Day 1 at Wimbledon has come and gone. Roger Federer took to Centre Court for the first match on the virgin grass – an honour reserved for the defending champion. This was Federer’s 6th appearance as the returning champion and he did not disappoint.
His opponent was Victor Hănescu who, let’s be honest, did not play badly. In fact, he got 85% of his first serves in which is a brilliant statistic on its own. But Hănescu won only 50% of those points and showed why serving well is not enough, you’ve got to back it up with some play. Roger bossed him around all over the court and other than that first serve in statistic, he pretty much dominated the entire match. The Maestro served very well with both his first and second serves clicking. He hit 7 aces, had no double faults and faced no break points. He broke Victor early in both the first and second sets taking only 24 and 27 minutes to win them in 6-3, 6-2. The third set was even worse for the Romanian with Federer ultimately taking a bagel set in only 18 minutes.
In 1 hour and 9 minutes the Swiss approached the net 25 times winning 21 of them and had only 6 unforced errors with 32 winners. He was clinical with his forehand, his backhand, and perfect lobs. His footwork was spectacular especially considering the fresh slippery grass. The balls were fast and low just the way he likes them and he created beautiful angles while varying the tempo of the match constantly to suit himself while never letting Victor find any rhythm. He will next face Stakhovsky in Round 2. With this match Roger moved to 2nd place in the record of most consecutive Grand Slams appearances. He has now participated in his 55th consecutive Grand Slam and is one shy of the record of 56 by Wayne Ferreira. This is also his 57th total Grand Slam appearance and he’s tied at 4th place with Hewitt, Ferreira, Lendl, Chang, Connors and Björkman. With this win, he won his 257th Grand Slam match. Here are the stats.The biggest story besides his win was that of his new blazer/jacket (blazket?) and shoes which was kept hidden till the match. It seems the general consensus on both items was positive. I personally liked the lining of the blazket with little Swiss crosses and the RF logo pattern. I thought the shoe was awesome especially since I kept thinking that the platinum/black shoe we thought he would use earlier, didn’t match the outfit which had orange accents. The shoes have completely orange soles which gave way to the rumour of Federer getting fined for not complying with the ‘predominantly white’ clothing rules at Wimbledon. As far as I know, the rule doesn’t cover the bottom of the shoes so I think the Maestro’s fine 😉
I would normally end the post here since I write mostly about Federer but it doesn’t feel right closing before discussing the shocking upset of Day 1. Rafa Nadal lost in Round 1 to 135th ranked Steve Darcis. Steve Darcis played the match of his life and Rafa was sub-par, with some definite issues in his movement, especially towards the end as well as a surprising lack of the usual energy and intensity we’ve come to expect from him. There were several take-a ways for me in this match and so in no particular order, here they are:
- It baffles me how despite Wimbledon being the most prestigious Grand Slam event, the tour does nothing for its players in terms of preparing them for the surface. Just 4 quick back to back ATP 250s in the 2 weeks between Roland Garros and Wimbledon is all you get. The clay season starts as early as February (with Roland Garros at the end of May). Meanwhile hard courts are there for almost the full year from the end of July till March. An extra week of rest will be added before Wimbledon in the future but in my opinion, there needs to be more tourneys on grass at the ATP 500 level and yes at least one Masters out of the 9.
- Grass courts change drastically over 2 weeks and while they are slick and fast in the beginning, the grass wears out from use towards the end resulting in the courts getting slower and letting the balls bounce higher. Which is why, in this age of baseliners, we see upsets in the first few days of Wimbledon.
- Which then leads to why Rafa is always more vulnerable at the beginning of Wimbledon. This time he skipped Halle too so his first match on grass was yesterday. Once he survives the first few days he becomes much stronger and by the time the QFs come around he’s all set. But for the past 2 Wimbledons now, he’s been caught before he’s had a chance to find his groove.
- With Rafa going out in the first round it renders those tedious seedings debate almost moot. With the 5th seed gone, each quarter has a top 4 left and the window is wide open as to who might face Roger in the QFs should he get there. I wonder what McEnroe has to say now about this issue he so vociferously spoke out about.
- Rafa’s movement was impaired and his energy levels were low which lead me to think perhaps he had overdone it the past 5 months. He packed in 9 tournaments from February to May. In contrast Wimbledon is Federer’s 9th tourney this year which started with the Australian Open in January. But I think either consciously or inadvertently Rafa and his team are taking his scheduling style back to a few decades ago. Back when their used to be specialists and they picked which tournaments to enter according to their preference and that included Grand Slams. The Australian Open was neglected for many years by a whole generation. Nikolay Davydenko pulled out of Wimbledon this year because he wanted to continue focusing on clay and a month of grass was just going to get in the way. It seemed strange to hear that but this continuity of the top players playing every tourney is a recent phenomenon. It was possible by the slowing down the courts so most players can play all surfaces. But Rafa’s decision to focus on his beloved clay entirely, leaving no energy or time for grass, shows there’s still an opportunity for players to specialize.
- If you look at Rafa’s results, you cannot fault him for his decision. He played 8 clay and 1 hard court tournament, reached the finals of all and won 7 of them including a Grand Slam. He’s already accrued enough points this year to be the first one to qualify for the World Tour Finals at the end. He could sit on a beach in Mallorca from now till the end of the year and still be able to show up in London in November. The question is whether this packed clay season was an aberration because of the injury lay off last year or whether this pattern will continue for Rafa’s career from now on. Time will tell but it’s an interesting idea especially when contrasting it with Roger’s scheduling style as well.
I’ll end right here since Day 2 is already starting. I wonder if we’ll see some more upsets today….hmmmm.
EDIT as of 26the June: Wimbledon has banned Roger’s orange soled shoes. Here is an article about this in detail. He will probably wear the original platinum ones we thought he would. I hope the shoes have the ‘RF’ logo and the ‘7’ on them 😦 . Although I think the orange shoes will soar in popularity now as “The Forbidden Shoes of Wimbledon”. So the Maestro wins anyway 😉