The middle Sunday at Wimbledon has historically been a day of rest; unless rain has wreaked havoc with the scheduling. This year it gives everyone a chance to catch their breath. The first week of the 2012 Wimbledon Championships has seen twenty of the thirty two men’s seeds crash out, eight of those fell at the first hurdle and the biggest shock of all was a certain Spaniard’s early exit from SW19.
The tone was set on day one. Tomas Berdych has been in sparkling form all year, indeed some tipped the world number seven to give Djokovic a real test in the quarter finals. He was last on Centre Court against Ernests Gulbis of Latvia, ranked eighty seven in the world. Gulbis has always had the talent on the tennis court; he beat Federer in 2010 and has reached the quarter finals of the French Open. However a lack of motivation and recent form led many to predict an easy match for Berdych. Instead Gulbis won three tie-breaks in a row and gave us the first big shock of Wimbledon 2012. This was followed on day one by the big serving John Isner also being dumped out. The eleventh seed was facing Alejandro Falla in the first round, a clay court specialist. The man from Columbia defeated Isner in five gruelling sets and another seed tipped for a good run at Wimbledon was out. Andreas Seppi and Marcel Granollers, the twenty third and twenty fourth seed respectively, both lost 8-6 in the fifth set and left us at the end of day one with four seeds already gone.
Day two saw more seeds with grass court pedigree playing their last match of Wimbledon 2012. Fourteenth seed Feliciano Lopez and twentieth seed Bernard Tomic, both quarter finalists last year, lost in four sets. Lopez lost to tour veteran Jarkko Nieminen and Tomic’s conqueror was the talented youngster David Goffin. South Africa’s Kevin Anderson lost to Grigor Dimitrov and thirty two seeds were down to twenty five after just two days.
Day three saw a quiet day for seeds, with most progressing through their matches comfortably. Federer, Djokovic, Roddick and others all marched through with minimum fuss. Only one seed fell and that was Stanislas Wawrinka in his rain affected first round match. His loss to Jurgen Melzer meant that with all round one matches completed a total of eight seeds had fallen.
Day four was the most shocking of all. It started with the thirteenth seed Gilles Simon losing to Xavier Malisse, then Alexandr Dolgopolov fell to Benoit Paire in three sets. However these were not big upsets as Malisse has reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon in 2002 and Dolgopolov has not been in good form recently. The drama unfolded on Centre Court, where the world number one hundred played the game of his life. Lukas Rosol beat Rafael Nadal in five sets and sent shockwaves through the tennis world. It is the first time Nadal has lost in the second round of any Grand Slam since he did the same here in 2005. From that time Nadal has improved a lot on grass; cementing this result as possibly one of the greatest upsets ever witnessed on the lawns at Wimbledon.
Day five saw the repercussions of the Nadal result. The underdogs started to believe they could beat their higher ranked opponents. Julien Benneteau took the first two sets against Federer and everyone was wondering if lightning could strike twice. Federer went on to survive but he had an almighty struggle and came within two points of losing. Malisse scored another scalp when he knocked out seventeenth seed Verdasco of Spain, Mikhail Youzhny defeated eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic and, perhaps most surprisingly, much fancied Milos Raonic fell to Sam Querrey.
Day six saw just two seeds lose and they were to higher seeded opponents. So the upsets were on pause, at least until Monday where the battle will recommence in the fourth round, where incredibly eight of the top fifteen seeds did not make it through.
Another fantastic underdog story of Wimbledon 2012 has been the rise of Brian Baker. The American was one of the top juniors in his age group, where in 2003 he reached the boy’s French Open final. However injuries have blighted him and he has been sidelined for six years for five different surgeries. He has given the ATP tour one last shot, putting his job of assistant coach at an American University on hold. The results so far have been incredible. In Nice he qualified and finished runner up to World number eleven Nicolas Almagro, along the way he beat Gael Monfils and Nikolay Davydenko. He won a round at the French Open, beating Xavier Malisse in straight sets, before losing to thirteenth seed Gilles Simon. On his Wimbledon debut at age 27 he has reached the fourth round, winning three qualifying matches and three in the main draw. He now faces twenty seventh seed Phillip Kohlschreiber for a place in the last eight.
One of the reasons for the amount of underdog victories can be attributed to the surface. The grass is not as quick as it used to be but players struggle to transition from clay to grass. As the grass season is only three weeks long it doesn’t give players time to find their game. Another reason is that traditionally the grass plays quicker in the first week. This means high seeds can be at risk to opponents who go for their shots, as we saw when Lukas Rosol blasted Nadal off the court.
The second week promises to be another seven days of great tennis. In the bottom half of the draw there is guaranteed to be a first time Wimbledon finalist due to Nadal’s departure. Picking who it is going to be is difficult, even more so after how the first week panned out. Most agree it should be between home favourite Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. In the top half of the draw all signs point to another Federer - Djokovic semi-final.
Home fans are dreaming of Andy Murray’s first ever Grand Slam win, that task is a little easier now Nadal has been removed from his draw. However there are still fifteen other players who all will want to have a say on where the trophy will end up. Judging on the first week’s results, we are no closer to knowing who will become Wimbledon Champion for 2012; there could be a few more twists in the tale yet.