Wimbledon is upon us once again, and like most tennis fans out there, we have seen the draw and have cried. It doesn’t matter which player one is a fan of, there are always landmines lurking in the draw, both real and imagined. In the Slam perhaps most prone to upsets, even a player ranked 200 spots below can seem a danger to your favorite champion. (If your favorite is Stan Wawrinka, a guy ranked 200 spots below always seems a danger, but we’ll get to that later…)
Then there’s the fact that 2017 has thus far been like taking a whirl in the TARDIS and jumping back a decade. Roger Federer, after a long injury layover, won the Australian Open and the Sunshine Double at the spring hard court masters. He then rolled out the red clay carpet for Rafael Nadal to take over, and the Spaniard obliged by nabbing two masters of his own as well as La Decima at Roland Garros. It’s #FedalForever, y’all!!
After Federer received a surprise ousting in Stuttgart by Tommy Haas — and we only say “surprise” because both Roger AND Tommy expressed that emotion, not because we think the studly German 39-year-old isn’t perfectly capable of kicking ass on grass — the Maestro put his Angry Eyes in and spent his entire run at Halle cursing like Wimbledon’s head groundskeeper after Rafa has torn up the baseline. With his ninth giant, gold and green trophy in tow, Federer comes into Wimbledon at 35-years-old and for many….as the favorite.
So….Fedal aside, let’s now take a peek at the rest of the men and women at Wimby, and sob over the cruel lightening bolts wielded by the tennis gods.
When Stan Wawrinka won the 2014 Australian Open and the 2015 French Open, fans and pundits both had some fun imagining the Swiss player would be right on schedule to pick up Wimbledon in 2016. Running into perennially injured (and thus perennially dangerously placed in the draw) Juan Martin del Potro ended that dream. But then the fluffy-haired Stanimal whipped that one-handed backhand in deadly fashion in New York, nabbing his 3rd Slam at the US Open.
Now with two Slam chances gone and no new trophy, the pressure is on in 2017 for Stan to complete the career Grand Slam at Wimby. He could be forgiven for saying, “Fuck it all, I’ll just try for another USO or shoot for the French next year.” Despite the strong serve and laser accuracy of his shot-making, the speedy pace of the matches and his not-quite-fleet-enough feet have often kept him from excelling on the green stuff. That hasn’t stopped him from trying, however. This year Stan has brought on Paul Annacone, the former coach of Pete Sampras, Time Henman, and Federer to help fine-tune a few things and get him over the finish line.
Unfortunately, things haven’t gotten off to a roaring start. After a long French Open that saw him reach the final, the shift to grass caused some issues with Stan’s knee. In his only grass court warm-up, he lost in his first match — on a lucky net cord — to Feliciano Lopez, the eventual winner at Queens. As you can see in the photo further above from the Wimbledon Instagram, Stan is still sporting some supportive tape on his knee. Not necessarily the end of the world, but certainly not the dream start to the Championships.
To add insult to literal injury, Wimbledon’s unique seeding format placed Stan at #5 in the draw, despite currently being #3 in the world. That means if he works his way through the draw, he could see defending Wimbledon champ Andy Murray in the quarters. Never mind any other of the Big 4 lurking after that hurdle. To kick off, he faces Danil Medvedev, who just reached the quarters at Queens and the semis in Eastbourne. Potential second round is…Tommy Haas. Yes, the tennis gods totally hate us.
For a bit of added pressure, Stan would nab the #1 spot on tour if he wins Wimbledon. Career Slam and first time at #1? Talk about #Goals. And yet…the press are still asking him about Federer.
— Sloane Stephens (@SloaneStephens) July 2, 2017
— Michael (@lobwinners) June 13, 2017
This is a favorite cruel joke from the tennis gods, to make players from the same country cancel each other out way early in the draw. In this case it’s particularly cruel, as Sloane Stephens is finally making her return to tennis after a year away from the game. Riske has three grass tournaments under her belt going into Wimby, but she was stopped early in each by Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza, and a tough 3-set loss to Magdalena Rybarikova. We here at Tennis Inside Out love both ladies, so it’s going to be difficult — nay, it’s going to suck hardcore to see either lady go out.
Before her injury, Sloane would have been the definite favorite, but things are really up in the air coming in cold on the slippery, unpredictable grass courts of Wimby. As she told Excelle Sports recently, she’s just looking to get back out there and compete:
“I’m excited to get back out there, I obviously haven’t played in nine months so I’m really looking forward to Wimbledon and just getting going again. … I’m going to have to be patient and just work my way back into it but if a good result comes early, then that’s icing on the cake. But there’s no expectations from the jump.”
