An overcast, intermittent, fine-rainy kind of day conspired to shred the day three order of play at Wimbledon.
There has not been a complete rain-out at Wimbledon since June 26, 2004, but Wednesday, June 29, 2016, while never really threatening to be a total wash-out, was bad enough to delay Genie Bouchard’s first-round start by about seven hours and altogether wipe out Milos Raonic’s second-rounder against Andreas Seppi.
Intended to be the second match on Court 12 after an 11:30 a.m. start, Bouchard wound up being shifted to Centre Court and finally hitting a first ball there under the roof at 8:16 p.m.
She led 6-3, 2-1 when the match resumed from Tuesday and, though she fell behind 15-40 serving in the first game, she rallied to win it and take a 3-1 lead. Soon she had wrapped up matters with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over the No. 94-ranked Rybarikova.
There were a few hiccups in the very last game as she seemed to tremble on the brink of victory – having to save four break points. But finally (celebrating above) she finished off the 73-minute (overall total) encounter with an ambitious forehand swing volley into an open court that was called out but eventually overruled by a Hawk-Eye challenge showing that the ball landed right on the baseline.
“I thought it was out,” a smiling Bouchard said. “I almost didn’t challenge. Then I was like, ‘okay it’s match point. I have to challenge.’
“I was honestly very surprised. She (Rybarikova) thought it was out, as well. I think everyone did. I don’t know. Luckily the gods were with me on that point so it worked out.”
The unlikely final point was the culmination of a long day filled with waiting for Bouchard – eating in snippets, lying on a couch, listening to Beyonce etc.
But finally, after a match between Belinda Bencic and Tsvetana Pironkova had finished, she and Rybarikova got the call to Centre Court.
“It was an amazing feeling, of course, walking out there,” Bouchard said. “But really, really weird and crazy to change courts in the middle of a match on a different day. And to change courts not just to a regular court, to Centre Court at Wimbledon is very unique.
“It was definitely hard to kind of get your bearings a little bit to be in the middle of a match in that situation.”
The move to Centre Court proved fruitful and also evocative of her last match there – the 2014 final vs. Petra Kvitova. Asked if it had seemed surreal, Bouchard responded, “that is exactly the word I was thinking when I got off the court. ‘Wow that’s surreal.’ The same lady that walked me out for the final two years ago walked us out. And after the match we talked about those memories, as well, because that is my first time since the final.
“When I walked out, I kind of had a vision of the final with the full crowd and everything. Amazing memories – every time I go out there it’s an honour.”
Bouchard will get to experience the same sensations on Thursday as she is scheduled to play No. 16 seed Johanna Konta in the third match on Centre Court following two men’s matches – Julien Benneteau v Kei Nishikori and Yen-Hsun Lu v Andy Murray (at roughly noon – 2 p.m. EDT in Canada). The delays and late hour of Wednesday’s match meant Centre Court was only about one-fifth full for the Bouchard match but there should be a capacity crowd for Thursday’s second-rounder on a day with a much better weather forecast.
Konta, 25, has made a dramatic rise in 2016 – starting the year ranked No. 47, she is currently at No. 19.
It will be an initial meeting for the two, and will definitely be in front of a pro-Konta crowd as she is the first British woman seeded at Wimbledon since Jo Durie in 1984.
“I’m very excited,” Bouchard said about the prospect of playing the 5-foot-11 Konta, who lives in Eastbourne but was born in Sydney, Australia. “It’s always interesting to play a new player you haven’t played, (someone) who hits a different kind of ball. Every player has something different. I know that this is her house so I know there’ll be a good atmosphere.”
About facing a partisan crowd, she added, “when everybody is against me I want to show them what I can do. But the best thing is for the fans to enjoy it – whether they’re for her or for me.”
Bouchard said she is well aware of Konta’s rise in 2016. Konta, on the other hand, is not misled by Bouchard’s current No. 48 ranking. “She’s an incredibly good player,” the Brit said. “That doesn’t change on where her ranking is. She’s always a dangerous player to play against.”
