Serena vs. Roger highlights Hopman Cup

We’re still nearly three months away.

But the launch of the 2019 Hopman Cup already has targeted the big day: New Year’s Day 2019.

That’s when Team Switzerland takes on Team USA.

And that means that two of the best of all time, Roger Federer and Serena Williams, will square off on court in mixed doubles.

Those are two pretty big gets for the exhibition event, which could well be in its final edition if the new ATP team event starts up, as planned, in 2020.

So if this is the finale, that’s quite a way to go.

Federer will again team up with Belinda Bencic to defend their 2018 title. Williams will pair with young countryman Frances Tiafoe, making his first appearance.

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Young, attractive field

If the field appears, at first glance, to lack a little star power (having those two legends is already enough), tournament director Paul Kilderry did point out that it includes four Grand Slam singles champions (Angelique Kerber and Garbiñe Muguruza are the others), three top-10 players (Federer, Zverev, Kerber) and eight top-20 players.

Already announced was the new “it” tennis couple from Greece, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari.

From Great Britain, no Andy Murray or Johanna Konta. Instead, they’ll have the duo of Cameron Norrie and Katie Boulte – an impossibly good-looking combo.

With Muguruza will be … David Ferrer. And you thought the 36-year-old, currently ranked No. 147 and playing a Challenger in Monterrey, was done? Apparently not.

You’d have to think, if he’s going all the way Down Under, that Ferrer plans to play one more Australian Open as well. Perhaps that’s why he’s still out there on the Challenger circuit this week, trying to squeeze into the Melbourne main draw.

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The 2017 finalists, Switzerland and Germany, return intact this year.

Barty and Ebden for Australia

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The teaming of brother-sister combo Marat Safin and Dinara Safina was long-awaited in 2009. But big brother celebrated the pairing a little early in a Moscow bar, before heading down to Perth. LEGEND.

Our thinking was that the most glam matchup for the home team would have been the off-field couple, Nick Kyrgios and Ajla Tomljanovic.

It’s always an extra bit of fun when real-life couples play mixed doubles together.

Absent that, they’ve come up with top Aussie woman Ashleigh Barty and 30-year-old Matthew Ebden, who’s ranked fourth in the country behind Kyrgios, young Alex de Minaur and John Millman.

The French team of Lucas Pouille and Alizé Cornet, who won the event in 2014 with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, are in the field.

Kerber and Zverev, last year’s finalists, also team up again and have by far the best combined ranking in the field.

Draws already done

To be able to start promoting Serena vs. the Fed, you had to have the round-robin draw done.

And so it is. Looks like Group B is the tougher group. But only one of those tandems can make the final.

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Dec. 29 kickoff with the Greeks

The schedule is here. The proceedings kick off with Great Britain vs. Greece on Saturday, Dec. 29 (coming up before you know it).

There is no session on New Year’s Eve evening or on New Year’s Day. The event always has a pretty fantastic New Year’s Eve party – and they definitely have the field to gussy it up.  (Remember when Marat Safin showed up after a rough night back home in Moscow, his face all bruised up?)

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The Maui Jim pair will team up in Perth, a farewell tour for the 36-year-old Ferrer. (Photo: Madrid Open)

The USA vs. Switzerland tussle will be New Year’s night.

New this year at the event, it’s free kids’ ticket day for all day sessions.

You hope this isn’t really, truly the last-ever Hopman Cup. The event has been around since 1989, when Czechoslovakia’s (!!!) Helena Sukova and Miloslav Mecir defeated Australia’s (!!) … Hana Mandlikova and Pat Cash in the final.

(Mandlikova’s Aussie citizenship didn’t last nearly as long as the event).

Here’s their history roll, with some classic pics.

It’s built up a lovely tradition. And the players seem to have a blast playing it. No doubt this year they’ll have a lovely tribute to Lucy Hopman, the wife of the legendary Aussie coach for whom the event is named. Hopman passed away during the US Open, at the age of 98.

A Florida resident, she made it to Perth every year until 2018, when she was 94.

Progress …

Haggerty-approved

If you wanted to hear from ITF president David Haggerty – the Hopman Cup is under the ITF umbrella – here is his requisite press release quote.

“We are delighted once again to see such a strong entry for the 2019 Mastercard Hopman Cup, the ITF’s mixed team competition, at the start of the new tennis season. The ITF team competitions, which also include Davis Cup by BNP Paribas and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, give players a special opportunity to represent their countries, one that they value long after their playing days are over,” Haggerty said.

“Hopman Cup also offers fans a unique chance to see some of the game’s biggest names team up to play mixed doubles, which remain some of the most popular matches of the week. I would like to recognize our title sponsor Mastercard, and all the other sponsors and partners who continue to support the Hopman Cup.”

Looks like he got ALL the sponsors covered there. As one does.

November Davis Cup, September Laver Cup – for good?

The tug of war among organizations that run men’s tennis has seemingly just begun.

But in an interview in the Swiss newspaper Blick, longtime Roger Federer agent Tony Godsick appears to shed light on one pressing conflict.

It’s one Godsick says is resolved. But if it is, it’s to the satisfaction of … only a few.

“Gerard Piqué, the organizer and investor, told me that the final week of the Davis Cup will take place in November for the next five to 10 years. In any case, we are sticking to our date,” Godsick told the newspaper.

That’s quite the major tidbit, right there.

And if it’s true, it would have significant implications.

November
To add another interest twist to the smorgasbord, the Laver Cup (Godsick on the far left) is in business with Tennis Australia, which is part of the ITF, which voted no on the Davis Cup changes and which is also working with the ATP to host its own team event in January.

Players – and Piqué – want September

Shortly after the fateful vote at the International Tennis Federation AGM in Orlando, Fla. last August, an article in Le Figaro quoted Piqué about moving the historic November date.

“The final was to take place in November. But after having spoken to most of the players, a large portion prefer the Davis Cup to take place in September. At the end of the day, I hope to put together a competition that fits what they’re hoping for. These are the most important people in the tennis world. Without players, there’s no sport. I’m thinking of Nadal, Cilic, Zverev, Djokovic … etc. All of them prefer September to November,” Piqué told the newspaper.

Notable among Piqué’s player “omissions” was … Federer.

RIP Davis Cup, after 118 years

No Piqué Cup: Federer

The face of the Laver Cup, Federer fired the first warning shot at the US Open. It was a masterpiece of passive-aggressive pecking order proclamation.

