Below is a sampling of the “Bits And Bobs…” that made the 2022 tournament anything but a “Humble Roast Dinner…”
Kramer And Smith Anniversaries
While the Centre Court Centenary dominated the headlines, two other anniversaries should not be overlooked – Jack Kramer won the Gentlemen’s Singles 75 years ago and Stan Smith claimed the title 50 years ago.
In 1947, Kramer destroyed US countryman, Tom Brown in the final, 6-1, 6-3, 6-2. The match took 45 minutes. He and fellow Southern Californian, Bob Falkenburg defeated Tony Mottram of Great Britain and Bill Sidwell of Australia, 8-6, 6-3, 6-3 for the Gentlemen’s Doubles title.
Smith edged Ilie Năstase of Romania, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in the 1972 title round. The final was supposed to take place on Saturday, July 8th but rain forced postponement. For the first time in The Championships history, the Gentlemen’s Singles, Ladies Doubles and the Mixed Doubles were played on Sunday, July 9th.
Smith was hoping to duplicate Kramer’s double but he and Erik van Dillen of the US lost to South Africans, Bob Hewitt and Frew McMillan, 6-2, 6-2, 9-7 in the Gentlemen’s Doubles final.
Streak Ends But It Doesn’t Stop Świątek…
It came to an end…37 wins and Alizé Cornet stopped Iga Świątek’s wondrous run. The 32-year-old French woman, playing in her record setting 63rd consecutive major, defeated the No. 1 seed, 6-4, 6-2 in the third round. Świątek admitting she didn’t play well and “was pretty confused…” The 2018 Girls’ champion added, “…it wasn’t a good performance for me…”
It is ironic that Cornet, who said, “I’m like good wine…Good wine ages well…” and was ranked No. 37 ended a victory streak that matched the 37 straight triumphs of Martina Hingis in 1997.
Having an appreciation of reality beyond her 21-years, Świątek moved ahead… concentrating on the Ukraine fundraiser that will be staged July 23rd in Krakow. She told Christopher Clarey of the New York Times, “In our country, we are aware that there is war, but when I’m traveling, I can see there is not a lot of news about it…there was at the beginning, but later there was more and more silence. So basically, I hope I’m going to remind people that the war is out there. Society, we don’t have a long memory. But, I mean, lives are at stake so I think we should remind people.”
The exhibition will take place at the TAURON Arena and it will be televised. Świątek will play her retired countrywoman, Agnieszka Radwańska. Ukraine star Elina Svitolina, who is pregnant and not currently competing, will serve as the chair umpire. Former Ukrainian standout Sergiy Stakhovsky, who is in the army defending his country, will play doubles with Radwanska against Swiatek and a Polish partner.
Świątek admitted, “I’ve been really emotional about it (the war)…I want to show my support…”
(Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, it has been well documented that she has worn a blue and yellow ribbon – the colors of the Ukraine flag – on her hat whenever she has competed.)
The Shows Goes On…
It would be absolute folly to attempt to use words or turn a phrase about Serena and Venus Williams…They standalone…Not just because of their playing ability or the fervor they have brought to the game. They are The Standard Setters…in almost everything.
Moving past the attempt to praise them, the facts were – Venus, who turned 42 in June and Serena who will be 41 in September – were on stage at SW19.
Having not played a match since her right hamstring tearing retirement in the 2021 Ladies Singles at 3-3 in the first round against Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus, 364 days ago, Serena requested and received a wild card entry. She decided to use Eastbourne as a warmup, playing doubles with Ons Jabeur, the enthralling Tunisian. The duo, nicknamed “OnsRena”, won two matches before a Jabeur knee injury brought about their semifinal withdrawal.
Making her 21st tournament appearance, the seven-time Ladies’ champion opened play against Harmony Tan of France, who was making her London debut. Venus was at The Championships as part of her sister’s team.
