Wednesday Story Lines
1. Britain really, really wants a successful women's player.
2. Too much orange, Fed. The All-England Club asked Roger Federer -- seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer -- to wear different shoes because of orange soles. This tournament truly is a different animal.
3. Most interesting matches of the day. For me, they are as follows:
- Jo-Wilfried Tsonga  v. Ernests Gulbis (Match No. 2, Centre Court). Gulbis is the No. 21 player on grass according to Advanced Baseline. He is the fourth-best player remaining in the Andy Murray Region (Tsonga is second) and could very well pull an upset here.
- Sloane Stephens  v. Andrea Petkovic (Match No. 3, Court 3). This is the Gulbis-Tsonga of the day on the women's side. Petkovic ranks 23rd on grass, actually ahead of Stephens (26th). But for the last year-plus, Stephens has brought her A-game at slams.
- Petra Kvitova  v. Yaroslava Shvedova (Match No. 3, Court 1). Shvedova is 27th on grass, Kvitova 13th. Kvitova had to fight to get past Coco Vandeweghe on Monday, and the 2011 Wimbledon champion will have to do so again just to reach the third round.
- Juan Monaco  v. Rajeev Ram (Match No. 3, Court 18). Americans have not had the most memorable week, but the 29-year old Ram, a longtime journeyman, has advanced to the second round of a slam for the second time ever (and the second time this year) and has a big enough game to scare Monaco, a clay-courter by nature. He probably won't, but he certainly has a chance to advance to the third round for the first time.
- Victoria Azarenka  v. Flavia Pennetta (Match No. 1, Centre Court). For reasons explained below.
4. How's the knee, Vika? Azarenka took a hell of an awkward tumble early in the second set of her first round win. She rallied to close out the match but practiced behind closed doors yesterday. If she isn't 100 percent, the draw could open up for somebody like Kvitova (if she survives a brutal early draw), Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, or even somebody like Kirsten Flipkens, Shvedova, or Pennetta.
What I'm Eating
Omelette! But we'll get to that. Today's food topic: cookbooks. My wife leans almost entirely on Pinterest and a couple of other apps for any recipe needs, but I'm late to this food nerd thing, and I still snatch up cookbooks like there's no tomorrow. Here are five I recommend highly. Share your own in comments or on Twitter, and I'll probably own them pretty soon (if I don't already).
Ruhlman's Twenty. Michael Ruhlman is both wonderfully curmudgeonly and dedicated to teaching you how to cook. His second book was called The Making of a Chef -- he basically enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America and shared his experiences. Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking should have been titled The Best Way for Math Nerds to Learn How To Cook, and I loved it, and Ruhlman's Twenty is basically a summary of 20 techniques/concepts everybody should know, laid out with lovely description and pretty easy recipes. Love it. And the French Onion Soup recipe in it is strangely simple and awesome. It's basically "cook a ton of onions down for like seven hours, then add water."
The Irish Pub Cookbook. Because Irish food is not (just) boiled potatoes, dammit.
Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook. I don't know what it is about this book, but this and the Williams-Sonoma slow cooker book each have like 25 great recipes that we lean on frequently. My wife and I are definitely in the "throw something in the slow cooker on Sunday and eat it for three days" club.
Lidia's Italy in America. All the good cooking shows are on PBS now. Lidia Bastianich is a Mario Batali associate and a delightful, old Italian food snob. This book is particularly awesome because wow, are there a lot of great sandwiches in here.
The Homesick Texan. Lisa Fain runs a blog by the same name and has great recipes for basically every dish I miss eating in Oklahoma. The carnitas (which I never ate in Oklahoma) are ridiculous. Brisket, too.
6:45 a.m. ET
Well, I'm not even done setting up the blog yet, and we have a developing story line. Like Victoria Azarenka on Monday, John Isner has apparently come up limping.
Another left knee wreaking havoc. Isner wins the first game, lands awkwardly on serve, now looks to be in rough shape on Court 3...— Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) June 26, 2013
7:00 a.m. ET
Well hell, Isner is done. What a great way to start Day 3.