“I have not spoken to Gerard Piqué yet. But I admit that it’s a bit odd to see a footballer arrive and meddle in the tennis business. Be careful: the Davis Cup should not become the Piqué Cup,” Federer said.

Godsick has a vested interest in the success of the Laver Cup. (And we don’t believe anybody any more). So we’ll see if Piqué confirms the promise allegedly made in that conversation.

The Telegraph reported that following the vote in Orlando, Federer and Godsick’s management company “rejected a deal which would allow the Davis Cup finals to move from late November to late September, swapping positions in the calendar with the Laver Cup.”

November
Kosmos Tennis’ Piqué poses with ITF president David Haggerty, an American who is … the former president of the USTA. (Photo: Kosmos Tennis)

The Telegraph also reported that, alternatively, Kosmos wanted to move the new Davis Cup finals ahead, to the week after the US Open. That’s the week the semifinals were played this year. But it’s also the week before the Laver Cup. So just as this year (when before his injury, Nadal chose Davis Cup over Laver Cup), that doesn’t eliminate the scheduling conflict.

That idea was “warned off by the United States Tennis Association, which didn’t want another big event competing so closely with its own chief moneyspinner,” the Telegraph reported.

If the November date is indeed a done deal, those players Piqué mentioned will not be happy. And those are players they need to make the “new” Davis Cup a success. The notion that the new event would bow to the Laver Cup exhibition – which involves just 12 top players, not 90 – also may not go over well.

Alexander Zverev notably has stated unequivocally that he won’t take part in any event held in November. Even his love for Davis Cup and playing for his country won’t supersede his need for an offseason.

“No” to November Davis Cup from Zverev

Federer throwing his weight around

From Federer’s tone in that Telegraph interview, it sounded as though he might start throwing his considerable weight around with the game’s other icons, Djokovic and Nadal, to try to sort out this territorial battle. He said that he looked forward to the unusual opportunity at Laver Cup to spend time with Djokovic, whom he doesn’t know nearly as well as Nadal or others, to start that process.

November
Federer and Djokovic played doubles together at Laver Cup. They also were spotted huddled together in conversation on numerous occasions – and probably no talking about their kids.

“I need to really focus on this subject. I know it’s been around a little bit now, it only happened in Cincinnati. But then you have the US Open and then you have vacation and then you have this (Laver Cup),” he said.  “So I think maybe after (the Laver Cup), and maybe throughout Shanghai, I will be able to really focus and dial in on what are all the moving parts. Because it isn’t simple.”

Nadal wasn’t in Chicago, and won’t be in Shanghai. But Federer suggested he could talk to him on the phone.

The back and forth with this will only increase as the proposed new ATP team event becomes more concrete in the next few months.

For now, if Godsick’s claims are true, the Laver Cup has won the first round.

“Djokerer” will premiere Friday at Laver Cup

When the most highly anticipated moment of a three-day tennis event is two top players teaming up in doubles, you know you’re not on the ATP Tour.

And Team Europe won’t make the fans wait too long.

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will team up for doubles Friday, the second match of the night session on Day 1 of the Laver Cup.

There was a similar moment a year ago, at the event’s inaugural edition in Prague. The pairing of Federer and Rafael Nadal was probably even more anticipated, as inextricably intertwined as they have been during a decade-long rivalry.

It was a little awkward, as most first-time pairings are – especially involving two players with radically different playing styles.

How will Federer and Djokovic work together – Federer playing forehand, Djokovic on the ad side? 

Doesn’t really matter. It’s the novelty of the thing.

The two have done a good job joshing and kibbitzing and pretending they’re good buddies in the leadup to the event. Although you have to ask the question: have they practiced together this week?

Three singles, then Djokerer

The opening day session Friday will be two singles matches. The first will have Team Europe’s Grigor Dimitrov go up against Team World’s Frances Tiafoe.

That will be followed by Kyle Edmund vs. Jack Sock.

The night session singles match will pit David Goffin against Diego Schwartzman.

It’s not exactly a star-studded lineup, with Dimitrov (at No. 7) the only top-10 player. But on the plus side, there will be an American in each match during the day session.

“He’s player with a lot of potential, a player who in a few years can win a Grand Slam,” Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg said of the 27-year-old Dimitrov.

When you see that night singles match, and take into consideration how much they’re charging for the tickets, they almost had no choice but to bring out the two rock stars for the doubles.

“I did have an inkling they would play – I am surprised they would play the first day,” Team World captain John McEnroe said.

Djokerer will take on Sock and Kevin Anderson.

Ahhhh, memories. Will we Djokerer re-enact this moment?

So it seems Sock, who didn’t play Davis Cup last weekend because of a hip issue, has recovered well enough to play singles during the afternoon and doubles late night.

Of course, having a match tiebreak in lieu of a third set, compared to the best-of-five format on red clay the Americans were facing last week in Croatia, makes it a lot easier.

Stakes get higher through the weekend

The way the exhibition format works is that the matches on the first day are worth one point each. On Saturday, they’re worth two points each and as they get down to serious business during the single session on Sunday, a win will be worth three points.

Djokerer
Team Europe is breaking out its “dream team” on Day 1 of the Laver Cup. If it goes to a sudden-death doubles set on Sunday, they could play again (Pic: Laver Cup website)

Friday night could be the only appearance by Djokerer during the weekend – unless the teams are tied 12-12 in points on Sunday. In that case, one set of doubles would be played to declare the victor, and they could jump back in.

The lineups for the two sessions Saturday will be announced an hour after play finishes on Friday.

If you’re in the Chicago area and are of a mind to catch Djokerer, there have been a few extra seats released.

As of 5:30 p.m EDT, there are seven of the “cheapest” left in the upper deck, at $132 plus all the charges. Another 203 remain in the lower bowl, at either $420+ or … $600.

(The 46 tickets remaining for the finale on Sunday range from $720 to $840, with one ducat tidily priced at  … $1,080).

Humidity does in Federer in loss to Millman

NEW YORK – Roger Federer was disheveled, overheated and a little disgruntled Monday night.

And after the Aussie John Millman played the match of his life, in the match of his career, the former champion is out of the US Open in the fourth round.

Tennis fans who who woke up this morning and saw the 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (3) scoreline robably were shocked. If Federer was going to lose in Flushing Meadows, it was surely going to be to Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals, right?

But if they watched any of the match, in which Federer produced a jaw-dropping 76 unforced errors, they wouldn’t be.