Tan was composed from the beginning, mixing the direction of her shots and varying their speed. Of the first 11 points she won, ten were the result of Serena errors. She continued to retrieve and won the first set 7-5. Williams showed why she has won 23 major singles titles and vanquished her opponent 6-1 in the second set. Her 24-year-old opponent, who is of Chinese Cambodian and Vietnamese descent, didn’t succumb… She remained “directed…” and ended up winning the tie break 10-7 (and the set 7-6).
For Williams, it was only her third first round exit in 80 major appearances. (The first was at Roland Garros in 2012, along with last year at The Championships when she retired.) Analyzing the key points in the defeat, she offered, “…I felt like I played pretty OK on some of ’em. Not all of ’em…You’ve got to think if I were playing matches, I wouldn’t miss some of those points.”
A number of observers, after the three hour, 11-minute tussle, were not surprised that having not played competitively in so long she was – “Gassed …” at the end. (Her legs just didn’t have what it takes to make her shots telling…)
With the loss, questioning turned to – Is this the end…a conclusion of her crusade to match the 24 Slam Singles titles won by Australian Margaret Court? She responded saying, “I didn’t retire (last year). I just needed to heal physically, mentally. And I had no plans, to be honest. I just didn’t know when I would come back. I didn’t know how I would come back… Obviously, Wimbledon is such a great place to be, and it just kind of worked out.”
Venus was inspired watching her sister compete so she asked Jamie Murray, Andy’s older brother, if he would be interested in playing Mixed Doubles. He jumped at the chance to play with one of the game’s greats. Venus admitted, “I had no plans to play…then I saw the grass and got excited.”
Given a wild card, Murray and Williams slipped past Michael Venus of New Zealand and Alicja Rosolska of Poland, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 in their first match. In the next round they faced the British team of Jonny O’Mara and Alicia Barnett, who survived the 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 encounter, earning the robust tiebreak, 18-16.
Imagine Being From Ukraine… Trying To Compete…
Pre-pandemic, as a tennis journalist, I could begin the year in Australia then return home to Southern California, sort myself out, along with my dirty laundry, and begin preparing for the Europe Spring – Roland Garros, Halle and The Championships before fleeing home to ready for the fortnight at the US Open in New York.
Since the February 24th, when Russia began its “policing…” action, Ukrainian players have been homeless and have had to creatively adapt to the situation. Some have traveled from tournament to tournament, basically becoming location hitch-hikers, staying until moving on to the next event. Lesia Tsurenko ended up renting an apartment in Italy where she is able to train with countrywoman, Marta Kostyuk at the Piatti Tennis Center in Bordighera.
In an interview during The Championships, Tsurenko revealed, “…It’s a small town by the sea. And sometimes, when you are just eating great food and having amazing Italian espresso, and you see that you are surrounded by beautiful nature, for some moments you forget and you’re relaxed, and you think, ‘Oh, the life is good…’ But it’s just seconds. It’s very tough for me to explain to you, and I hope the people will never feel this, but it’s just like some part of me is just always so tight. And I think it will be a big release when the war will finish, but not before.”
Nothing more needs or could be said about the plight of the Ukrainians, who are thinking about what is taking place at home while trying to play tennis…a game…and there are no games at home.
Cleaning By Rufus…
The All England Lawn Tennis Club’s grounds are fastidiously maintained throughout The Championships. Sharply uniformed university students on summer break, managed by individuals who, based on their bearing, appear to be former members of the police or military, trot around sweeping up this and that.
Then there is…Rufus. Wayne Davis, his handler, talked with Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times newspaper about his charge. Davis made no bones about it – Rufus is not a pet; he is a free spirit who is just as likely to disappear for a period before returning when he is hungry.
The 15-year-old Harris Hawk doesn’t have a Member’s Badge, but he does have special security status, along with “I’m coming …” tiny anklet bells that tinkle and a small GPS so Davis can track him. Rufus’ sole job is to keep the pesky pigeons away.
