On Middle Sunday, The Players And The Grass Rest At Wimbledon

LONDON, July 7, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)

The Wimbledon Championships have arrived at Middle Sunday, a day of rest – OK, maybe practice – for the players as well as a day of rest for Centre Court and the other play courts that punctuate the All England Club grounds. It’s a tradition that separates the British fortnight from all other majors.

According to Wimbledon history, first-week rain has forced play on the Middle Sunday on only four occasions: in 1991, 1997, 2004 and 2016. Now that both Centre Court and No. 1 Court have roofs, which have allowed the continuation of a handful of matches from being suspended by darkness, the likelihood of play on Middle Sunday is less likely. This year’s Championships have benefited from mostly sunny and dry weather during the first week, and with no play on Middle Sunday, it’s a chance for the remaining 16 men and 16 women to rest and reset.

Looking ahead to “Manic Monday,” in which all round of 16 matches are contested, women’s top seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia, who is yet to drop a set and has lost only 12 games, is ready to charge forward into the second week. Barty will be joined by nine other seeded players, including four from the Top 10: No. 3 Karolina Pliskova, No. 6 Petra Kvitova, No. 7 Simona Halep and No. 8 Elina Svitolina. Other seeds still alive in the second week are: No. 11 Serena Williams, No. 19 Johanna Konta, No. 21 Elise Mertens, No. 24 Petra Martic, and No. 30 Carla Suárez Navarro. One of the most highly-anticipated matches will be second on No. 1 Court between Halep and 15-year-old American sensation Cori “Coco” Gauff, who is the youngest player to reach the round of 16 since 1991.

Win or lose, Barty is driven, hungry

Barty will face unseeded American Alison Riske, ranked 55th, who took out No. 13 seed Belinda Bencic to reach the fourth round. They’ve faced each other once, won by Riske in 2016 on grass during the semifinal-round of Eastbourne.

“You ask any opponent that plays Alison, she’s up for the fight, makes you work for every single point,” Barty said during her news conference Saturday following her 6-1, 6-1 third-round victory over British wild card Harriet Dart.

“I think it will be really important for me to go out there and try and bring my variety, take my opportunities when I get them. Also, I know she loves playing on the grass court. She’s going to make me play a million balls. I have to be at my best.”

The World No. 1 continued: “No matter whether I win a match or lose a match, I’m still extremely hungry and driven to try to do well, to try and grow and develop as a player and a person, trying to take as much as I can from every single match, learn from every single match, then keep going forward and keep striving to be better.

“I’m just trying to do the best to pave my own path and enjoy my journey.”

Can anyone beat the Big Three?

Meanwhile, in the gentlemen’s draw, there are 10 seeded players still in the chase for the title, led by the Big Three of men’s tennis: No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic, No. 2 Roger Federer and No. 3 Rafael Nadal. Additionally, there’s No. 8 Kei Nishikori, No. 15 Milos Raonic, No. 17 Matteo Berrettini, No. 21 David Goffin, No. 23 Roberto Bautista Agut, No. 26 Guido Pella, and No. 28 Benoit Paire. Looking for a long shot? How about 66th-ranked Ugo Humbert of France, who knocked off #NextGenATP star Felix Auger-Aliassime, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3, during Friday’s third-round. His next assignment, however, is against World No. 1 Djokovic.

If you’re looking for more of a sure thing, there’s Federer, who garnered his 350th Grand Slam win on Saturday that advanced him into his 17th Wimbledon fourth-round appearance. He’s merely won Wimbledon a record eight times.

“The records mean something to me, but not everything just because I am very much aware that not everyone for the last hundred years played all the slams,” Federer said Saturday, after he beat Lucas Pouille, 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (4), on Centre Court. “It’s really only the last 20 years that that’s been going on.

“Of course I hope it’s going to take a special performance from somebody to stop me, not just a mediocre performance.”

Federer will face Berrettini from Italy in the third match on Centre Court Monday. “I don’t know him very well, so that makes it a bit more tricky. I saw him play a little in Halle. Saw his run, of course, in Stuttgart. Now, he’s back it up here again. That’s not easy to do, especially when you’re sort of newer on the tour.

“I’m expecting a tough one. I’m sure we’ll see a tough match on Monday.

“We know how hard it is to beat Novak, how hard it is to beat Rafa here. Me, as well. I have a great record here. We obviously also have better draws because we’re seeded, and we’re away from the bigger seeds earlier. Our path to the fourth round is definitely not as hard as maybe some of the younger guys on the tour, as well.”

After Nadal’s 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 third-round victory against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France on Saturday, the Spaniard reflected upon the career achievements that he, Djokovic and Federer have shared.

“Honestly, what we achieved in the Grand Slams, in tennis in general, during the last 14, 15 years is something special,” said Nadal, who will take on 69th-ranked Joao Sousa of Portugal in the fourth round. “In the same moment have three players that achieved that much is something difficult to repeat because we played more or less at the same time.”

Live on Centre Court, it’s Serena and Sir Andy

While it’s rare to find a mixed doubles match assigned to Centre Court before the final, Saturday evening’s first-round match featuring Wimbledon champions Serena Williams and Andy Murray was anything but ordinary. It was part fun, part fierce competitiveness for the dream team. There were plenty of high fives and smiles, and after match point, Williams and Murray exchanged kisses. They defeated Andreas Mies of Germany and Alexa Guarachi of Chile, 6-4, 6-1.

Afterward, Williams declared to all, “It worked out well. We’re a new team and that’s always a learning curve. We wanted to start fast. We take it seriously. That’s why we’re in it.

“For me, it’s definitely awesome to share a court with Andy, especially this particular stage.”

Murray said was duly impressed by how much it mattered to Williams.

“After the amount of success that someone like Serena has had for such a long period, to still be out there at 8 o’clock at night having already won the singles, and just wanting to win and being competitive, that’s impressive,” said Murray, who earlier lost in men’s doubles play with partner Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France. “I don’t think people always appreciate how difficult that is to do. Serena and Roger have done it for such a long period. It’s taken for granted a little bit. But it’s impressive.”

Monday’s order of play

Centre Court / from 1p.m. BST
Joao Sousa vs. No. 3 Rafael Nadal
No. 19 Johanna Konta vs. No. 6 Petra Kvitova
No. 17 Matteo Berrettini vs. No. 2 Roger Federer

No. 1 Court / from 1 p.m. BST
No. 11 Serena Williams vs. No. 30 Carla Suárez Navarro
No. 7 Simona Halep vs. Coco Gauff
No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs Ugo Humbert

No. 2 Court / from 11 a.m. BST
No. 1 Ashleigh Barty vs. Alison Riske
Karolina Muchova vs. No. 3 Karolina Pliskova
No. 8 Kei Nishikori vs. Mikhail Kukushkin

No. 3 Court / from 11 a.m. BST
No. 8 Elina Svitolina vs. No. 24 Petra Martic
No. 21 David Goffin vs. Fernando Verdasco
No. 26 Guido Pella vs. No. 15 Milos Raonic

Court 12 / from 11 a.m. BST
Barbora Strycova vs. No. 21 Elise Mertens
Sam Querrey vs. Tennys Sandgren

Court 18 / from 11 a.m. BST
Zhang Shuai vs. Dayana Yastremska
No. 23 Roberto Bautista Agut vs. No. 28 Benoit Paire