Federer said he wasn’t injured. And he didn’t appear to be. He was done in by a factor beyond his control that had affected him very few times in his career: the heat and humidity.

“Was just one of those nights where I guess I felt I couldn’t get air. There was no circulation at all. I don’t know, for some reason I just struggled in the conditions tonight. It’s one of the first times it’s happened to me,” Federer said. “Yeah, it’s uncomfortable. Clearly just keep on sweating more and more and more and more as the match goes on. You lose energy as it goes by.”

Millman, who hails from steamy, humid Brisbane, also was sweating. His black kit was so wet, it was shiny. But after a so-so start where he later said he felt “like a deer in the deadlights”, it rarely showed as he executed a precise, workmanlike game that relies on consistency and dazzling footwork on the baseline.

This was his opportunity. And at age 29, and after all those years spent in tennis’s minor leagues and rehabbing injuries and trying to catch a break, he wasn’t going to let it pass him by.

Should have been up two sets to none

humidity

Nevertheless, Federer was up a set and served for the second set.

But earlier on in that set, a 14 1/2-minute game  in which he missed 18-of-22 first serves (stubbornly continuing to serve to the same spots, unsuccessfully) and saved seven break points was definitely a warning sign.

Federer was up 40-15 on his normally imperturbable serve twice in that set, only to cough it up. He was sweating cupfuls, his hair flopping limply over his Uniqlo headband in a way it rarely does. After the first two sets, his first-serve percentage stood at 36 per cent. Even by the end he never broke 50 per cent, for only the second time ever at the US Open.

“When you feel like that, everything is off … Look, I’ve trained in tougher conditions. I’ve played in the daytime, you know, at 120 (degrees). Some days it’s just not the day where the body can cope with it. I do believe since the roof is on that there is no air circulation in the stadium. I think just that makes it a totally different US Open,” he said. “Plus conditions maybe were playing slower this year on top of it. You have soaking wet pants, soaking wet everything. The balls are in there, too. You try to play. Everything gets slower as you try to hit winners.

“I wish I could have led two sets to love and then maybe the match would be different, you know, and I would find a way, because I did have my chances all the way till the end. It was just tough. I thought John played a great match in difficult conditions,” he added.

Playing your hero, without intimidation

Millman said that he’s not generally a heavy sweater. But he, too, was soaked. Between sets, the ball kids would have to wipe off both baselines after all the dripping.

Federer had a nice smile for Millman at the net. The Aussie was one of the rare veteran players Federer has invited to train with him during tournament prep weeks. And Millman went to Switzerland after losing early at the French Open.

Perhaps that rare opportunity to get to know the man behind the legend worked in the Aussie’s favor a little bit. 

“I look up to him. I really like his team. He’s always been, you know, one of the guys in the locker rooms, we’ll always chat, very approachable. He’s a hero of mine,” he said. “I felt a little bit guilty today because he didn’t have his best day, and that’s for sure. I know that. I’m very aware he didn’t have a great day in the office. Probably to beat him I needed him to have an off day and I needed to have a decent, good day.”

Federer wasn’t the only one to struggle in the heat and humidity Monday, despite the fact that he and Millman played later than anyone else. Djokovic struggled as well. But the Serb got through in straight sets against Joao Sousa.

The sun was long gone by the time Federer and Millman took the court, but it remained stifling. And on this night, Federer’s 37-year-old body couldn’t get on top of it.

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Inexplicable errors by Federer

From 1-0 in the fourth-set tiebreak, Federer made six straight errors. That included back-to-back double-faults on his serve, at 1-2. 

Millman’s match was inspired and clean – 47 winners, 28 unforced errors. Federer’s was a mess, in large part because he went for broke on such a high percentage of the points, trying to end them quickly. The serve-volleying on second serve was a throwback to the 1990s. He pulled out the drop shot more than was prudent in a month’s worth of tough matches, because he lost faith in his groundstrokes so early on.

Federer had 65 winners … and 76 unforced errors. He had 13 aces – but 10 doubles faults (his second-highest total ever in New York). There were some routine volleys on key moments that a more energetic Federer would have crushed by just taking a step or two forward. He couldn’t will his body to take those steps. And he missed alarmingly.

humidityIt has been 10 years since Federer won the US Open. And the logistics were definitely not on his side to break that drought this year, with the visibly slowed-down courts. (Why on earth did they do this, anyway, when it’s always hot and humid here and tough enough on the players?).

No Federer vs. Djokovic

Add in the weather, and a bad day at the office, and an inspired opponent seizing the day. That means that the quarterfinal match between Federer and Djokovic, pointed to since the draw came out 10 days ago, will not happen.

Tickets in the upper tier of Arthur Ashe Stadium Wednesday night, which had been going for $250 on the resale market, had dropped down to $100 by Tuesday morning.

Millman, who was ranked No. 235 a year ago and will be in the top 40 regardless of his result against Djokovic Wednesday, was stoic throughout. When Federer’s last forehand sailed long, he had almost no reaction. He had too much respect for his opponent and assessed the situation with a clear eye. And he’s been through too much to leap up and down as though he’d just won the whole thing.

He took off his sweaty, drippy cap and walked to the net to shake hands. Only for the supporters in his player’s box did Millman have a lopsided smile and a thumb’s up. But only for a moment.

“A couple of shoulder surgeries, a groin surgery. Not so easy. With that you have to start all over again. That’s challenging. It’s challenging financially. It’s challenging physically. And it’s challenging mentally,” he said. 

“But, you know, you do it. And you do all those moments in rehab, you do all that for something like this. It all becomes a little bit more rewarding. I’m just incredibly lucky that I’ve had a great group of people, not just in tennis, but friends and family back home who have helped me stay positive and stay upbeat because there were plenty of moments where I was pretty negative and down on myself.”

At 37, not many major chances remaining

For Federer, the season has been a struggle on a few levels since his impressive run at the Australian Open. Perhaps it all went a bit south when, feeling good physically,  he added the 500-level Rotterdam tournament to his schedule and took back the No. 1 ranking back in February.

The 37-year-old has put a lot of wins up this season. But he’s had some very disappointing losses, some that his younger self would have mercilessly put away in straight sets, but that ended up being disappointments. 

This latest setback, at the Grand Slam he was on some levels pacing himself to do well at through the summer, will be extremely disappointing Had he lost to Djokovic, as he did in the Cincinnati final a few weeks ago, the medicine might not have tasted quite as bitter.

But in 40 previous matches against players ranked out of the top 50 at the US Open, Federer had never lost. Until Monday night.