7:05 a.m. ET
Today's discussion topic for the ESPN booth (Mike Tirico, John McEnroe, Pam Shriver, Mary Joe Fernandez): Holy crap, American tennis is getting worse. John Isner has had a frail 2013, Mardy Fish has had health problems for the last year-plus, Sam Querrey has overcome his own serious injury but can't find much consistency, Brian Baker is out, Ryan Harrison isn't really developing, James Blake is old, Andy Roddick is retired ... good times. Ram, Blake, Denis Kudla and Bobby Reynolds are the only Americans left in the draw, and I'm pretty sure none of them are favored to reach the third round.
They're also talking about all the slipping that has taken place these first few days (though to be sure, Isner didn't slip), and Shriver mentions that Rod Laver tried using spikes at one point on grass. Man oh man, the grass gets torn up enough already. Can't even imagine the funky bounces if you're playing on a spiked-up court.
7:25 a.m. ET
So with Isner (and Nadal) out, the most likely quarterfinal in the Fed Region now is, incredibly, Federer v. Lleyton Hewitt. In 2013. And as soon as I come to this realization, Hewitt drops the first set to 28-year old German Dustin Brown. Hewitt, 32, won Wimbledon in 2002 and has reached the finals of four slams; Brown is in the second round of a slam for the second time. This has been an odd three days.
7:55 a.m. ET
Oh, you're kidding.
Can we just start the day over? Can we get a massive rainstorm to just postpone everything until tomorrow and try again?
8:00 a.m. ET
Yep, Azarenka's out. Your most likely quarterfinal in the Azarenka Region is now Ana Ivanovic v. Kirsten Flipkens. And the Williams-Sharapova stars have further aligned.
8:05 a.m. ET
John McEnroe basically just questioned the manhood of every tennis player in the world, pointing out that football players will be "semi-crippled" and still play. (McEnroe has also already called both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer the greatest player ever this week. He's on a roll.)
8:15 a.m. ET
Even MORE carnage today as Radek Stepanek retires in the second set vs. Jerzy Janowicz. Now six knockout injuries already at #Wimbledon.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) June 26, 2013
8:30 a.m. ET
And the power just went out in my neighborhood. I angered the liveblogging gods at some point ... perhaps when I dissed Paula Deen.
9:10 a.m. ET
And we're back! And Dustin Brown just finished Hewitt off in four sets. He hurries off the court to avoid becoming a blubbering mess in public. Huge win for the journeyman, and an enormous blown opportunity for Hewitt, whose draw was lining up beautifully. So now we're looking at Federer vs. Benoit Paire as the most likely quarterfinal in this region. Then again "most likely" doesn't mean much right now.
9:15 a.m. ET
Marin Cilic is next on the bus to Southfields as he withdraws with a knee injury. Is there something going on in town I don't know about?— Piers Newbery (@piersnewbery) June 26, 2013
I just have no idea what's happening right now.
9:20 a.m. ET
Meanwhile, Ana Ivanovic is getting blown off the court by Eugenie Bouchard. Because if opportunities are being blown left and right, you have to figure Ivanovic is going to be involved. Sheesh. We could be looking at either Ekaterina Makarova or Kirsten Flipkens in the semifinals now.
9:45 a.m. ET
Yep. Caroline Wozniacki just twisted her ankle, though according to my editor, Chris Mottram, "This fall was her own fault. She tried to slide. Wasn't so much a slip." But still, it gives me an excuse to post this:
God bless the British grass for doing more to stop foreign contenders than our players ever could. Bring out your bodies!— BritishTennisJourno (@GBTennisJourno) June 26, 2013
10:00 a.m. ET
It broke. :( http://t.co/LXeGsjBh1I This is the worst day EVER. /runs to room, slams door— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) June 26, 2013
10:05 a.m. ET
Submitted without comment.
Non-tennis tweet: GTFO, DOMA. #scotus— Courtney Nguyen (@FortyDeuceTwits) June 26, 2013
10:30 a.m. ET
Checking in after eating and enjoying DOMA-related Twitter posts...
