LONDON – Federer has left Nike. Nine of the top 10 women’s seeds took flight in the first week of the tournament. So have seven of last’s year’s eight semifinalists. And ailing Andy Murray, local icon and two-time champ, exiled himself the day before the tournament started.
Still, as Wimbledon enters halftime, there are so many familiar trappings. As much a part of tableau as barbered lawns, the strawberries and complaints about the court assignments, we have Federer, Nadal and Djokovic—winners of 13 of the last 15 men’s titles—surging into week two. And, of course, we have Serena Williams, seeded No. 25 but most likely to win the women’s title. At least, according to the oddsmakers.
Switzerland, Spain, Serbia and the U.S. may be out of the World Cup, but they look strong heading into the second half here. With the usual bell curve in full effect, herewith are our midterm grades for Wimbledon 2018.
• Uniqlo: Never mind the women’s draw. Japanese retailer scores the upset of the week, pulling Federer away from Nike.
• The law firm of Federer-Nadal: A decade after their iconic final, both advance to Week 2 without dropping a set.
• Serena Williams: She might be seeded No. 25, but she looks like the same Serena, conjuring her best stuff when she has to and playing her way into to the meaty part of a Slam.
• Novak Djokovic: He may be the forgotten man—even consigned to Court Two for his third-round romp—but his play has been memorably strong.
• James Keothavong: Well played, sir. (And credit Kyrgios for acknowledging as much)
• Stefanos Tsitsipas: Strong showing includes this gem of a shot. (And note the score.)
• WTA moment-seizers: We might discuss the collective failure of the top women to close. But credit the winners too. When Kiki Bertens induces errors from Venus Williams at 7-8…or qualifier Evgeniya Rodina shows superior mettle to Madison Keys…or Aliaksandra Sasnovich serves Petra Kvitova a third-set bagel…or Su-Wie Hsieh out-poises Simona Halep, they should be acknowledged.
• United States: Some disappointments, notably Madison Keys’ inexplicable loss to Rodina. But Serena remains. As do a high-low duo of men—6’10” John Isner and former UCLA star Mackenzie McDonald, generously (by his own admission) listed at 6’—in week two.
• Taylor Fritz: Young American puts up an encouragingly strong fight against Sascha Zverev, before losing a five-setter in the end.
• Denis Shapovalov: Loses a match he never should have, winning the first set 6-0 and then wilting against an erratic and injured Benoit Paire. But you read a mature and honest postmortem like this and it supports the decision to go long on this kid.
• Wimbledon seeders: The draw kind, not the grass kind. In retrospect, departing from the ranking and placing Serena among the protected was wise. In retrospect, putting her at No. 25 was unduly conservative.
• World Cup: Sure we enjoy the matches. But heaven help Wimbledon—viewership, interest, and attendance of everyone from ball kids to volunteers—if England reaches the final, a possibility as we write this.
• WTA top-10 seeds: Drill down and the various upsets occurred for different reasons. We had nervous play (Petra Kvitova) and shaky preparation (Sloane Stephens) and upsets that really weren’t upsets (Makarova d. Wozaniacki) but overall, a rough look when more players ranked 100+ make it through the first week than players ranked 1-10.
• Marin Cilic: A finalist last year, a finalist in Australia, and a winner of a grass-court tune-up (beating Djokovic in the final), he came in as the second favorite. After falling to 82-ranked Guido Pella, he left as the victim of a considerable upset.
• Maria Sharapova: Losing at a major by getting blasted by a top-five player—as Sharapova did at the French Open, losing to Garbine Muguruza—is one thing. Losing to a qualifier in round one—as Sharapova did here to Vitalia Diatchenko—is something else entirely.
• Jack Sock: This is a player who could use some time off to reassess—not to salvage his tennis, but to assess how he wants to be perceived. Squanders a 2-1 set lead and falls in the first round for his 13th loss in 2018 (versus just five wins)…and compounds matters with another fine-worthy outburst.
• Tennis in-fighting: The battle over the tennis cups—Davis Cup versus ATP World Team Cup—animates the worst kind of interoffice turf war. Two global team competitions (held within weeks of each other; on the same side of the world) will, at best, dilute both. This is clumsy all-around.