The 2014 Wimbledon at the All England Club is the personification of the current trends in the sport, where top dogs continue to underwhelm.
With all due respect, look at the defending champions—Andy Murray and Marion Bartoli. That last spectacle was a wild one indeed, with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Serena Williams bowing out no later than Round 4.
This year, it is hard to imagine things won't follow at least a somewhat similar trajectory at the unpredictable Grand Slam on grass. Let's take a look at how to catch the opening rounds of the 128th Wimbledon.
|Mon., June 23- Thur., June 26||7:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m||ESPN|
|11:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.||ESPNEWS|
|2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.||ESPN2|
|Fri., June 27||7 a.m. - 5 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sat., June 28||8 a.m. - 4 p.m.||ESPN|
|Mon., June 30||7 a.m. - 11:30 a..m||ESPN|
|8 a.m. - 4 p.m.||ESPN2|
|11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.||ESPNEWS|
Guess what? It's already happening.
Exactly one day of what is sure to be an epic two weeks has produced a variety of upsets, with seeded players like Fernando Verdasco, Andreas Seppi, Sloane Stephens and Sam Stosur getting unexpectedly bounced.
Verdasco and Stosur went down swinging in dramatic affairs, but it was Stephens who disappointed the most with a 6-2, 7-6(6) upset at the hands of Maria Kirilenko—who is ranked No. 109 in the world.
So no, the next two weeks or so won't lack for entertainment. There is Nadal, who has had a somewhat bumpy ride this year. Seven-time winner Federer is ready to get things underway and feels he has a great change to make it eight, as captured by ESPN:
I feel like, yeah, if things click here, I should be able to win the tournament. I feel I have a very good chance again this year. I hope to utilize my fitness, the amount of matches I've played this year. So I'm really coming in with a much better feeling.
As that writeup notes, though, the path is in no way simple. Martin Klizan has what it takes to pull off an upset, as does potential second-round opponent Lukas Rosol, a name Federer fans surely remember—he knocked off the juggernaut in the second round of the 2012 tournament.
Starting in the third round, Serena could face, in order, Alize Cornet (who beat her in Dubai), Eugenie Bouchard/Andrea Petkovic (both French Open semifinalists), Maria Sharapova (reigning French Open champ) and Simona Halep (French Open finalist). And then she’d have a final to deal with! You couldn’t handpick a tougher draw if you tried. Serena has the hardest possible matchup in each seeding category.
It's only right one of the top names in the sport has a tough path to a title at a historic event that—believe it or not—is doing better than some other global events at the moment, as Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times points out:
Hardcore fans and casuals alike will come to appreciate the festivities over the new few days, as the bracket provides plenty of upsets and a champion on each side that likely very few see coming in advance.
For now, bask in the opening rounds. What was once rather boring has been ruined by parity that makes even perceived mismatches great duels. Good for observers, bad news for favorites who already shoulder a load of expectations.
It's not a full-blown renaissance or anything of the like, but Wimbledon represents the rapidly changing landscape of tennis. Don't blink.