As he gets towards the end of his career, there are a few too many “firsts” like this. Perhaps there are more to come. But this is how a career winds down – Father Time sort of chips away at it, even as Federer has cheated the old goat for the last few years.

But losing to John Millman in the fourth round of a major? That one is going to sting.

us open Day 8 – Preview

NEW YORK – The final countdown to the most anticipated showdown of this (non-capitalized) us open begins.

But before Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer can meet in a blockbuster quarterfinal, they still have to get through quality opponents in their Labour Day fourth-round matches (click here for the schedule).

The draw gods have been kind to both, with the upsets earlier in the tournament.

Djokovic plays Joao Sousa of Portugal, a 29-year-old who reached the top 30 just before the French Open this year, but who is currently ranked No. 68. 

The seeds in that section were No. 12 Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain, and No. 17 Lucas Pouille of France – a friendly section, to be sure. But Sousa defeated them both in four sets. So he earned his spot. And in his 24th career Grand Slam, he is into the second week for the first time in his career.

The two have met four times, thrice in Grand Slams. And Djokovic has never lost a set. In 11 sets, Sousa has won more than two games only three times – and never more than four.

Federer vs. Millman for a shot at the Djoker

Federer is in a similar situation, as he takes on unseeded Aussie John Millman in a late-night match tonight.

He’s a player Federer referred to as a “hard worker”. He’s not the only one to attach those two words to Millman’s name. And it’s both a blessing and a curse.

It means that players respect his work ethic and determination.

But, for the top players, it also usually means they don’t consider him a major threat, even if they don’t underestimate him.

Millman, also 29, is ranked No. 55, just off a career high reached a month ago. It’s an impressive comeback after a torn groin tendon required surgery in 2017, and back woes held him back at the beginning of this season.

A year ago, Millman was ranked No. 235.

The two have only met once, back in 2015 at Millman’s hometown tournament in Brisbane. Federer prevailed in three sets.

Next-Gen – WTA style

Madison Keys meets No. 29 seed Dominika Cibulkova, and Maria Sharapova meets No. 30 seed Carla Suárez Navarro in fourth-round matches today.

But the match that may light the fire on the women’s side will be between a pair of 20-year-olds.

Both Naomi Osaka of Japan (via New York) and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus are 5-foot-11. And both have had career years this season.

Osaka was the surprise winner at Indian Wells, a big tournament title the reserved 20-year-old may not quite have been ready for. She has just one victory over a top-50 player since then. That came against Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania at Nottingham, just before Wimbledon.

She defeated Laura Siegemund, qualifier Julia Glushko and unseeded Aliaksandra Sasnovich to get to this fourth-round match. That’s a friendly draw; she didn’t have to face No. 11 seed Daria Kasatkina (another young up-and-comer) after Sasnovich took care of her.

Osaka and Kasatkina met in the Indian Wells final back in March.

But it wasn’t so much the level of opponent as the pain Osaka inflicted upon them. She has lost just seven games in three matches – five of them in the first round against Siegemund. And she has a string of three consecutive 6-0 sets on her resumé coming into the match.

Sabalenka on a roll

Sabalenka has had a fine summer. After a breakthrough final in Eastbourne, she was a first-round loser at Wimbledon – it was too big a tournament, too soon. But she took some experience from that.

The bellowing Belarussian has beaten Caroline Wozniacki (Montreal), Karolina Pliskova, Madison Keys and Caroline Garcia (in Cincinnati) and Julia Goerges and Suárez Navarro (on her way to her first career WTA Tour title in New Haven the week before the US Open).

Her first-round match in New York, against Danielle Collins, came quickly afterwards. But instead of a repeat of what happened at Wimbledon, she defeated the American in three sets, and blew away Petra Kvitova in the third round to earn the date with Osaka.

The two are meeting for the first – but definitely not the last – time.

Kyrgios out to his idol, not without high points

NEW YORK – Nick Kyrgios is never going to be what people want him to be – out of obstinacy, if nothing else.

He may “settle down” and maximize his significant gifts some day.

He may not. And he won’t do it because you’re outraged that he doesn’t.

The day-in, day-out grind of piling up match wins in 250s and 500s against players who work harder than he does – but don’t have half his ability – and spending hours in the gym may never not bore him.

He may want more than anyone to get up for big, marquee matchups in the biggest stadiums, like his third-round clash with Roger Federer Saturday at the US Open.

And he may well beat himself up more than anyone who criticizes him, when he can’t summon up enough magic to prevail.

Kyrgios knows when he falls short. The fellow who tries to pretend he doesn’t care when things don’t go right, who flat out gives up sometimes, wants to care. He just hasn’t figured out how to yet.

He’s not patient enough to will himself to hang in there when things are looking grim, hopeful his fortunes will improve. He is, at heart, a pessimist and not an optimist.

On Saturday, Kyrgios met the maestro, his idol. And he fell short. Federer defeated him 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 in a match that turned on a game at 3-3 in the first set.

Kyrgios had four break points in that game, which took more than six minutes after these two speed demons took just 15 minutes to play the first five. He couldn’t make the magic happen.

Federer won the first set, rolled through the second set, and survived the third.

“Pressure. You know, got to the business end of the first set, crucial moment. Played a terrible service game. Didn’t make any first serves. Just it was tough. I knew how important that first set was,” Kyrgios said. 

“He loosened up straightaway after that. He started playing some shots that we all know, you know, he can make. All the pressure was off him. He’s an unbelievable frontrunner. When he gets in front, there’s not much you can do.”

Jaw-dropping shot

The highlight of the match, and perhaps the tournament, was a wraparound shot by Federer midway through the third set.

The 37-year-old sprinted from the baseline, and took advantage of the singles net on Arthur Ashe to drill a flat forehand around the outside of the court perimeter for a winner.

It was a showtime shot by his idol that Kyrgios appreciated to the fullest.

But the difference was this: Kyrgios tried to make eye contact with Federer, tried to draw him into the showtime. But the man with 20 major titles is a wise old goat, and he didn’t bite. Even if, underneath that smooth champion’s veneer, he wouldn’t hate being the showtime guy once in awhile.

“Other guys play the shot you’re supposed to hit, and then if you get beat, you’re, like, ‘Maybe I should have hit Nick’s shot.’ Nick goes the other way around,” Federer said. “He hits that shot, but then if he doesn’t win that point, maybe he tells himself, ‘Well, maybe I should have hit a normal shot.’ It just goes the other way around. And he’s very good at doing these shots, too.”