- Wozniacki is down a set and a break in a match she might have lost even while healthy. Petra Cetkovska's good, and her big game seems nicely tuned to grass.
- Tsonga took the first set from Gulbis, 6-3.
- Fernando Verdasco has taken the first two sets from Julien Benneteau , both in tie-breakers.
- Benoit Paire, your new favorite for a quarterfinal slot against Federer, beat countryman Stephane Robert in straight sets.
- Nobody's gotten hurt in the last half-hou--actually, KNOCK ON WOOD AND NEVER MIND. I WASN'T SAYING ANYTHING.
11:05 a.m. ET
Gulbis just took the second set from Tsonga. Game on.
Gulbis closed out the set after an incredibly stupid play by Tsonga. At the end of an incredible rally, Tsonga took Gulbis off of the court with a lovely lob, but Gulbis got the ball back; still, all Tsonga had to do was convert an easy volley to finish the point. Instead, his attempted drop volley floated to the baseline, and Gulbis, freshly off of his backside, hit an easy forehand winner. Twitter responded.
Jo Wilfried Tsonga is the most ridiculous human being. What the hell?— Tumaini (@tumcarayol) June 26, 2013
Fine Jo, Wimbledon. Fine him now. That was shameful.— Juan José Vallejo (@juanjo_sports) June 26, 2013
After losing the craziest point you'll see, Tsonga loses set two to Gulbis…— Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) June 26, 2013
Jo has called the trainer. Presumably suffering from a Kohlschreiberian "slowness of the head".— Brodie (@MindTheRacket) June 26, 2013
The next few sets could be a lot of fun. Or, you know, Tsonga might be about to withdraw.
11:35 a.m. ET
In case the narrative hadn't taken hold yet...
Sharapova slips and falls, complains "This court is dangerous!" to chair umpire Alison Lang. Many would agree today… #wimbledon— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) June 26, 2013
Meanwhile, Tsonga is not looking that great. Down a break in the third.
11:40 a.m. ET
Petra Kvitova, whose draw had already gotten infinitely easier with Azarenka's withdrawal and Ivanovic's loss, just won in a walkover. No idea what's wrong with Yaroslava Shvedova, but apparently she has succumbed to this haunted tournament.
11:42 a.m. ET
Oh, you're kidding. Sharapova just dropped the first set to Larcher de Brito. Monday was super-entertaining, Tuesday was super-boring, and Wednesday is an outright apocalypse.
11:55 a.m. ET
Larcher de Brito is now up a break in the second set, serving at 3-2. I mean ... who makes the finals if Sharapova and Azarenka are both out? Kvitova? Sloane Stephens (up one set, down a break in the second)? Jelena Jankovic? MARION BARTOLI? I just ...
Cliffy Drysdale just called today "unprecedented," by the way. Drysdale is 72 years old and has been around tennis for, what, 55 years? 60?
12:05 p.m. ET
Roger Federer enters the court for his second round match, and I'm now fearing for his safety, just because.
12:20 p.m. ET
After taking an injury timeout (yes, she slipped again), Sharapova comes out angry as Larcher De Brito serves at 4-3. She makes some errors but forces some out of Larcher De Brito, as well. She forces a break point, then commits three straight errors, and Larcher De Brito holds.
12:35 p.m. ET
Larcher De Brito serving at 5-4. It's intense. The shrieks are louder, and the shots are harder. But Sharapova is still off her game, and a couple of errors give Larcher De Brito a match point at 40-30. A brilliant point from Sharapova saves it.
She gets another one, but Sharapova pummels a first-serve return and saves it, too.
Another huge return gives Sharapova a break point, but she pulls a forehand wide after some fantastic defense from Larcher De Brito. This is bananas.
Sharapova dumps a return into the net, giving LDB (for short) a third match point, and Sharapova blows her off the court with a power backhand.
LDB blows Sharapova off the court with a forehand. Match Point No. 4. Sharapova crushes an inside-out forehand for a winner.
After an incredible rally, LDB hits a forehand long, and Sharapova has a second break point. LDB, pissed after the last error, hits a huge first serve and digs out a killer backhand from her feet. Deuce #6.