On improvements she will have to make in her game for Thursday’s match, Bouchard said, “just to keep my concentration a little better. There were a few moments today when I made a lot of errors. But we had to wait a long time today so if it’s not like that tomorrow maybe that will help me.”
Konta, on Wednesday, finished off a 6-4, 7-5 win over No. 36-ranked Monica Puig, who has been an in-form player of late.
Rybarikova – 12 winners and 21 unforced errors – didn’t seem to be at full fitness against Bouchard, sporting lots of tape on her right knee and ankle and a strapping on her left wrist.
Konta will likely require a step up from the 22-year-old Montrealer, something she is capable of doing playing at the event that she has always maintained she values more than any other in the tennis world.
Raonic may have won his previous match with Seppi in Davis Cup in 2013 but there are reasons for him to be wary of the No. 45-ranked Italian this time.
Seppi is over a hip injury that kept him out of action for seven weeks – but which did not require surgery – between the Miami Open in March and the Italian Open in May.
He has a career record of 47-34 on grass and reached the semifinals in Nottingham last week before losing to eventual winner Steve Johnson. The 32-year-old Italian has a career title on grass – Eastbourne in 2011 and was a finalist at the same tournament the following year. He was also runner-up to Roger Federer in Halle on grass in 2015.
The most memorable match of his career was his 6-4, 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(5) upset of Federer 18 months ago in the third round of the 2015 Australian Open.
Thursday’s match will be played on 1,980-seat No. 3 Court and is second-on following a women’s singles. It should start about 8:30 a.m. EDT in Canada.
On his recent form, it’s Raonic’s match to win but Seppi is an experienced enough competitor to make it a genuine challenge for him.
Roger Federer had faults – surely – but the man many think is the greatest of all-time is often almost too good to be true.
On Wednesday, after a 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 772-ranked, storybook British qualifier Marcus Willis, Federer was his usual accommodating self with the media.
Right off the court, in a rather telling remark that suggested his hopes may not be that high this year, he said about fighting off a late challenge by Willis, “I had the pressure on my shoulders – even though this was supposed to be the pressure-free tournament.”
Later in his full media conference, he was asked what advice he would have for the heretofore obscure 25-year-old Willis, the Cinderella story of the 2016 Wimbledon.
His reply: “Well, I think for anybody in this ranking…whatever, let’s say from 300 to 2000, it’s really important to set yourself goals, short‑term, long‑term, how many tournaments to play? when to practice?
“Sometimes I feel like these players lose sight of how important practice is. Matches you can play every week on tour. It’s very misleading sometimes where you just think, ‘well this next week could be the breakthrough. Well, could be next week if I lose first round.’
“You just keep on plugging away and you just hope. But that’s not how you’re going to improve. A few years go by, you sometimes lose interest, you don’t love it anymore because you actually haven’t been looking at the big picture.
“Had your vacation. The body needs healing. The mind needs resting as well. Getting the right schedule, number one. Getting the right team for practice, where you’re going to train, who you’re going to train with, the surface. Listen to good advice, put your head down, work hard. Enjoy it while you can because it runs away very quickly.”
Federer was candid and thoughtful in English, and the same later in French and Swiss German as well. It was to the point that veteran Italian tennis writer Ubaldo Scanagatta said to him as he was about to exit the room, “congratulations Roger, you were in great form – and I’m talking about the press conference.”
“Thank you,” the 17-time Grand Slam champion replied, “I tried to do my best.”
Milos flexes and serves
Here’s a nice piece on Milos Raonic’s serve. It will interest those intrigued by the mechanics of his mighty motion – as well as those who appreciate a buff body.
Wimbledon post card
This sign appeared outside a restaurant in Wimbledon Village before the 2016 edition of Wimbledon began. Everyone gets caught up in the spirit of the event over the two weeks – and the shops and dining spots obviously get a significant boost in customers.