With John Millman looming in the fourth round and a clear path to a potential showdown with Novak Djokovic in the quarters, Federer was all business.

“I definitely think it was a special one, no doubt about it. … And then there was one more in Dubai against Agassi on break point. I was able to flick a ball. I still don’t know how I did it today,” Federer said of the shot against Agassi. “It went for a lob over him. I don’t know. It was just a massive point on top of it, and it was against Andre.”

(Federer was 23 in that match against Agassi, the same age Kyrgios is now. Agassi, stone-faced after that bit of magic, would turn 35 a couple of months later).

Afterwards, some self-awareness

Kyrgios

Putting aside the major blip involving his mid-match ennui against Pierre-Hugues Hebert, Kyrgios has been professional in so many ways during this Slam. 

He’s done all the sponsors’ things he needs to do on social media. Where he was Mr. Two-Word-and-a-smirk” guy in press in Toronto, he was impressive in his press conferences here. 

His respect for the greats in the game is this little opening into who he is. The kid who aspired, who has mad respect for those who do everything right, wants to be that – on some level. But he knows he can’t do it their way. It’s a tug-of-war between good and evil. Sometimes, evil prevails. 

He knows it. You don’t have to inform him.

“(I) was actually as comfortable as as I felt on Ashe before. Especially in the first set I thought I was playing well. Yeah, I mean, he’s played on that court hundreds of times. He’s much more experienced. It didn’t come down to that today. He was way too good,” Kyrgios said.

“Obviously not at my best, but that’s how he makes you play. He makes the court feel really small at times. If you’re not serving well, he takes advantage of it. He was too good.”

What is the Kyrgios career goal?

Some players will say they want to win a Grand Slam, or be top 10 – or No. 1. They’ve probably been saying that since they were kids. Now that they’re out there, they’re still saying it and dreaming of it and working towards it.

This Aussie hasn’t yet figured out what he wants from his career. He only knows that whatever it is, he doesn’t have it yet. Not having a goal, an end game, makes it exponentially harder to plot your course.

If you don’t know what you’re working towards, how can you even take the right path?

“I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied with my career; I think there is a lot more to be done and there is a lot more to be … explored. … But I have been around for about four years now. And I have barely done anything. I think I can do a lot more. As I said, it’s all mental with me, I think. If I want it enough, you know, I have a coaching option, psychology option,” he said. 

“I think there is a lot more things to explore. But, I mean, obviously I want to achieve more in the sport. I don’t think I have done anything.”

“If I want it enough.” That’s still to be determined.

A coaching challenge

If Kyrgios doesn’t have a full-time coach, it’s because he knows himself well enough to know how hard that job is to fill.

Any coach would jump at the opportunity to work with someone who has that kind of talent. And jobs with player who have major title potential are few and far between.

But the reality of coaching is that the “boss” is technically the employee.  It has to be indescribably hard for these coaches to juggle saying what needs to be said as they consider that if that particular player doesn’t want to hear it, they have the power to end the relationship. 

KyrgiosNot that many coaches have the kind of financial security to risk that, even with the best of intentions. You’d also have to have optimal heart health before undertaking that challenge.

A coach Kyrgios can have control over, a “good cop”, won’t help him much. He knows that.

And at the opposite extreme, the “bad cop” ‘s message won’t get through, either. Because someone barking at the 23-year-old that he needs to get into the gym more, train harder, change this, work on that tactic, may well bring out the contrarian in him.

And, if you try to tinker with the essence of an athlete, what makes them (potentially) great, maybe you change everything.

It’s a far more complex situation than just, “Hey Kyrgios, you should get a coach and take it seriously, for once.”

The Aussie may get to a point where he’s going backwards instead of forwards, with what he wants to achieve – if he ever figures that out – increasingly in the rear-view mirror.

That might make the path clearer. But he’s still a long way from that. 

He knows he can’t be Federer. But it’s not as though he’s not paying attention. He knows.

“I think we’re two very different characters. And I think, you know, just the way he goes about things. I could take a leaf out of his book. The way he behaves on court, you know, his demeanor, I could definitely take away,” he said. “I don’t want to change myself too much, but I could definitely take away things he does in certain situations. He’s the ultimate role model to anyone who wants to play.”

Kyrgios is what he is

In the meantime, he’s Kyrgios. You can hate the way you think he disrespects your favorite sport. That’s fair. You can love him for the way it’s all just out there, raw, human, and for the way he somehow seems so approachable in his struggle. The kids have figured this out. They don’t judge; that’s probably why he likes them so much.

Or you can take him just as he is. And wait for him to figure it out. That’s probably the hardest thing to do in an age where every opinion is polarized. We all want to get to that last chapter in the book, that match point – often without paying attention to the plot, the subtle shifts. 

In the end, he can never hurt the game that much, because he only brings attention to it. These days, even “bad” attention is good attention. There are a lot of people out there making a very good living at that.

At worst, he hurts himself. That’s no one else’s problem.

Because with all due respect to the respectful, hard-working grinders out there, the Schwartzmans and Millmans who honor the game with their efforts and go out there and run their tails off, Kyrgios is the one who turns heads.

He’s the the one you can’t take your eyes off of. And if one of those grinders can come out and beat him, that’s good, too. It takes all kinds.

You’re not going to change him. So you can join him – in a sense. Or ignore him – if you can.

2018 us open – Day 6 preview

NEW YORK – There was plenty of drama of the marathon variety on Friday, as 2017 finalists Rafael Nadal and Kevin Anderson prevailed over much younger rivals.

The men’s drama on Saturday, as the third rounds conclude, could be of a very different kind.

No. 2 seed Roger Federer takes on a player who has been a dangerous opponent for him in the past, in No. 30 seed Nick Kyrgios of Australia.

Kyrgios, who might well have found himself out in the second round, but for a just-in-time attitude adjustment, will face Federer for the first time in a best-of-five set format.

The three previous matches between the two – one on hard, one on grass, and one on clay – have all gone the distance. They have played nine sets; there have been tiebreaks in eight of them. And Federer has won the last two.

Day 6
“That’s 75 degrees in good old Fahrenheit. Perfect tennis weather – for a change)

“I definitely know that I won’t be the favorite, the crowd favorite here. So I go into that match with zero expectation. I do believe I can beat him. I have done it before. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Kyrgios said after pulling out his second-round win over Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Kyrgios often refers to Federer at the GOAT (Greatest of All Time). So we know where he stands in that mock debate.