A big backhand gives LDB a fifth match point, and Sharapova dumps a forehand into the net. Man oh man. Yes, there were errors down the stretch, but Sharapova didn't give that to her; LDB took it with some enormous shots.
12:40 p.m. ET
As an update, here are the top 13 women's seeds:
1. Serena Williams
2. Victoria Azarenka -- out in second round
3. Maria Sharapova -- out in second round
4. Agnieszka Radwanska
5. Sara Errani -- out in first round
6. Na Li
7. Angelique Kerber
8. Petra Kvitova
9. Caroline Wozniacki -- out in second round
10. Maria Kirilenko -- out in first round
11. Roberta Vinci
12. Ana Ivanovic -- out in second round
13. Nadia Petrova -- out in first round
Seven of 13 gone. Pretty sure the next Advanced Baseline forecast will give Serena a 105 percent chance of winning the tournament.
12:50 p.m. ET
Sloane Stephens, attempting to serve out the match at 5-3 in the third set, is broken by Andrea Petkovic. We're back on serve, and WOW, would this be a missed opportunity for Sloane with how wide open the bottom of the bracket is. Meanwhile, an error-prone Roger Federer has had to pull off a bit of magic to avoid some service problems and is up 6-5 in the first set. Don't mess with my emotions, Roger.
Oh yeah, and Rajeev Ram won the first set against Juan Monaco.
1:00 p.m. ET
Federer's game returns in the tie-break, and he earns three set points at 6-3. Stakhovsky saves two with humongous servies, but Fed gets an ace to close out the set, 7-5.
1:05 p.m. ET
Overtime on Court 3! Stephens and Petkovic are at 6-6 in the third.
1:15 p.m. ET
Okay, that didn't last long. Stephens closes it out! She is now the second-highest seed remaining in the Sharapova region. Only Bartoli is ahead of her. This is nuts.
1:35 p.m. ET
At 5-5 in the second set, Federer finally earns a break point versus Stakhovsky, but two first serves and awful returns bring us back to deuce. A couple of deuces later, it's 6-5 Stakhovsky. About 20 seconds later, it's 6-6, and we're off to another tie-breaker.
1:45 p.m. ET
Um. A weird bounce and a mishit by Federer at 5-5 in the second-set tiebreaker gives Stakhovsky a set point. A serve-and-volley winner from the Ukrainian later, it's a set apiece. Of course it is. Nothing is easy on Apocalypse Wednesday.
2:20 p.m. ET
Ladies' carnage update! Jelena Jankovic, one of the highest-ranked remaining players in the bottom half of the draw, has dropped the first set to Vesna Dolonc, and Marion Bartoli, the highest-ranked player remaining in the Sharapova region, almost did the same against American Christina McHale. McHale was serving up 5-4 but was broken at love.
Meanwhile, Federer still can't touch Stakhovsky's serve, and it's 5-5 in the third set. He's trying to pull a John Isner Special, winning a best-of-5 match without breaking, but I don't recommend it. Meanwhile, the dream dies for Rajeev Ram; after taking the first set, he goes down, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. It's been a great day!
2:25 p.m. ET
Uh ... Federer down 15-40 on his serve at 5-5.
An ace saves one break point, but he mishits on the second. Stakhovsky will serve to go up two sets to one. PLEASE LET THIS DAY END SOON.
2:30 p.m. ET
Yep. Stahovsky wins the third. Sigh.
2:45 p.m. ET
And now Stakhovsky breaks. He'll serve up 2-1 in the fourth. Sadface emoticon. HIs first serve abandons him briefly, and Federer earns two break points, but he holds anyway. 3-1. Can we just go ahead and skip to the U.S. Open?
2:50 p.m. ET
WE'RE BACK ON SERVE!! LIFE!!! Stakhovsky nets a forehand approach shot, and midway through the fourth set, Federer has his first break. Stakhovsky's shown some glitches in the last few games, but he's still in control. 3-3 in the fourth.