The “Hawking Tradition”, during the tournament, began in 1999. Hamish was the first “pigeon repeller…” Then Rufus took over. When his flyovers come to an end, Horace, who is three-years-old, will assume the responsibility.
Deterring the pigeons is not just a Fortnight activity. Davis and his flyers regularly visit the AELTC during the remaining 50 weeks of the year…and they do it stealthily at different times… The idea is not to let the “poop depositors…” get accustomed to a particular schedule… And on his watch, Rufus, with Davis’ guidance, kept his own schedule…
Y’All Come…And They Finally Did
With health restrictions no longer imposing spectator limitations and queuing reinstated, it was assumed that after the cancellation in 2020 and audience size limited last year that the age old US Southern “Y’all come” would be in practice in 2022…Making it extremely difficult to find a ticket, let alone a seat at The Championships.
According to AP that wasn’t the case…initially. Attendance for the first six days was 237,927, a 7% decrease from the Week 1 in pre-COVID 2019 when the count was 256,808. This year’s figure was the second lowest since 2007 when the number was 221,521.
AP pointed out that Day 1 attendance of was 36,603 which was down 14% from the 42,517 on Day 1 in 2019. Further, in 2016, there was so much rain in the early going that the first round, which was supposed to conclude on Tuesday, did not wrap up until Thursday. The attendance over the first half-dozen days that year was 236,173 – less than 1% below 2022 and the only non-coronavirus-affected total that has been lower since 2007.
In 2007, the total daily seating capacity for the tournament was 33,653; currently it is 37,140. Some courts do not have stands, plus the daily attendance totals included grounds passes, which allowed fans to move from field-court to field-court and also watch, while seat on Henman Hill (or Murray Mound), matches on a Large Screen on the outside of No. 1 Court.
By its conclusion, The Championships, now a 14 rather than 13-day event thanks to the competition taking place on what used to be Middle Sunday, lived up to its name and established a new attendance standard – 515,164 visitors during the Fortnight.
Qualifying draws offer a glimpse of the game from a country perspective. Liechtenstein is known for alpine sports, not tennis, which is why Kathinka von Deichmann’s name stood out. She lost in the last round of the Ladies’ Singles Qualifying to Louisa Chirico of the US, 6-3, 6-7, 6-1. Stephanie Vogt was the last of her countrywomen to reach the “Almost Round” losing to Ana Konjuh of Croatia 7-5, 6-3 in the 2014 Ladies’ Singles Qualifying.
With the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian players, “passporting from another country” delivered a “Googly” to The Championships when Russian born Elena Rybakina claimed the Ladies’ Singles title as a Kazakhstani.
Natela Dzalamidze, another player who calls Moscow home, played under the Republic of Georgia flag. Teaming with Aleksandra Krunić of Serbia, they reached the Ladies’ Doubles second round where the British “H’s – Harriet Dart and Heather Watson, were 6-4, 6-2 better.
Slazenger tennis balls were first used at The Championships in 1902. The 120 year partnership is staggering since the money commitment in sports by an array of companies is regularly more important than the product.
On July 7th, in another Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times story, he spotlighted – Andy Chevalier. Chevalier is the tournament’s Ball Distribution Manager. He told Farmer that 55,000 balls are used during the Fortnight, including the 1,700 that daily are assigned to the Aorangi Park courts.
Two cans – three balls each – are used throughout the match. Because of the warmup, the first ball change comes at game seven. Thereafter it is every nine games. Balls are always different but, for the most part, a server prefers one that has been less “fluffed up.”
Once a match ended, the balls were taken to the “Used Ball” booth on the AELTC grounds and sold, with the money going to charity, for $3.57 per ball in a special tournament box. A can of three balls cost $4.76.
Isner Passes Karlović
John Isner is 6’10” tall and has a “towering” serve. Croatian Ivo Karlović is 6’11” on the height chart and also, “could bring it…” In his 6-4, 7-6, 6-3 third round loss to Jannik Sinner of Italy, Isner passed Karlović’s ace record which was 13,728. By the end of the contest, the US performer had set a new ace benchmark – 13,748. (The ATP began keeping Match Stats in 1991.)