Asked what three weapons Federer has that are the most dangerous, he answered thus:

“I think his slice return, his chip return, is the best the game has ever seen. There has never been a better chip return ever. I think if you took that shot away, he wouldn’t be as good because he neutralizes big serves as well. He turns it into pretty much instant offense,” Kyrgios said.

“His serve and first shot unbelievable, very unpredictable. And he’s unbelievably efficient. Never gets tired, doesn’t seem like it. His movements are so efficient. He’s just, yeah, those would be the three things. He’s efficient, serve and first ball, and chip return.”

Another mercurial opponent for the Fed

As for Federer, he’ll be playing a talented but highly unpredictable opponent for the second straight match, after defeating France’s Benoit Paire in straight sets in the second round.

He didn’t drop a set against lefty Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round, either. But you’d have to consider this a pretty good draw through the first few days for him.

Federer hasn’t won the US Open in 10 years, which is right around the time people were starting to “retire” him.

A decade on, Federer looking for another Open win (pics)

Other men’s matches to watch

No. 6 seed Novak Djokovic is hardly under radar. But he has hardly had a bump-free road to his third round match against No. 26 seed Richard Gasquet Saturday night.

Djokovic dropped a set to both Marton Fucsovics of Hungary in the first round, and Tennys Sandgren in the second round. He has had his share of tetchy moments with crowd control and his own play – even in practice.

At one point during his hit with Stan Wawrinka last week, Djokovic got so angry at two missed smashes in a row, he reared back and catapulted a ball into the mostly deserted stands inside Arthur Ashe Stadium as hard as he possibly could. Seriously – full swing.

Except… the stands weren’t empty.

One man was sitting there, right on the trajectory of the ball. Had the ball not ricocheted off a seat a few rows in front of the man, it might well have been a direct hit. As it was, the fellow was a bit shook, and less than impressed.

(Wawrinka was just as cranky with the heat that day. But when he smacked a ball, he did it against the backstop on the court, When it bounced back, he was the only one in harm’s way).

But let’s not forget, the heat has been a real bear until the temperatures finally dropped Friday. Tempers have been pretty frayed.

Ostapenko vs. Sharapova – hard-hitting battle

Jelena Ostapenko is a fairly limited player still, who does a couple of things notably well. But you always figure she will get beaten by an opponent who is willing to step right in and feast on that vulnerable second serve.

It’s amazing how few of the women do, though. Most are so uncomfortable with the part of the court they need to be in to do that, they’d rather sit back and wait for the ball to come to them. That, of course, allows Ostapenko to escape punishment on that shot. And her second shot after the return is ridiculously good.

But if there’s a player who’s aggressive enough on the return to do it, it’s Maria Sharapova. She’s built a career on it.

The two have met only once, in the quarterfinals of Rome earlier this year. And it was a battle royale.

“It was a really long, physical match. It was our first ever meeting. So it was a chance to see and feel each other’s game. I was really impressed by her game,” Sharapova said. “She’s young and fearless, comes out swinging. She’s a Grand Slam champion, so that speaks for itself. And she’s got that experience in Grand Slams already. I think she likes the matchup of playing against me. Both quite aggressive players. But I do, as well.”

Ostapenko had all sorts of issues with American Taylor Townsend before closing out her second-round victory. Sharapova had some concerning red flags of her own in a win over Sorana Cirstea of Romania that ended in the early hours of Friday morning. She won it in straight sets. But it was not pretty, and the serve was a major struggle. The Russian was uncharacteristically agitated on the court, for reasons that also included the tough, humid conditions.

Kvitova v. Sabalenka – ditto

Aryna Sabalenka, the 20-year-old from Belarus, is the on-form player coming into the US Open after a great hard-court summer.

Will it stop in the third round on Saturday, against No. 5 seed Petra Kvitova?

The two met in the second round of Miami back in March. Kvitova pulled that one out in three sets.

But Sabalenka is an exponentially better, more confident player less than six months down the road.

 

Djokovic finally gets his Cincy

The tacky-looking flower pot from your grandmother’s Cincy parlor, known officially as the Rookwood Cup, features tennis balls nested in acanthus leaves.

It is arguably one of the least attractive trophies in tennis.

And yet, for Novak Djokovic on Sunday afternoon in Cincy, it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

Finally, in his sixth attempt in the final, the 31-year-old Serb won the Western & Southern Open.

It had long been the only one of the nine Masters 1000 titles to elude him, making his Hall-of-Fame set of hardware short that final piece.

But after a 6-4, 6-4 win over seven-time champion Roger Federer, it was his.

Djokovic’s 31st overall Masters 1000 series title means that he is the only player to own all nine of the current Masters 1000 titles.

(Federer is short Monte Carlo and Rome. And since he has now habitually skipped the clay-court season, it likely will be ever thus. Rafael Nadal has yet to win Miami and the Paris Indoor (as well as Shanghai; but he won the fall indoor event in Madrid that preceded Shanghai in that Masters 1000 slot).

The Serb had waited five long years, since he won the Monte Carlo Masters for the first time in 2013, to take No. 9.

Even through the most dominant stretch tennis the game has ever seen, when Djokovic won just about everything there was to win and was, at one time, the holder of all four Grand Slam titles concurrently, that flower pot had cruelly eluded him.

Nine is nice

If you’ve been watching Djokovic play through the last couple of months, the increasing levels of his form, fire and confidence have been evident from week to week.

Cincy
Djokovic won the eighth of the nine Masters 1000 tournaments in 2013. He had to wait five long years to complete the set.

That he won Wimbledon wasn’t just up to him, of course. But the way he won it was very much up to him, as close to vintage Djokovic as he has been in a couple of years.

And perhaps that big, unexpected title allowed him to fly.

He’s had his tetchy moments. And while he probably shouldn’t be crushing his trusty rackets with impressionable young children watching from just a few feet away, that tetchiness comes with the complete top-shelf Djokovic package.

And this week, he seemed on a mission as he returned to Cincinnati for the first time since 2015.

He knows, from his experiences the last two years, that you can never assume you’ll have four or five more kicks at the can. His goal was clear.

“I was saying previously that during this week this trophy has been … a big motivation for me. But at the same time I tried not to think about the pressure of really making history too much, because I have had already some failed attempts,” Djokovic said during his press conference.

“Coming into today’s match, it wasn’t easy psychologically because I knew I lost to him every time I played him on this court. But at the same time, I liked my chances because I felt better and better as the tournament was progressing. It was by far the best performance of the week.”

Tough draw – and an extra match

Djokovic caught a break as he was in the same half as No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal. But Nadal pulled out of the tournament after winning the Rogers Cup in Toronto.

And it was the first time since 2006 that he didn’t benefit from a first-round bye in the 64-player draw because of his ranking. So if it was going to win it, he was going to have to win six matches.

Djokovic had his ups and downs through victories over Steve Johnson, Adrian Mannarino (coming back after losing the first set), No. 5 seed Grigor Dimitrov (rain-delayed overnight), Milos Raonic (another comeback three-setter) and No. 7 Marin Cilic (another three-setter) before he even got to Federer.

Cincy
Yep, he was pretty happy. (TennisTV.com)

Federer had beaten Djokovic in three of those five previous Cincy finals, all in straight sets.

(Andy Murray beat Djokovic in the other two, one on an injury retirement. In five finals, Djokovic had lost 10 sets and won none).

Very good Djokovic, sub-par Federer

Cincy
Djokovic’s eyes were as big as saucers as he zoned in on winning the last Masters 1000 event missing from his collection. (TennisTV)

It was the 46th meeting of their careers, but the first between Djokovic and Federer since the 2016 Australian Open.

They had been like two superstar ships passing in the night.

As Federer returned from a knee issue and started piling up more history, Djokovic was dealing with his elbow injury and, perhaps, a little bit of lassitude after that ridiculous stretch of brilliance between 2014 and 2016.

Right now, it is Djokovic who is rounding into form beautifully for the US Open. Federer, who skipped the clay-court season and had a good – not great – grass-court season before skipping Toronto last week, doesn’t appear to be in particularly good nick. It was still good enough to make the final. But the US Open is another level.

And the Swiss star definitely won the cranky contest on court Sunday.

Federer even received a code violation for an audible obscenity after a double fault and a forehand shank led to Djokovic breaking him, in the seventh game of the first set.

Cincy
Federer was peeved pretty much throughout the straight-sets loss to Djokovic in Cincinnati on Sunday – more at himself than anything else. (TennisTV.com)

Roger Federror

The break came after Federer had held serve precisely 100 consecutive times in Cincinnati, where the stadium court he is always scheduled on plays much quicker than the other courts, and where the conditions are optimal for him to hold serve.

Federer looked slow to get to some balls. He didn’t seem to react to some as quickly as you would expect. He missed too many returns.

And it was clear that he hadn’t found confidence in a forehand that had been erratic much of the week. In the end, he posted 39 unforced errors.

Late in the second set, with an open court in which to hit a winning forehand, Federer tried a crosscourt forehand drop shot. It was a shot he hit precisely because he didn’t have enough trust in his forehand at that moment. And he missed it wide. A game Federer had led 40-love ended up as the deciding break.

He was pretty mad at himself a lot of the time, as well as at some of the Djokovic fans sitting up in the bleachers who were, well, enthusiastically supporting their man.

(Fair’s fair. Usually Federer’s fans are the ones dispensing that treatment to his opponents nearly everywhere he goes. But even if the Federer fans far outnumbered the Djokovic supporters on this day, it was at least a fair fight).

For his part, Djokovic played solidly. It was enough. He didn’t play his best tennis all week either, but he fought at an all-star level. 

When the two arrived at the net, Federer was gracious, as he was during his runner-up speech and in press later.

Making history in Cincy

“Congratulations, Novak, on writing history today. Amazing effort, not just this week, not just today, but your whole career to get to this point. It’s an amazing achievement,” he said.

Cincy

“All these records that a player creates, at the end you’re going to all judge it all together, bundle it up and say, ‘Okay, what was the coolest thing you ever did?’ “This might be it for Novak besides winning all the Slams and all the other things he’s done already,” Federer said during his press conference.

“I think it’s extremely difficult to win a Masters 1000. These tournaments don’t come easy. You saw my performance today. It’s just a long week. It’s tough, gruelling. The best players are playing. You play against tough guys early on in the draw, so you don’t have much time to find your rhythm and actually almost work on your game throughout the week,” he added. “He’s done that maybe better than anybody. So it’s a great credit to him. I think it’s an amazing accomplishment.”

Djokovic acknowledged that Federer “probably didn’t feel his best.” But after losing to him three times on that very court, he was happy to take it.

“It’s obviously a very special moment, it’s the first time that I get to stand here wth the winning trophy in Cincinnati. I played five finals before, and most of those finals I lost to this great man,” he said. And then he joked. “Roger, thanks for your kind words, and thank you for letting me win once here in Cincinnati.”

Djokovic’s ranking stood at No. 22 at the French Open, just a little over two months ago. He was No. 25 in the race to the year-end finals in London.

On Monday, he’ll be No. 6 in the regular rankings and No. 3 in the race.

Not a shock, but Federer out of Toronto

You always got the sense that Roger Federer was going to choose either Toronto or Cincinnati – but not both – as hard-court prep leading into the US Open.

Given Cincinnati is closer to the main event, a week later than the Rogers Cup, it seemed to have the edge.

And so it is, as Rogers Cup tournament director Karl Hale announced Monday that the world No. 2 won’t be hitting Toronto this summer. And that also means that Federer won’t, as he has some years, be celebrating his birthday in Canada.

Federer reached the final in Montreal last year, losing to Alexander Zverev. He then skipped the other Masters 1000 summer event in Cincinnati, as it was clear in Montreal that his back was acting up on him.

Here’s the official press-release quote from Federer.

“I’m so disappointed not to play at the Rogers Cup this summer. I had a fantastic time in Montreal last year and always enjoy playing in front of the Canadian fans, but unfortunately with scheduling being the key to my longevity moving forward, I have regrettably decided to withdraw from Toronto this year. I wish the tournament every success and am sorry to miss it.”

Federer was a faithful visitor to Canada earlier in his career. From 2002 through 2011, he played 10 out of 11 times.

But in recent years, not so much. Since then, he played in Toronto in 2014 and last year in Montreal, losing in the final both times. He has won the tournament just twice – both times in Toronto – in 2004 and 2006.

He played Cincinnati every single year from 2002 through 2015. But he hasn’t been back since.

Everyone else on board so far

So far, Federer is the only top-20 player who won’t make the date for the tournament, which takes place Aug. 4-12.

As well, the tournament confirmed that top Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who reached the semifinals a year ago in Montreal, will headline the Tuesday night session.