2:55 p.m. ET
Now we're having fun again. Federer drills the ball hard right at Stakhovsky's head with the Ukrainian at the net. It doesn't work, and we're still on serve at 4-4, but Fed's playing angry. 'Bout time. The best part: He looked back at Stakhovsky like he was going to apologize but just stared instead. Then he held easily. 5-4 Federer in the fourth.
3:00 p.m. ET
3:05 p.m. ET
At some point in the last half-hour or so, ESPN cameras have figured out that Stakhovsky's girlfriend is a looker. We're seeing a lot more of her now. We're also close to a third tie-breaker -- Federer holds to go up 6-5 in the fourth.
And I just realized this live blog began over eight hours ago. And there's about a zero percent chance that anybody's still reading.
3:10 p.m. ET
At 5-6, 15-0, Stakhovsky totally wipes out on a running forehand (NARRATIVES!), then nets a backhand volley. Federer is two points away from winning the fourth set. Another poor volley two points later makes it 30-40. Set point, Fed...
...and a beautiful stab volley from Stakhovsky gives him deuce. That would have been too easy. An ace and volley winner take us to a tie-breaker. Guh.
Now ... I'm a Federer homer. I admit it, and I make it very obvious. But as we get started in one of the most important tie-breaks of Federer's career, I should mention that Stakhovsky's serve-and-volley game has been incredible today. I realize Federer doesn't have the power of Nadal or some other big hitters (never has), but seeing this work so well, I do wonder why it isn't a more successful overall strategy in today's game than it actually is. If you serve well, get to the proper position at the net well, and volley with at least some degree of prowess, why couldn't it work?
While I was writing, Stakhovsky flips a backhand winner to go up 3-1 in the tie-breaker. I think I have passed the Negotiation stage of grieving. They switch sides at 4-2.
A mishit return by Federer (what's new?) makes it 5-2.
Federer holds on his serve to get to 5-4, but an incredible backhand volley by Stakhovsky gives him two match points. Federer saves one with a forehand passing shot, but he sends a routine backhand wide, and Stakhovsky takes him down. The slam quarterfinal streak ends at 36.
They just asked me to write something about this, and I have no idea what else to say besides that.
3:20 p.m. ET
Well, there's that, too.
3:40 p.m. ET
But how in the world were we supposed to see Roger Federer's loss coming? Federer had made 36 consecutive slam quarterfinals, pulling rabbits out of his hat on multiple occasions (including at Wimbledon last year, when he fell two sets behind Julien Benneteau in the third round); but he had no answer for the serve-and-volley game of Sergiy Stakhovsky. The No. 116 player in the world, a lanky 27-year old from Kiev, Stakhovsky ended one of the more incredible streaks in sports with a 6-7, 7-6, 7-5, 7-6 win over the seven-time Wimbledon champion. Federer served well and showed some fire, but his return game has slowly disintegrated over the last couple of years, and Stakhovsky took full advantage. With a game straight out of 1986, Stakhovsky frustrated and eventually defeated the all-time slams leader.
The last time Federer lost before the third round of a slam was at the 2003 French Open. He lost two tiebreakers and was swept by Luis Horna in the first round and responded with his first of 17 slam titles. Wimbledon was the most likely place for Federer to pick up an 18th, and that opportunity is now gone. We always rush to proclaim a once-amazing athlete done!, over!, but while Federer probably has quite a bit of elite tennis left in him, he probably doesn't have as much. We've assumed his mortality for a few years now, and today we saw proof that it exists.
I just did the math: That's 5,000 words on tennis today.
4:05 p.m. ET
We'll end the day with three tweets:
Federer: shockers sends a message to all of us. No foregone conclusions. disrespectful to opponents. Clearly, underdogs' fear now fading.— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) June 26, 2013
This is easily the craziest day of tennis I have ever seen. And i have been doing this for 60 years— Nick Bollettieri (@NickBollettieri) June 26, 2013
No athlete in my 37.5 years of life has given me more joy or less disappointment than Roger Federer. I think I can handle one match loss.— Matt Zemek (@mzemek) June 26, 2013