OUT OF LEFT FIELD
WINNERS & LOSERS
ENGLAND'S ANDY MURRAY AT WIMBLEDON.
Cheers for Andy Murray;
He Tried--and Cried
By STAN ISAACS
These were some of the headlines of the London national newspapers the morning of Andy Murrays attempt at Great Britain immortality:
The Mail: Were All Praying For You, Andy
The Independent: Nows The Day, Nows The Hour
The Observer: Go On, Make Our Day
Murray lost the match to Roger Federer, but he won the post-race festivities. Instead of an interview, he took the microphone and struggled to find words.
He said at first, Im getting closer, then choked up, a far cry from the Murray who too often seemed detached from his role as the man who was carrying the hopes of his country.
He tried again, choking out the words, Im going to try this and its not going to be easy.
He choked up anew with tears anew. The crowd cheered and the cameras picked up his girl friend also suffering the moment. The emotions topped anything that took place on the court in Federers workmanlike 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 victory.
They started the rain-speckled day posing arm-in-arm at the net. Thats tennis. And they were arm-in-arm again during the post-race festivities. Federer, he of the line of fancy letter F caps, and Murray, failing in the first final for a Brit (actually a Scot) since Henry (Bunny) Austin was beaten by Don Budge in 1938.
It took 74 years for a Brit to reach the Wimbledon final. It may now take 76 years for a Brit to match the dashing Fred Perry, the last one to win Wimbledon in 1936. (He won three in a row)..
When Murray, a 2 ½ to 1 underdog, won the first set, the ESPN announcers lauded Murrays new coach, Ivan Lendl. The cameras picked up Lendl in a players box. With his dark visage he looked like Dr. Doom.
John McEnroe said he had heard that Lendl loosened up Murray with a joke. A joke by his grim, old rival tickled McEnroe. Id like to hear it, he said.
* * *
Forgive me for passing on an outrageous non-sequitur that afflicted my cockeyed psyche during the match. It was the time Congo Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba allegedly tried to visit the British Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street. When he mistakenly knocked at the door of One Downing, the servant set him straight by telling an assistant, Take Lumumba from One to Ten.
Federer told about being invited to visit center court with his family on the first Sunday of the tournament when no matches took place. He said it was fun to see his almost three-year-old twins cavorting on the grass, bouncing into the net.
* * *
Murray had visited the center court on his own some weeks previously, sitting quietly, the only soul in the arena.
* * *
It was a great tournament for Serena Williams winning the singles and then the doubles with her sister, Venus. She beat Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2. She and Venus beat the Czech Republics Andrea Hlavackovaa and Lucie Hradecka, 7-5, 6- 4. Ah those Wimbledon names.
There is no middle ground with Serena for fans. They either dislike her for her perceived arrogance and occasional tantrums with officials. Or they admire her for her terrific play and a history of rebounding from severe illness. (In the mens final, it appeared that three-quarters of the fans cheered for countryman Murray, one-quarter for the popular Federer).
Serena had to come back from a second surgery on her right foot; she was rushed to the emergency room with blood clots in her lungs; she overcame a time when she was afraid to take a long-distance flight.
The London bookies had made Williams a 7-1 favorite. This was logical, though that bet looked a little shaky when she lost the second set. Her 120 miles per hour serve is the most powerful in womens tennis-and some men cant match that figure.
* * *
This Wimbledon resurrected a term just about lost in the tennis mists: a golden set. A golden set is winning all 24 points for a 6-0 score. It was achieved by Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan over Sara Errani of Italy in the third round of womens play. Shvedova went on to win, 6-0, 6-4.
A golden set had been achieved only once before in pro tennis. Bill Scanlon shut out Marco Hocover in the first round of a tournament at Delray Beach, Florida on Feb. 22, 1983.
Ben Shpiegel of The New York Times tracked down Scanlon at the Riviera Tennis Club in Los Angeles and found a happy man. He was hoping for a repeat over the years because maybe then people would start to realize how astonishing it is.
Scanlon said, How many perfect games have been thrown in baseball? There have been 22. I would say that only Johnny VanderMeers double no-hitters and Joe DiMaggios 56-game hitting streak might be more difficult to match or top than a golden set.
When Shvedova was told she had achieved a golden set, she said, I had no idea. I was just playing every point and every game. Scanlon was told of his achievement by the umpire upon walking off the court. He said, I was so intensely focused on what I was doing, I was in such a zone, that I had no idea.
Scanlon had won the first set, 6-2 and wound up winning 36 of the final 38 points. He proceeded to lock the scorecard in a safe-deposit box.
Not quite the same, but a feat in its own right was Serena Williams hitting four straight first-serve aces in the third set of her fifth Wimbledon victory.
* * *
Tennis fans clap in unison when a player challenges a call by a linesperson. When tie breakers, the brainchild of James Van Alen, first came in at Forest Hills in 1965 a red flag was put up on an umpires high chair and people on the grounds would run to the court to watch the tie breaker Ball kids scurry after balls like waterbugs skimming over a lake ESPN opened its Saturday morning show with a color-coordinated panel of women discussing the upcoming events. Host Hannah Storm (coral blouse), chatted with Mary Joe Fernandez (lime green), Pam Shriver (forest green) and Chris Evert (pink) Serena Williams, the purple-pantied one, added color in her matches.
* * *
Wimbledon officials can be stubborn right (insisting on white outfits) and stubborn wrong (waiting years after the other tournaments to use yellow balls, which are seen so much clearer on television.) Only Wimbledon of the four major tournaments discards the tie-breaker for mens fifth sets or womens third sets.
This leads to marathon sets that are survival battles more than a test of tennis. It becomes a journey into ennui for fans watching servers dominate. Marin Cilic and Sam Querrey got locked into the second longest final set of all time in the second round when Cilic won the final set to end a 7-6, 6-4, 6-7,6-7, 17-15 match that took five hours and 31 minutes.
Two years ago John Isner and Nicolas Mahut set a record of 11 hours and five minutes as Isner won, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6 and then, 70-68, in the final set.
Wimbledon can retain its uniqueness in the fifth set in a saner way. By letting the players go to 8-8 and then playing a tiebreaker.
* * *
A good light moment: clownish Russian Mikhail Youzhny, being blown out by Roger Federer, stopped and asked for help from former champ Andre Aggasi sitting in the front row of the Royal Box next to wife, former champion, Steffi Graf ... Royalty reigns almost every day at Wimbledon. The Duke of York looked like a schlub; the Duke of Kent had the classy, hawk-nosed look of royalty befitting his role presiding over the post-match festivities Like many players, Russian Victoria Azarenka lives in Monaco. Why? Lower taxes ESPN analyst John McEnroe ran on at the mouth less than he useded to, but he still irritated by informing what the players were thinking.
* * *
In the end the Wimbledon winners were Federer, the Williams sisters and Murray; the losers were Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova.
©2012 by Stan Isaacs. The Stan Isaacs caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. The photo is a staff artist-enhanced internet photo. This column first posted June 25, 2012.
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