x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 December 2017

Everything is at play on this marvellous Monday

As the silent Sunday gives way to the manic Monday, a Wimbledon question hovers: Can the gorgeous purple-and-green venue spit out anything weirder than it has already? No. It cannot.

No competition on the court did not mean Roger Federer was going to stay away from hitting balls on Sunday.
No competition on the court did not mean Roger Federer was going to stay away from hitting balls on Sunday.

As the silent Sunday gives way to the manic Monday, a Wimbledon question hovers:

Can the gorgeous purple-and-green venue spit out anything weirder than it has already?

No.

It cannot.

Already there has been a Mr Lukas Rosol of Prerov, Czech Republic, with the poetic ranking of No 100 and 19 ATP Tour match wins in his entire 26-year life, defeating a Mr Rafael Nadal of Mallorca, Spain, in what seemed the biggest upset in the history of tennis.

Upon further inspection, however, scanning back through the upsets of yore, it grew clearer: No, it was absolutely the biggest upset in the history of tennis.

That meant bigger than Peter Doohan over Boris Becker, Lori McNeil over Steffi Graf, Ivo Karlovic over Lleyton Hewitt, and much bigger than the best upset ever, the goodness-over-nastiness 1975 final upset of Arthur Ashe over Jimmy Connors.

Rosol-over-Nadal was so improbable, so unfeasible, so ludicrous, that it floats into the upset stratosphere among all sports to dwell among Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson, the United States men's ice hockey team over the Soviet Union, Rulon Gardner over Alexandre Karelin.

That alone would distinguish a Wimbledon first week, but then came the underwhelming Saturday match that produced the overwhelming statistic that could make a jaw drop so far it might break on the floor.

In the first set against a top 10 player, No 65 Yaroslava Shvedova won 6-0 by claiming all 24 points.

That is so far beyond belief that one might remain unconvinced the assembled reporters at the All England Club aren't in some leg-pulling conspiracy.

I had to read the report over and over to grasp it.

It occurred against a woman who just finished reaching the French Open final.

It occurred despite human frailty in a game of millimetres. It has occurred so rarely that it went back to 1983 and unearthed the name "Bill Scanlon," believed to be the last pro to do it, and known mostly for his fourth-round win over No 1 John McEnroe at the US Open, an upset so bewildering it was almost half as bewildering as Rosol-over-Nadal.

Moving forward, Serena Williams said wryly of Shvedova, "Hopefully, I'll be able to win a point in the set. That will be my first goal, and then I'll go from there."

That match will join 15 others today, the second Monday, which is properly renowned as the best day to possess a ticket to the grounds.

Everybody still playing, plays.

Both No 1s remain, as Novak Djokovic will have the chore of playing a countryman, No 34 Viktor Troicki, while Maria Sharapova will have the chore of repeating a 2011 semifinal against Germany's Sabine Lisicki.

And will the anonymous English tabloid soul who thought up the nickname "Doris Becker" for Lisicki last year please stand up and collect your mammoth pay raise?

By lurching this far again, Lisicki helped Germany restate its tennis resurgence as the only country with multiple entries in both singles draws (two each).

The men include Philipp Kohlschreiber, who tore through Rosol in the third round, then shook hands at the net, and while I'm not much of a lip-reader, may have said, "Dude, I don't know what to say except thank you so, so much."

An inspiring straggler or two almost always lurks to this Monday, so the men have 126th-ranked Brian Baker of the United States, a 27-year-old plugger finding light in tennis near-dotage, and the women have 145th-ranked Camila Giorgi of Italy, just 20 and fuelling the peerless crest of Italian females (three), even after Italy's top player went 0-24 in first-set points.

Still, no woman from anywhere has looked as excellent as Petra Kvitova, wearing the defending champion's sheen with aplomb and some searing grass-court art.

Further, you don't often see the phrase "first Uzbek in a Wimbledon fourth round," so here he is, Denis Istomin, coached by his mother, so you know he's tough. At 25, he's a veritable pup among the men, who make ageing look beneficial with five of the 16 being 30 years old or more.

You know time has marched when you check and suddenly David Ferrer is 30.

Roger Federer remains, and of course, overriding all in noise, we have the continuing Grand Slam saga of one Andrew Murray of Dunblane, Scotland, United Kingdom.

His half of the draw bizarrely has gone cleared of the surname "Nadal," which cleared out the surname "Murray" in 2008, 2010 and 2011, and surely would have had Nadal played Wimbledon in 2009.

Here's a news flash to carry into the second week: No British man has won Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.

cculpepper@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE