x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

As tournaments go this Wimbledon belongs in the X-files

All tournaments have occasional weird days. But try matching that last Wednesday at Wimbledon.

And when Serena Williams says she isn't shocked by losing to Germany's Sabine Lisicki, perhaps it is because all the previous weirdness has already made her numb.
And when Serena Williams says she isn't shocked by losing to Germany's Sabine Lisicki, perhaps it is because all the previous weirdness has already made her numb.

It has been a week now since the first Wednesday of Wimbledon 2013 and I have been trying to think of a weirder grand slam in the Open era than the one we are watching right now. By now I am pretty sure there just has not been one.

There have been plenty of crazy one-off results and underdog triumphs. Plenty of times unseeded players have scythed their way through their half of the draw like some unguided submarine missile and gone on to win a slam. And then not won anything ever after that.

Many more have made it deep into a major leaving a trail of inexplicably seeded debris behind them, only to lose and never surface again, players you might not even remember now. Remember Yanina Wickmayer? No? She made the semi-finals of the US Open in 2009 and has made it past the third round just once in her last 10 major competitions.

My personal favourite, for at least the duration of this column, is the Dutchman Martin Verkerk, who rang a distant bell somewhere deep in my head, but of whom I only discovered why after checking: he made the French Open final in 2003 and lost (it feels like defeating the purpose to note who he lost to, but it was Juan Carlos Ferrero).

Later that year at the Paris Masters he would hold match points against Roger Federer and lose. And he ended his career with a losing record.

Plenty of times champions have been beaten in the first round or early and this has happened everywhere, in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York.

Boris Becker losing to Peter Doohan in the second round of Wimbledon in 1987 registered as just about the craziest thing I had seen until then at a grand slam. But that happens. Every single champion knows it can happen.

How do we even begin to comprehend the cumulative impact of the combination of injuries and exits in Wimbledon 2013? What do we place it against for context or comparison?

All tournaments have occasional weird days. But try matching that last Wednesday at Wimbledon.

There cannot have been as many injury pull-outs as there were last week at any other grand slam.

There cannot have been as many highly seeded players crashing out so early.

Then, in one seven-hour stretch, seven former world No 1-ranked players went out. Four players pulled out before their matches even began; three more left mid-match.

John McEnroe called it the craziest day he has known ever at Wimbledon and if he had stopped at ever, even with his back story, I would have believed him.

There was that 2007 US Open which shed seeds like some bad habit throughout. Seven fell on the first day and after a diminishing drip-drip of shocks, nine on that first wild and wacky Saturday (mostly on the women's side, including Martina Hingis and Maria Sharapova).

The French Open is always good for a bit of results weirdness, even as it allows concurrently for the inevitability of Rafael Nadal winning it. The year it did not give in to Nadal, 2009, was one of the stranger ones even without his exit in the fourth round; 14 seeds had exited in the two days previous to Nadal's loss.

But neither had the confluence of the incomprehensibility of a sudden glut of injuries and unceasing big name knockouts of this Wimbledon. Even outside that one dark Wednesday Nadal before it and then, this Monday, Serena Williams, have been knocked out.

And as a side note Williams had provided the most surreal sight of many years at a major tournament when she took on the 42-year-old Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm.

More than two vastly different games, the third-round match was a battle of two different eras, so much that it felt like a live version of those adverts which have past legends playing alongside current ones. It was their first meeting – and real – but it could easily have been the result of some technical jiggery-pokery by the folks who handle Nike's marketing.

In Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray the men's side can still at least produce the champion many might have banked on it producing before the tournament began. But that will just be an untouched ending to a script that has not been rewritten as much as introduced to a shredder.

Do not even ask about the women's draw, because in the hall of fame for crazy grand slams, Wimbledon 2013 will be kept in isolation, straitjacketed in its own private, padded cell somewhere.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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