And after this match, lurking in the second round will likely be the upwardly mobile Kiki Mladenovic…
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— TennisAustralia (@TennisAustralia) June 30, 2017
Speaking of players returning from injury, the possibly most widely lamented first round draw is Thanasi Kokkinakis versus Juan Martin del Potro. As we mentioned above, DelPo well knows the repeated-comeback carousel well, and the young Aussie has had more than his fair share of injury issues for his young age of 21. Both of these guys make tournaments more interesting — J.D. himself is hoping to see literal scorched earth from DelPo’s fearhand for as many rounds as possible, and we all know Val loves The Kokk with all his variety backed by a newly buff strength.
The tennis gods threw us a bone, however, when Kokkinakis played the famed exhibition tournament The Boodles tennis challenge. The relaxed, trick-shot playing tennis stars, drunk posh crowd, and notoriously thirsty ladies always make for a fun event, and this year we were bestowed the honor of listening to #NextGen star Alexander Zverev explain that Thanasi’s nickname is not, in fact…”Koko”. You can check out that awesomeness below — you may have to turn up your volume a bit to clearly hear Sascha.
Speaking of The Boodles, we can speak of another cruel twist of the tennis gods. That is, in fact, that Benoit Paire is not swimming in trophies and accolades. Because the man is a joy, and has a ridiculous amount of talent, and if power plants could run on drama, he could light an entire city. If people are going to say Nick Kyrgios is “good for tennis,” then surely Benoit’s crazy good backhand, catalogue of shots that make no sense but work anyway, and mid-match personality changes are worthy of some excitement in the sporting world.
Lol what a point pic.twitter.com/f0cWYEW7fo
— Rena (@_irenka23_) June 30, 2017
That video above is Benoit having fun on grass…something he once referred to as “this miserable surface.” Of course falling down on purpose is always more fun than unintentionally during a Slam match, so we get the difference. But still. Benoit was peaking. We’ll see what happens if he runs into the bad boy himself, NK, in the second round. And if Benoit gets through that, he might be facing former bromance buddie and fellow Frenchie, the rankings-climber Lucas Pouille. And then Val just might start burning stuff in effigy.
— EBAT (@EB_AT) June 29, 2017
Just like the rule that cute Frenchies should not have to play one another until at least the quarterfinals, there should be noooooo royalty facing off in ROUND ONE OF FREAKIN’ WIMBLEDON. Our faves Empress JJ and the crafty Polish Princess Aga should only have to play the rabble for the first few rounds at least. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.
— WTA (@WTA) June 21, 2017
— Petra Kvitova (@Petra_Kvitova) June 21, 2017
— Aga Radwanska (@ARadwanska) June 22, 2017
In brighter news, Aga recently had this fun exchange with Petra Kvitova, who was stunned that she’d made the highlight reel instead of The Ninja. Speaking of Petra, here’s a woman who fought off a knife attack and sustained a brutal injury to her hand and then came back 6 months later and started TOTALLY WINNING SHIT — and yet received way less fanfare than Maria Sharapova, who briefly returned from a doping suspension before going out with injury again. Those tennis gods have a pretty crappy sense of humor sometimes, although maybe we can just blame plain old humans for that one. And the WTA particularly, since without any streaming or TV coverage, those who wanted to create some fanfare for Petra couldn’t even see her play.
— Jimmie48 Photography (@JJlovesTennis) June 25, 2017
Hanging out in Kvitova’s quarter of the draw is returning new mum and Slam champ Victoria Azarenka along with Jo Konta, Elina Vesnina, and Simona Halep. Petra doesn’t need to win Wimbledon for us to think she’s awesome, but it sure would make for a better story than the ones that have been grabbing the headlines in tennis lately.
Speaking of grabbing headlines, we still love Marcus Willis. We get that folks hate the hype, and hate that he’s still on a diet of Cokes and Snickers Bars, but we can’t help it. The man is just damn entertaining, and he made it through the first two rounds of qualies only to be defeated by dream-killer Marchenko, clearly one of the hired assassins the tennis gods repeatedly employ to ruin Val’s day.
And yes, we know that’s a picture of Tom Hardy above, but Val recently realized that Marcus reminded her of Tom, which may explain the instantly inappropriate thoughts she had when she first saw him.
But we digress. Due to some injuries and family obligations, Willis hasn’t really been able to capitalize tennis-wise on that dream Wimby run. And it seemed a good call from Wimbledon to give him a qualies WC, in deference to his efforts last year, but not going overboard with a main draw WC. Sadly we won’t get to see him again at SW19 this year, but Marcus does have an appealing mix of natural talent and charm, and we are SO here for it if and when he’s ready to impress us all again.
In the meantime, the Brits can get all hyped up again about a different British qualifier, Alex Ward. In the first round he’s playing… Britain’s Kyle Edmund. We can hear the tennis gods being cursed from all the way across The Pond.
He needed a wildcard just for the qualifiers.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) June 29, 2017
That’s all for now from us here at Tennis Inside Out. Feel free to leave us a comment below about what other wrongs the tennis gods have wrought, or tweet us over @TennisInsideOut. Please share on social media if you enjoyed the post, we loooooove seeing new readers as well as our dear friends. Thanks for reading!