Wimbledon Daily Dispatch: Day Two Sees Blockbuster Nadal-Kyrgios Match-up Set, Sharapova, Thiem Crash Out
By Thomas Cluck
(July 2, 2019) A beaming British summer sun, tennis stars galore, royalty, upsets, and a debut of a new roof: all just part of a routine Wimbledon day. Day two of The Championships saw some of the sport’s biggest stars begin their 2019 campaigns in London, with defending women’s champion Angelique Kerber, eight-time champion Roger Federer, and seven-time champion Serena Williams leading an action-packed Tuesday Order of Play at the All England Club.
Setting the stage for two days from now was third seed Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios, booking a juicy and glorious second-round meeting on Thursday that will be sure to captivate the tennis world and the Centre Court crowd following their respective opening wins on Tuesday.
For Nadal, the two-time champion at SW19 made routine work of Japan’s Yuichi Suigita, following up his French Open title three weeks earlier and getting in his first official match on the grass this season in his 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 victory.
Far less routine and far more dramatic, Kyrgios enthralled the No. 3 Court crowd for all three hours and 26 minutes of his roller coaster five-set victory over fellow Australian Jordan Thompson 7-6, 3-6, 7-6, 0-6, 6-1 to book his date with Nadal on Thursday. Fading from the brilliant to the lackadaisical and back throughout the match, the unseeded Kyrgios simultaneously showed the raw talent and power that could catapult to an upset of anyone and multiple Grand Slam titles in his future while also revealing just why 2019 has been such a disastrous season for him, with the disaster winning out over triumphs more often this year.
Ultimately winning the match, it didn’t take long for Kyrgios’ mind to immediately switch towards focusing on the next round, a rematch with Rafa after the then 19 year-old Kyrgios stunned world number one Nadal on Centre Court way back in 2014.
“He’s one of the greatest tennis players of all time. I go into that match as an unbelievable underdog,” said Kyrgios.
“I have to come with the right attitude, I have to be willing to fight. If not, it’s going to be butter for him He’s one of the best tennis players.”
While striking a respectful tone today in his post-match news conference, the history between Kyrgios and Nadal has only heated up in the last season, with the two trading jabs following Kyrgios’ upset in Acapulco in February and again later in May during an interview the Australian gave.
“I think everyone just goes about their business the way they are. I think that the sport has a serious problem with that,” commented Kyrgios, alluding to the polar opposite nature of his rivalry with Nadal.
“Not sure that me and Rafa could go down to the Dog & Fox [Pub] and have a beer together. We have a mutual respect but that’s about it,” explained Kyrgios, who referred to Nadal as ‘salty’ following his Acapulco victory back in February.
Asked directly in the post-match interview about Kyrgios’ comments on Nadal and other players during a highly-controversial interview with Kyrgios and journalist Ben Rothenberg on the No Challenges Remaining podcast back in May, Nadal simply said “I’m too old for all that stuff.” On Thursday and surely on Centre Court, it’ll be the tennis doing the talking.
Two of the biggest upsets of day two came back-to-back on No. 2 Court, nicknamed the ‘Graveyard of Champions’, on Tuesday afternoon, with recent Roland Garros runner-up Dominic Thiem falling to powerful American Sam Querrey and 2004 winner Maria Sharapova’s injury woes continuing, crashing out to France’s Pauline Parmentier after a final-set retirement.
Still adapting his powerful game and big, loopy groundstrokes to the faster conditions of grass court tennis, Thiem found Querrey too much to handle following two very tight opening sets before the American ran away with the win 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-0.
“There’s still things which are not easy. Last year and this year together, I played four grass-court matches, which is not a lot at all. And the clay-court season takes a lot out of me,” said Thiem.
“I gave everything I had physically and also mentally in the six weeks up to the end of the French Open. Then I had to take the decision to come here without any preparation.”