Going into his second round match with Andy Murray, he was 0-8 against the 2013 and ’16 Gentlemen’s Singles champion. This time it was different. Isner prevailed, 6-4, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4. Following play, he told journalists, “I served…” then added, “It’s no secret that I am most definitely not a better tennis player than Andy Murray. I might have been just a little bit better than him today. It was an incredible honor to play him on this court, in front of this crowd… At the age I’m at now , I need to relish these moments. This was one of the biggest wins of my career.”
Talk about symbolic – On July 4th, American Independence Day, Jason Leith of the Free Tibet organization and three of his mates, all of whom are British, were stopped by AELTC security and had their bags searched… Because they were walking around the tournament wearing – “Where is Peng Shuai?” T-shirts.
Leith told Associated Press that the group wasn’t wearing the T-shirts when they entered because they didn’t want to be turned away. Once they had passed through the gate, they donned the T-shirts. Security questioned them about staging a protest. When they disclosed that wasn’t the plan, they were released but told not to approach any spectators and talk about Shuai, who won the Ladies’ Doubles in 2013 with Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan. Leith added that a number of fans approached them asking for “selfies”.
Novak Djokovic began his Gentlemen’s Singles title run defeating Kwon Soon-woo of South Korea, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Kwon is coached by Daniel Yoo, who resides in Pompano Beach, Florida. Friends of Yoo’s wife, who were sitting in Soon-woo’s player box, had made signs in Korean that they waved from time to time to support his effort… The Pop Art messaging was “unique…” One sign read “Fight!” which made sense. “Don’t get hurt!” was a bit puzzling…
There Are Losses Then…
Losing a tennis match is often the result of a combination of issues… In the case of Alejandro Davidovich Fokina ending up on the short-end of the 6-3, 5-7, 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 second round score against Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic…It was a One-Off. The dramatic Spaniard had earned a code violation early in the encounter. Then, after missing a forehand to make the score 9-7 in the final set (in the first to 10 tiebreak) he “clocked” the ball. For his second code violation, Vesely received a point which made the score 10-7…Game, Set and Match.
Certainly a distressing exit after Davidovich Fokina’s scintillating first round 7-6, 6-4, 5-7, 2-6, 7-6 victory over Hubert Hurkacz, the No. 7 seed, from Poland. Hurkacz had played brilliantly to win the warm-up Terra Wortmann Open in Halle and had been expected to do well at The Championships. Instead he fell victim to the “Halle curse”, which has decreed that every player not named Federer who’s won in Halle since 2011, has fallen in the first round of The Championships.
Did Themselves Proud…
The Referee’s Office and AELTC Communications did a superlative job keeping journalists updated concerning the start of play on certain courts, matches that were being moved from one court to another, the broadcasters working a particular contest and so on.
Details about Withdrawals and draw replacements were handled with the utmost speed and clarity.
Prior to The Championships, Naomi Osaka of Japan said because of continued problems with her left Achilles tendon she wouldn’t compete.
On social media, Sebastian Korda of the US said he was forced to withdraw because, “I have been dealing with terrible shin splints and beaten up feet for quite some time now…”
Leylah Fernandez of Canada was unable to play because she suffered a Grade 3 stress fracture at the top of her right foot in her Roland Garros quarterfinal loss to Martina Trevisan of Italy.
Mayar Sherif became the first woman from Egypt to win a Singles match at Roland Garros but in the process suffered a stress fracture of her foot and was unable to compete at SW19.
Sofia Kenin withdrew because she hasn’t regained her health. (If she waits until August to return, she will receive a Protected Ranking.)
British doubles specialist Tara Moore was unable to enter because of provisional suspension for a failed drug test at Bogota earlier this year.
Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, Matteo Berrettini of Italy and Marin Cilic of Croatia all withdrew after testing positive for COVID-19.
Generally, those who follow the game are aware when “stars” are dealing with physical complaints. What is regularly forgotten is how playing the game results in a war of attrition on the body of so many players.
The following is a list of media bulletins on those who were unable to play during the Fortnight.
Borna Coric has withdrawn from the Gentlemen’s Singles draw due to a shoulder injury. He will be replaced by a Lucky Loser from Qualifying.
Madison Keys has withdrawn from the Ladies’ Singles draw. Shuai Zhang is now on line 73 of the draw and Lucky Loser, Coco Vandeweghe is on line 23.
Roberto Carballes Baena and Pablo Carreno Busta have withdrawn from the Gentlemen’s Doubles draw, due to Pablo having a right leg injury. They have been replaced by Alternates Nicholas Monroe and Tommy Paul.
Marin Cilic has withdrawn from the Gentlemen’s Singles draw due to illness. He will be replaced by Lucky Loser, Nuno Borges.
Elena Rybakina and Clara Tauson have withdrawn from the Ladies’ Doubles draw, due to Clara having a back injury. They have been replaced by Alternates Tamara Korpatsch and Harmony Tan.
Misaki Doi and Makoto Ninomiya have withdrawn from the Ladies’ Doubles draw, due to Makoto having a right knee injury. They have been replaced by Alternates Xinyun Han and Lin Zhu.
Xinyu Wang has withdrawn from the Ladies’ Singles draw due to a left thigh injury. She will be replaced by Lucky Loser, Yue Yuan.
Danke Kovinic and Rebecca Peterson have withdrawn from the Ladies’ Doubles draw, due to Danke having a lower back injury. They have been replaced by Alternates Anna-Lena Friedsam and Ann Li.
Danka Kovinic has withdrawn from the Ladies’ Singles draw due to a lower back injury. She will be replaced by Lucky Loser, Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove.
Matteo Berrettini has withdrawn from the Gentlemen’s Singles draw. He will be replaced Lucky Loser, Elias Ymer.
Rosalie van der Hoek and Alison van Uytvanck have withdrawn from the Ladies’ Doubles draw, due to Alison being ill. They have been replaced by Alternates Elisabetta Cocciaretto and Viktoriya Tomova
Tamara Korpatsch and Harmony Tan have withdrawn from the Ladies’ Doubles draw, due to Harmony having a thigh injury. They have been replaced by Alternates Valentini Grammatikopoulou and Peangtarn Plipuech.
Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios have withdrawn from the Gentlemen’s Doubles draw. They have been replaced by Alternates Diego Hidalgo and Cristian Rodriguez.
Federico Coria and Hugo Dellien have withdrawn from the Gentlemen’s Doubles draws due to Hugo having a wrist injury. They have been replaced by Alternates Robert Galloway and Max Schnur.
Alexander Bublik and Jiri Vesely have withdrawn from the Gentlemen’s Doubles draws due to Jiri having lower back pain. They have been replaced by Alternates Sander Arends and Quentin Halys.
Ken Skupski and Heather Watson have withdrawn from the Mixed Doubles draw, due to Heather’s left knee injury. They have been replaced by Alternates Joran Vliegen and Ulrikke Eikeri.
Lukasz Kubot and Marta Kustyuk have withdrawn from the Mixed Doubles draw. They have been replaced by Alternates Nikola Cacic and Aleksandra Krunic.
Ranah Akua Stoiber has withdrawn from the Girls’ Singles draw. She has been replaced by Lucky Loser, Ana Candiotto.
Mia Kupres and Ranah Akua Stoiber have withdrawn from the Girls’ Doubles draw. They have been replaced by alternates Jessica Matthews and Jaquelyn Ogunwale.
Title photo of Novak Djokovic by Corinne Dubreuil
For Part 2 on The Championships:
The Championships…No Points But It Was Pounds Perfect