by Randy Walker
Rennae Stubbs, the former standout women’s doubles player now TV commentator, said at the start of the broadcast of Olympic tennis on Bravo television in the United States that Wednesday’s schedule at Olympic tennis at Wimbledon “could be the greatest ticket ever in tennis.” It was not far from the truth as fans lucky enough to be at the tennis venue at the All England Club Wednesday were treated to over nine hours of mesmerizing tennis from the biggest stars in the sport. Here are the top 10 highlights from the day.
* John Isner set up a blockbuster match-up with No.1 seed and seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer in the quarterfinals of men’s singles with a 7-5, 7-6 (16-14) win over Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia. Federer will look to avenge his surprise loss to Isner from this year’s Davis Cup first round in Fribourg, Switzerland, Isner taking out Federer 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2 in the USA’s 5-0 sweep of the Swiss. With the re-sodded Wimbledon courts playing soft and slippery, it may give a slight advantage to Isner and his more unpredictable serve. However, Federer’s serve deserves just as much consideration under these conditions. Steve Flink, the respected tennis journalist and historian, curiously rated Federer and Isner’s serve in a tie for fifth all-time in his new book THE GREATEST TENNIS MATCHES OF ALL TIME, available here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Greatest-Tennis-Matches-Time/dp/0942257936/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343849544&sr=8-1&keywords=greatest+tennis+matches+of+all+time. At the 2008 Olympics in Beijng, Federer was also the No. 1 seed and also played an American in the quarterfinals – losing to James Blake 6-4, 7-6 (2).
* Playing on Switzerland’s national day – equivalent to the Fourth of July in the United States – Federer advanced into his quarterfinal match with Isner with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan. It also marked the 10-year anniversary to the day of the death of Federer’s early coach and good friend Peter Carter, who died in a car accident in South Africa in 2002.
* Andy Murray, the No. 3 seed, kept his medal hopes alive, coming back from losing in the first set to defeat Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. The two played a memorable – and historic – third-round match at Wimbledon a month ago, Murray winning 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 in a match that finished at 11:02 pm, the latest finishing match in Wimbledon history. “It makes a big difference,” said Murray to Bravo’s Justin Gimelstob of the advantage he gets when playing in front of the British public. “Every time I play on Centre Court, I seem to play my best tennis.” Next up for Murray is Spain’s Nicolas Almagro and a potentially a semifinal showdown with No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic, who escaped an upset bid by former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt of Australian 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 Wednesday.
* Federer and Stan Wawrinka, the defending gold medalists in men’s doubles, were upset in the second round by the Israeli pair of Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich 1-6, 7-6(5). 6-3. The Israelis will next face No. 1 seeds Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan of the United States. The other major upset on the day came with No. 4 seed David Ferrer of Spain was defeated by No. 15 Kei Nishkori of Japan 6-0, 3-6, 6-4, the last game of the match being played under the Wimbledon roof lights due to darkness. Nishkori will next face Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina for the right to play the Federer-Isner winner in the semifinals.
* Kim Clijsters, playing in the second to last tournament of her career, is, surprisingly, getting very little attention at the 2012 tennis event. The very popular Belgian, who has reached all major singles finals of her career except for Wimbledon, quietly moved into the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-4 win over former No. 1 and current No. 11 seed Ana Ivanovic of Serbia. Clijsters will end her career later this month at the US Open, a tournament she has won three times.
* Maria Sharapova, playing in her first Olympic Games, avenged her fourth-round loss to Sabine Lisicki from Wimbledon a month ago, defeating the German 6-7(8), 6-4, 6-3. Sharapova played with as much enthusiasm and passion as many observers can remember, exuberantly pumping her fist when winning big points in the match. Next up for the Russian is Clijsters in the quarterfinals. Clijsters actually leads the head-to-head with Sharapova 5-3, but has lost three of the last four matches in straight sets.
* In the first Olympic mixed doubles match in 88 years, Sam Stosur and Lleyton Hewitt of Australia defeated Poland’s Agnieska Radwanska and Marcin Matkowski 6-3, 6-3. Also completing a mixed doubles match Wednesday were Wimbledon champs Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond of the United States who defeated Italy’s Sara Errani and Andreas Seppi 7-5, 6-3. Mixed doubles was last competed at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, Titanic survivor Dick Williams of the U.S. pairing with Hazel Wightman to win gold.
* The Olympic singles career of 2000 gold medalist Venus Williams may have come to a close in her 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) third-round loss to Angelique Kerber of Germany. At age 32, ranked No. 72 in the world, playing in her fourth Olympic Games, and suffering the energy-draining disease Sjogren syndrome, it is difficult to see Williams competing again in another four years. However, many have learned never to underestimate a Williams sister. Said Venus to Jon Wertheim on Bravo TV after her loss, “Hopefully there is 2016 for me.” She and sister Serena Williams are still in contention for a third Olympic gold medal in women’s doubles.
* Calling an indoor grass court at Wimbledon her “dream court,” Serena Williams blitzed into quarterfinals of women’s singles defeating former world No. 2 Vera Zvonareva of Russia 6-1, 6-0. Williams fired 12 aces and hit 32 winners – compared to just three winners from Zvonareva – in her 51 minute rout that was played under the Wimbledon roof due to early rain at the All England Club. “Indoors, grass. It is doesn’t get better for me,” said Williams post-match to Bravo. Next up in the quarterfinals for Williams is former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, who defeated Williams earlier this year 6-4, 6-4 at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Williams, however, won the last meeting on the blue clay of Madrid 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.
* In men’s doubles, Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares of Brazil finished off a record-setting win over No. 5 seed Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic, winning, 1-6, 6-4, 24-22 in 4 hours 21 minutes, after the match resumed at 18-18 final set. The match featured the longest-ever three-set men’s doubles match in terms of number of games (63) in Olympic Tennis Event history. The third set (46 games) was also the longest-ever men’s doubles set at the Olympics. The match concluded the day after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France and Milos Raonic of Canada played a record-breaking men’s singles match, Tsonga winning 6-3, 3-6, 25-23 in 3 hours, 56 minutes in the longest set, longest three-set match in games and longest men’s singles match in time in Olympic history. To read more about all Olympic tennis records anecdotes and results, download the Amazon.com KINDLE ebook OLYMPIC TENNIS: AN HISTORICAL SNAPSHOT available for $2.99 here:http://www.amazon.com/Olympic-Tennis-Historical-Snapshot-ebook/dp/B008EOXW40/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1343757296&sr=1-1&keywords=olympic+tennis+randy+walker