It was déjà vu all over again for five-time major winner Sharapova, falling in the first round of Wimbledon for the second-straight year on No. 2 Court after squandering a set and 5-2 lead, this time not even able to finish the deciding set, having to retire down 6-4, 6-7, 0-5 to Parmentier with a left forearm injury. After having not played much of any tennis in 2019 due to a shoulder injury, the re-occurrence of the flared-up forearm will leave Sharapova with more injury woes and questions about her own comeback now two years on from returning to tennis in 2017.
It was a happy return however to Wimbledon and Centre Court for defending champion Angelique Kerber, opening play on Tuesday as tradition dictates and getting her title defense started with a high-quality victory over tricky German veteran Tatjana Maria 6-4, 6-3.
“’I was really nervous, to be honest, because of course to [go] out there as the defending champion, it was really special,” said Kerber.
“Walking on the Centre Court, playing there again, I mean, a lot of emotions, a lot of memories.”
There was a slight scare for Roger Federer and the packed Centre Court crowd to begin his opening-round match Tuesday, dropping the first set to unknown South African Lloyd Harris before recovering to win in four 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
“I didn’t feel necessarily nervous at all during the day before. I think once I got going, just legs weren’t moving and things were not happening,” said Federer on his slow start.
No such slow start but a tough finish came for Serena Williams in the evening on Centre Court, securing a win in her first grass court match of the year 6-2, 7-5 over Italian journeywoman Giulia Gatto-Monticone, who certainly made the 23-time Grand Slam champion work for it.
Asked about her difficult 2019 season and the injuries and lack of matches this year, Williams said “I think right now I have to have every match count, like, ten matches, because I haven’t had a ton of matches this year.”
“I can actually use my legs now. It’s been a while,” commented Williams. “It’s all coming back, hopefully fast.”
It was a successful debut as the newly-minted world No. 1 for top seed and French Open champion Ashleigh Barty, handling China’s Zheng Saisai with ease on No. 1 Court 6-4, 6-2. Showing no signs of nerves, Barty strutted her grass-court prowess and ultra confidence on the court she won her junior Wimbledon title eight years ago.
“It feels incredible. It’s a little bit of a bizarre feeling, to be honest. But I just try and go about my business the exact same way,” said Barty.
“This hallowed turf that we do get to play on is sacred, it’s beautiful. And you have to enjoy every minute,” commented the Australian.
Fresh off a career-best clay-court season, including a run to the Roland Garros semifinals, British No. 1 and home hope Johanna Konta showed no nerves either, handling the high expectations for her well in her opener with the 7-5, 6-2 with over Romanian Ana Bogdan.
“I think first rounds are always tricky in any tournament, but especially Slams. So I think it was just finding my feet and also for her a little bit, as well, I think we were just both trying to find the best level that we could,” explained Konta.
There was even more great news for the home British fans to cheer for on day two, this time off the courts as two-time singles champion Andy Murray, returning to the tour following a hip resurfacing surgery earlier this year, confirmed he would add the mixed doubles to his men’s doubles entry at Wimbledon, partnering up with none other than quite possibly the greatest tennis player of all-time, Serena Williams.
Murray’s agent, Matt Gentry, confirmed the partnership late Tuesday evening in London ahead of the mixed doubles draw reveal later this week.
“If I’m going to play mixed, which is the plan, you obviously want to be playing with someone who’s going to be there for the whole event, and they’re in it to try to win matches and win the event,” said Murray over the weekend.
“I appreciate with singles players that’s not always going to be the case. Yeah, I mean, obviously she’s arguably the best player ever. It would be a pretty solid partner.”
“Serena is obviously a brilliant player, has a great doubles record, and is brilliant on grass obviously,” commented Murray. “She’s arguably the best player ever.”
“His work ethic is just honestly off the charts. That’s something I’ve always respected about him. His fitness, everything,” said Williams.
“To do what he’s done in an era where there’s so many other great male tennis players, so much competition, to rise above it, not many people have done it. He’s actually one of the few.”