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ICYMI: All the Happenings at a Chaotic Wimbledon

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Serena Williams have looked great. Everybody else has not.

Roger Federer, Serena Williams, and Ernests Gulbis Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The first week of this year’s Wimbledon was the most hectic in recent memory. In the first six days of match play, 41 seeded singles players were ousted by unranked adversaries (with a record seven top-10 seeds bowing out in the first round), and entering Manic Monday, 15 of the 32 players remaining were unseeded. The big fish are still circling—Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have yet to drop a set, and Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams appear to be back in form. With quarterfinal play beginning this morning, let’s recap the action so far:


Roger Federer: Actual Alien

We are running out of words to describe Federer’s grass-court dominance. Through four matches in this year’s edition of the Championships, Federer has spent just more than six hours on the court and has dropped only 36 games. After winning last year’s tournament without dropping a set, Federer has built his streak to a whopping 32 straight. He’s also won his last 81 service games at SW19. Oh, and Federer also won a mind-bending 35 consecutive service points in his second-round matchup with Lukas Lacko. Uniqlo has never looked so good (sorry, Kei).

Next up is a quarterfinal matchup with big-serving South African Kevin Anderson, who likely won’t pose much of a problem for the top seed. As ESPN’s Chris Fowler said of Federer’s “supreme” victory over Lacko, he is “playing against his own standard more than his opponent.” Somehow, he’s still winning.

The Sea Is Parting for Serena Williams

For the first time in the Open era, the women’s singles quarterfinals at a Grand Slam did not feature a player seeded in the top 10, but don’t let that fool you: The best player in the world is in the middle of the fray.

With a vintage run to the semifinals, Williams has quashed any lingering questions regarding the right pectoral injury that forced her out of the French Open. Though her world ranking (no. 181) hasn’t yet recovered following her 14-month maternity leave, she is seeded 25th at Wimbledon and has sprinted through the first five rounds (against five unseeded opponents) with relative ease. Her quarterfinal matchup with the hard-hitting Camila Giorgi on Tuesday was her only competitive one of the tournament so far. After getting outplayed in the first set—the only set she’s dropped all tournament—Williams reset, reloaded, and calmly dispatched the 26-year-old Italian. She’ll meet the no. 13 Julia Goerges in the semis Thursday.

Should Williams advance further, there will be Grand Slam pedigree awaiting her in the finals in the form of either no. 12 Jelena Ostapenko or no. 11 Angelique Kerber. But when all is said and done, it’s likely that this anarchic tournament’s end result will feel quite familiar.

Stan-able Names

No 2018 Summer Slam is complete without an unseeded icon captivating the hearts of millions; at the French Open, it was (my sweet, match-fixing prince) Marco Cecchinato, and at Wimbledon it was (noted ball-boy antagonizer) Ernests Gulbis. Gulbis’s Wimbledon run didn’t go quite far enough to earn a Cinderella moniker—the 29-year-old Latvian was bounced in the round of 16 by Kei Nishikori on Monday. But Gulbis left his heart and finely trimmed beard out on the court last week: Each of his three first-week bouts went five sets, and he notched victories over no. 27 Damir Dzumhur and no. 4 Alexander Zverev. When asked after the Zverev match whether the week was beginning to wear on him, Gulbis responded: “Time is relative.” Gulbis has had a career defined by spontaneous rises to and falls from prominence; this was a fun response to widespread criticism regarding his lack of commitment to the sport.

But to find the true Cinderella of this year’s Wimbledon, look no further than the prodigal son of Cyprus, Marcos Baghdatis. The Bag Daddy, best known for an eventful 2006 season, in which he reached the final of the Australian Open and lost to an almost-retired Andre Agassi in a marathon night match at the U.S. Open, has not looked spectacular in recent years. But the former world no. 8 notched an unexpected win over seventh-seeded Dominic Thiem, who retired due to a back injury after losing the first two sets. Sure, Baghdatis bowed out in the next round to unseeded Karen Khachanov. But I will always stan a man who, despite still winning professional tennis matches at the highest level, might still lose to me in a footrace (barely). Look at God.

Somebody pass the olive oil.

Disappointments

Upsets in major tournaments can be fun, but for every underdog victory, there is a favorite who has failed to meet expectations, taking the air out of the slam’s second week. The first week of Wimbledon was littered with such instances.

No. 4 Alexander Zverev

It was another first-week exit for Zverev, the 21-year-old phenom who is—perhaps unfairly—saddled with the responsibility to be the future of the tour. After an encouraging French Open, it seemed that Zverev would be prepared to make a run on a faster surface more suited to his height. Yet he needed five sets (a common thread) to oust unseeded Taylor Fritz in the second round before being blanked in a decisive fifth set by Gulbis in the third round. The German has yet to advance past the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam.

No. 1 Simona Halep and No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki

Halep and Wozniacki recently graduated from the school of “Slamless Wonders” at the 2018 French and Australian Opens, respectively. And in a wide-open field, both looked like they would have a chance to double their major totals. But Wozniacki bowed out in the second round against unseeded Ekaterina Makarova, and Halep squandered a one-set advantage en route to losing her third-round matchup with Hsieh Su-Wei. Again, the top two players on the WTA tour set the tone for a circuit governed by chaos.

No. 29 Marco Cecchinato

This one is more personal than anything else. After his improbable run to the semifinals at Roland Garros, Cecchinato earned himself the no. 29 seed at Wimbledon and looked poised to further escalate a burgeoning wave of “Cecchinite fever” (I don’t have a link, just trust me, it’s real) across the globe. But the Italian was taken out in four sets by the precocious 19-year-old Alex de Minaur from Australia. But don’t despair, Cecchinato could be back in the game by the time the U.S. Open rolls around.