No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal, who is still on board to play, will make his debut Wednesday night.

With Federer’s withdrawal, his friend Jérémy Chardy will get a spot in the main draw.

The draw will be made in downtown Toronto on Friday. Aug. 3.

Men’s quarters spark court assignment debate

WIMBLEDON – It wouldn’t be a Grand Slam without a good, old-fashioned debate about court assignments and scheduling and who’s being snubbed and who’s being given preferential treatment.

And so, as we arrive at the second Wednesday of Wimbledon and the men’s quarterfinals, we see three-time champion Novak Djokovic on Centre Court.

With that, we also see seven-time champion Roger Federer “relegated” to No. 1 Court for the first time in the tournament.

Actually, for the first time in three  years.

(Relegated is such a relative term here, as it is at Roland Garros where Court Philippe Chatrier and Court Suzanne Lenglen are considered virtual co-equals. Still, it’s a status thing that seems to mean a lot to some people).

Second trip to Centre Court for Djokovic

assignment
Djokovic has definitely been hard done by at times with the scheduling. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

The way people have been whinging, you’d think Djokovic had been turned away at the door to the celebrated Wimbledon Centre Court for failing to bring a jacket and tie.

That said, it’s fairly evident over the last few years that despite his sterling resumé, he’s rarely gotten the top-two treatment accorded here to Federer and, less defendably, to Nadal.

The Serb was on Centre Court on Saturday for his third-round match against Brit Kyle Edmund, after being relegated to No. 2 Court for his second round.

Until Manic Monday, there was never a choice to be made between Federer and Djokovic in terms of courts assignments. In opposite sections of the draw, they were playing on different days.

The choice, then, has been between Djokovic and Nadal – currently the No. 1 ranked player in the world, even if he is the No. 2 seed here because of the weighted grass-court seedings.

Djokovic is currently ranked No. 21 and seeded No. 12.

Nadal on Centre every match

Nadal has won out each time there was a choice to be made between the two. The Spaniard’s match against Juan Martin del Potro will be the fifth straight time he has been on Centre Court.

And the quarterfinals are the last opportunity to play anywhere else but Centre Court.

Nadal warms up on Court 15 Wednesday morning, ahead of his match later in the day against Juan Martin del Potro. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Djokovic said, after he squeezed his Monday victory over Khachanov in under the wire, that he had heard his last-on match was likely to be cancelled had the prior match between Kevin Anderson and Gaël Monfils had gone to a fifth set.

Meanwhile, a mixed doubles match involving Brit Jamie Murray and his partner Victoria Azarenka was played on Centre Court, with the roof closed and the lights switched to finish the third set.

It could all have been even worse. The absence of Andy Murray, who is pretty much an automatic (perhaps even more than Federer) to get a Centre Court slot made life a little easier this year for a lot of people.

Mid-match relocation rare

Djokovic dealt with that last year as well. The tournament wouldn’t move his Monday match, delayed by rain under the Centre Court roof to finish it.

(Tournaments rarely relocate a match that’s already in progress to another court. But it does happen. Notably in 2014 here, Genie Bouchard’s first-round match against Magdalena Rybarikova on Court 12 was moved to Centre Court, under the roof, on a day where just about everything was wiped out by rain.

There was a specific scenario involved there. The winner was to play Brit Johanna Konta. And they needed a Centre Court slot for her. And that was going to be difficult to manage had the second-round match been delayed a day, because of the other high-profile matches that needed to be scheduled. So yes, it’s pretty much all about television).

Last year’s stubbornness about not moving Djokovic’s match meant he had to finish up Tuesday. And on Wednesday, he had to retire in his quarterfinal match against Tomas Berdych. He didn’t play the rest of the season because of his elbow injury.

Luckily, that repeat scenario was avoided. Because Djokovic would have been right to raise a huge stink if it did.

assignment
The three kings of tennis practiced side by side by side on Sunday at Aorangi Park. But for the actual match scheduling, Djokovic is often the odd man out.

Federer to No. 1 Court, TV follows

So the seven-time champion Federer therefore led things off on No. 1 Court Wednesday for the first time in the tournament, facing No. 8 seed Anderson of South Africa.

Generally, the BBC’s main station is the spot for Centre Court action, while BBC2 has No. 1 Court.

Except … as Wednesday’s coverage began, Djokovic and Nishikori were nowhere to be seen on BBC1. The BBC lunchtime news was all over its coverage of U.S. president Donald Trump and other world leaders in Brussels, and didn’t switch back to the tennis until about 1:50 p.m., when they showed the two players walking onto court (50 minutes earlier)

After that, Federer’s match was switched to BBC1, while Nishikori and Djokovic was being shown on BBC2. 

It was all a very delicate dance.

The last time Federer played on No. 1 Court was against Gilles Simon of France the same round  – the quarterfinals – three years ago. Djokovic beat Federer in that 2015 final. 

Switching the matchups

Nadal vs. del Potro is the “fan favorite” match of the day, with both players having huge followings. So Federer was moved, risking the wrath of the all-powerful Centre Court debenture holders.

It also led to some scrambling as Federer fans who had tickets for Centre Court assuming their favorite would be there, trying to swap them out for No. 1 Court.

Meanwhile, the generally accepted scheduling plan that the two players who meet in the next round should play at approximately the same time wherever possible, was turned upside down to make this change.

The winner of Federer-Anderson will play the winner of the match between Milos Raonic and John Isner. But they play one after the other on Court 1.

Same scenario on Centre Court, where the winner of Djokovic-Nishikori will play the winner of Nadal-del Potro. And yet, they follow each other.

In this configuration, Federer or Anderson, and Djokovic or Nishikori will both benefit from some extra down time before Friday’s semifinals.  

The later the better for the Americas

The later time slots are more coveted by television in North and South America – which applies to Raonic, Isner and del Potro.

1 p.m. is 8 a.m. in New York and Toronto, 9 a.m. in Buenos Aires and 5 a.m. in Los Angeles. So the later the better, as far as the television rights holders in those countries. But the same is somewhat true in Europe, where the early evening match can spill over into prime-time blocks.

So there are no correct answers to this puzzle. Even though it’s typically not about the “best tennis matchup” or about fairness to all players.

But in the end, everyone will play and win, somewhere. Someone’s nose will always be put out of joint. and Isner and Raonic are probably happy just to still be playing on the second Wednesday of Wimbledon.

They’d probably play on the Centre Court roof, if they were asked to.