WASHINGTON, July 1, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
As the 150th anniversary of the Wimbledon Championships arrives this week at the All England Club, the birthplace of lawn tennis, the sport of tennis finds itself being eclipsed by the FIFA World Cup. However, unlike football, every round is a knockout round at Wimbledon.
As with every Grand Slam, there are some great story lines developing for the 2018 Wimbledon Championships at SW19. Among them: No. 1 men’s seed Roger Federer is chasing after his ninth career Wimbledon singles title, which would tie him with Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova; No. 1 women’s seed Simona Halep goes after her second career Grand Slam, fresh off of winning the French Open last month; World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, seeded No. 2, tries to repeat his 2008 success of winning on grass; and former No. 1 Serena Williams returns to Wimbledon with a protected seeding after a year way for maternity leave.
NOTABLE FIRST ROUNDS – GENTLEMEN’S SINGLES
Gael Monfils vs Richard Gasquet
Stan Wawrinka vs Grigor Dimitrov
Dominic Thiem vs Marcos Baghdatis
Andy Murray vs Benoit Paire
Daniil Medvedev vs Borna Coric#Wimbledon
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) 29. Juni 2018
Federer will christen Centre Court on Monday afternoon when he faces Dusan Lajovic of Serbia in a battle of one-handed backhands. The Swiss maestro has enjoyed a successful grass-court season after bypassing the spring clay tournaments entirely, winning at Stuttgart and reaching the finals at Halle. Federer and Nadal have traded the World No. 1 ranking several times this year. Despite dropping to No. 2 after Halle, Federer was given the nod at No. 1 for Wimbledon in recognition of his past success. To see Federer and Nadal occupying the top two seeds 12 years after they first did so is a testament to not only their longevity but also their continued excellence.
During his pre-tournament press conference on Saturday, Nadal reflected on his 2008 breakthrough when he beat Federer in five grueling sets to capture his first Wimbledon title. Federer had not lost at Wimbledon in five years.
“Of course, in that moment, that final has been a very important step forward for me in my career,” said Nadal. “I always have been very clear that probably it is one of the most emotional matches that I played in my career.
“Everybody knows that for me to win here was one of my dreams. After losing two finals, that final created a big impact in my tennis career.
“The personal satisfaction that tournament gave to me is difficult to compare with other things.
“Today I see that like a long time ago. But the good thing is I am still here. I am happy for that.”
Navratilova, who will be commenting on the Championships for the BBC, knows the feeling of winning Wimbledon quite well. She lifted the Venus Rosewater Dish nine times during her storied career. During a recent interview with the Wimbledon website, she said, “I marvel at what Roger is doing at his age, at 36. If Roger wins his ninth Wimbledon, wow, hats off to him to do it at this age. It’s hard enough to win Wimbledon but to do it at his age, that would just be ridiculous.”
According to Navratilova, “When players get older, you see them crying more. Everything means more. You realize that your time is running out, and you want to win again. Everything becomes more meaningful. As you get older, you get wiser and everything is magnified. The pressure is also greater, which makes things more difficult.”
No. 1 seed Simona Halep
Meanwhile, Halep is the top seed at Wimbledon for the first time. The pressure of finally winning a Grand Slam has been lifted thanks to winning this year’s French Open.
“Everyone was talking that I’m not able to win a Grand Slam because I am weak mentally. But now I did it,” said Halep during her gathering with the media over the weekend. “Now, I feel that everybody’s more relaxed. Of course, I have more questions about autographs, pictures. It’s a little bit crazy in my country, but I enjoy it. I try to manage it as good as possible.
“I’m used to it because last year was the same, when I touched No. 1. But now I feel it bigger and I feel it nicer.”
NOTABLE FIRST ROUNDS – LADIES’ SINGLES
Angelique Kerber vs Vera Zvonareva
Monica Niculescu vs Naomi Osaka
Belinda Bencic vs Caroline Garcia
Alize Cornet vs Dominika Cibulkova
Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Barbora Strycova
Donna Vekic vs Sloane Stephens#Wimbledon
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) 29. Juni 2018
Finally, the seven-time Wimbledon champion Williams, currently ranked No. 183, was given a seed by the All England Club’s seeding committee of No. 25, which means she’ll have to face a top-eight seed in the third round. Friday’s draw revealed No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina as Serena’s possible third-round opponent. Standing in her way of winning her 24th Grand Slam could be fellow American Madison Keys in the fourth round and No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinals. Fortunately for Serena, defending champion Garbiñe Muguruza and 2014 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova are both on the opposite side of the draw.