (fruits, veggies, organics, whatever) and a higher tax on craptastic food would make an impact on people's purchasing habits. One of the biggest hindrances to Americans eating healthier, especially when at a restaurant, is the simple fact that healthier food is quite often much more expensive. (And with crazy-and-getting-crazier weather impacting crops, it's getting even more expensive.) Figure out ways to make good food cost less and bad food cost more, and people might be more likely to get good food.
Of course, there are other forces at play here, too, namely habits and "Screw you, I'm going to eat what I want." Even if the healthy food is cheaper, and the Big Macs (or Sausage-Egg McMuffins) cost a dollar more, you're still probably going to buy what you've always bought at these places. And as Americans, we don't typically take kindly to those damn dirty hippies telling us not to eat so much. If McDonalds sold a three-pound burger for $15, it would still probably sell better than those salads they've been trying. We are a dumber, fatter, and angrier country than we used to be*, and that's probably not going to stop being the case anytime soon.
* As much as I complain about "dumb, fat, and angry" sometimes (mostly to myself), I did just purchase a sausage-egg McMuffin instead of better, healthier options.
Oh yeah, and Serena closed out a 6-3, 6-2 win, Tomic took down Blake in straights, Juan Martin Del Potro and Jesse Levine are in a second-set tiebreaker (Delpo won the first set), Tomas Berdych is serving for a two-set lead over Daniel Brands, Grega Zemlja just took a second-set tiebreaker from Grigor Dimitrov(-Sharapova), Kei Nishikori just won a tiebreaker, Kevin Anderson just won a tie-breaker, and Roberta Vinci and Jana Cepelova just began a deciding third set. No upsets so far, and no serious threats, but we've got some competitive tennis, that's for sure.
10:15 a.m. ET
Checking in: Del Potro survived a fun tie-breaker and took the third set over Levine easily. Richard Gasquet has won eight of the first nine games against Go Soeda. Dimitrov(-Sharapova) took the third set over Zemlja. Nishikori is up two sets. Milos Raonic and Igor Sijsling are on serve late in the first set. Nice. And. Boring.
10:20 a.m. ET
I've been listening to Pam Shriver, Cliff Drysdale and Brad Gilbert talk about Demitrov's game for the last five minutes, and they said the word "Sharapova" three times.
10:50 a.m. ET
Wow, so ... Demitrov went 0-for-8 in break points in the fourth set, Zemjla went 1-for-1, and we're headed to a fifth. It feels like Demitrov is in complete control. He's not.
11:00 a.m. ET
So ... Milos Raonic, who looked so good in the first round, has run into some trouble. He dropped the first set, 7-5, and is down a break in the second. Meanwhile, Gasquet has taken his foot off of the accelerator a little, but he's still up, 6-0, 6-3, 2-2. Denis Kudla got smoked by Ivan Dodig in the first set (6-1) but is on serve, 4-3, in the second. And they're still on serve in the Demitrov-Zemlja fifth set.
(And I'm tired of typing "Zemlja." Takes way too much concentration.)
11:05 a.m. ET
Bernard Tomic sounds so normal in interviews (after wins, at least). And then he goes Full Balotelli off-camera. But a match between Tomic and Richard Gasquet could be amazing if (IF) both guys show up. Meanwhile, I always forget just how much Milos Raonic's game frustrates me. There are only so many times you can scream "GO TO THE NET."
11:15 a.m. ET
Man oh man, Demitrov is two-for-17 on break points and still on serve in the fifth. A football equivalent: making nine trips inside your opponent's 40-yard line, turning the ball over three times, and settling for four field goals.
(Yes, I can create a football equivalent for anything. Try me.)
11:20 a.m. ET
While Dimitrov and Raonic drive me crazy, Radwanska is cruising. Aga is the exact type of player that drove me crazy when I was a high school tennis player. She pushes everything so deep in the court, gives you no chances for offense, barely even goes for winners herself, and simply waits for you to get impatient and make a mistake. And you will. I always did. I was a stupid, stupid tennis player.
Radwanska is up 6-1, 3-1; in those 11 games, she has nine winners. Nine! But her opponent, Mathilde Johansson, has 14 winners and 23 errors, and Radwanska is winning 62 percent of the overall points. That's ridiculous domination. With nine winners and an average second serve of 76 miles per hour.
11:25 a.m. ET
WE HAVE A RECORD, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.
Retirement No. 9: Paul Henri-Mathieu retires to Feliciano Lopez. Ties record for most retirements in a single round at a Slam (2011 USO 1R).— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) June 27, 2013
This was discussed at the French Open, too, but you do have to wonder how much increased prize money (especially for early-round losers) is impacting retirements. Obviously a lot of the injuries happen during matches, but there is more motivation to enter a tournament and try to maybe win a single match before dropping out. We try to solve one problem (life outside of the top 50 is super expensive and not exactly luxurious) and potentially create another one.
11:35 a.m. ET
With rain starting to come down, Dimitrov gets restless while serving at 6-7. A mishit and poor shot selection give Zemlja a couple of match points, but he sucks it up and saves them. An ace makes it 7-7 as "the grim reapers" (as Brad Gilbert calls them) linger with the tarps. But they're playing on, apparently. Meanwhile, Gasquet somehow dropped the third set to Soeda. The rain is making good players sloppy, apparently.
On the women's side, Marina Erakovic is up on Shuai Peng  by a 7-6, 4-1 margin. That makes Laura Robson's draw even easier.
11:40 a.m. ET
So some matches are stopping because of the rain, and some aren't. Zemlja broke the net but held to go up 8-7. Meanwhile, the Wimbledon Twitter account is sharing #Wimblepuns from users. Hmm.
I was gonna make 11 jokes about wimbledon but i think tennis enough #Wimblepun— Brent (@DRealBrentDixon) June 27, 2013
To each their own.
While my eyes were rolling, Dimitrov held. 8-8. Maria's getting pretty vocal in the player box.
I'm enjoying WAGpova.— Lindsay Gibbs (@linzsports) June 27, 2013
Zemlja holds. 9-8. On we go.
11:45 a.m. ET
And off we go. The match is being delayed because of rain. Not "tarp" delayed, but "Sit in your chairs, guys, and we'll have somebody hold an umbrella over you for a couple of minutes" delayed.
11:55 a.m. ET
Now the tarps are out on Court 3. And the rain has slowed up. This is quite the dance.
12:00 p.m. ET
Some killer returns from Sijsling have earned him four match points in a third-set tiebreaker with Raonic. Raonic just has no Plan B if the serve isn't wrecking shop. Raonic saves two, but Sijsling finishes him off, setting up an IGOR VERSUS IVAN third-round match (assuming Ivan Dodig finishes off Kudla -- he's up two sets and is 4-4 in the third).
12:10 p.m. ET
Dodig finishes off Kudla, which means a) the Americans are just about done, and b) IGOR VERSUS IVAN. Gasquet finishes off Soeda, too, which means we've got Gasquet-Tomic to look forward to. That will be either the best or worst match of the third round.
Oh yeah, and Berdych and Kevin Anderson both won, so they'll meet in the third round, too, like they do in seemingly every slam.
12:25 p.m. ET
Dimitrov and Zemjla are getting ready to go again, but ...
BBC: "We understand that there is rain…BIG RAIN… coming in half an hour or less." Roof closed on Centre, outer matches at risk. #wimbledon— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) June 27, 2013
12:35 p.m. ET
Some reading for the BIG RAIN delay coming your way: Grantland's Brian Phillips wrote about the change in tennis surfaces from the 1990s to today.
The slowing of the courts had the intended effect of lengthening points, albeit with the possibly unintended consequence of making the three faster majors look more like the French Open. It also had another effect that, arguably, turned out to be a much bigger deal. It helped make it possible for the same players to dominate every Grand Slam tournament. To what extent that would have happened anyway — to what extent it's a question of pure talent and training vs. the manipulable parameters of the sport — is an open question, and always will be. But if you lowered the basketball rim to 8 feet, or raised it to 11, you would instantaneously alter the composition of the next generation of great basketball players. By the same token, there's no doubt that staging all the major tennis tournaments on relatively similar surfaces confers a huge advantage on players who happen to excel on that type of court. When Bjorn Borg went from winning the French Open to winning Wimbledon a few weeks later in 1978, '79, and '80, it required a tremendous leap of versatility; when Nadal did it in 2008 and 2010, or when Federer did it in 2009, the leap it required was much smaller.
Maybe relevant here: The same four players have won every major and Olympic gold medal except one13 in the past eight years. That's 34 big titles for Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Andy Murray, and one for every other tennis player on earth.
Also relevant: That's totally unprecedented in the history of tennis going back to the 19th century.
(Radwanska just polished off Johansson under the Centre Court roof, by the way.)
1:10 p.m. ET
Djokovic and Reynolds are on serve in the first set, and here's another piece to read for when/if this one gets out of hand. It's Heavy Topspin on The Mirage of Surface Speed Convergence.
If surfaces are converging, why is there a bigger difference in aces now than there was 10, 15, or 20 years ago? Why don’t we see hard-court break rates getting any closer to clay-court break rates?
However fast or high balls are bouncing off of today’s tennis surfaces, courts just aren’t playing any less diversely than they used to. In the last 20 years, the game has changed in any number of ways, some of which can make hard-court matches look like clay-court contests and vice versa. But with the profiles of clay and hard courts relatively unchanged over the last 20 years, it’s time for pundits to find something else to complain about.
1:20 p.m. ET
Welp ... we made it through three and a half days without this. I guess that's something.
Weather update in the press center: "We are not optimistic conditions will improve." #wimbledon— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) June 27, 2013
(Djokovic and Reynolds are at 4-4 under the roof.)
1:35 p.m. ET
So um, I've only been paying half-attention because I assume I know the outcome, but Bobby Reynolds has been playing his butt off on Centre Court. He fended off some break points and has forced a first-set tiebreaker against Djokovic. Djokovic has been doing plenty of Djokovic Things, but it does appear that he's trying to get by without leaving third gear.
And now we see fourth gear. Djokovic hits a couple of lovely returns to go up 3-0 in the 'breaker. They change sides at 5-1, and Djokovic serves it out at 7-2. "Shifting gears" is one of my go-to writer cliches, but that was one of the more literal versions of it that you'll ever see. Djokovic pretty much said "Okay, enough of this."
1:50 p.m. ET
Oof. Reynolds had a chance. He held on the first game of the second set and had Djokovic down 0-30 on the next game; but after playing a perfect point, he missed an overhead, and Djokovic not only held, but broke on the next service game. "Down a set and a break" doesn't tend to work out too well for you versus the World No. 1.
2:15 p.m. ET
Djokovic breaks again and closes out the second set, 6-3. I think we're just about done here.
2:45 p.m. ET
"And for the first time in a century, there are no Americans in Round 3 at Wimbledon."
(Djokovic wins the third set easily, 6-1.)
3:15 p.m. ET
Last time US men did so bad at Wimbledon, Harriet Tubman was alive & Babe Ruth hadn't debuted. http://t.co/5fISVEwPKg— Chris Chase (@chaztopher) June 27, 2013