By PJ Yeong
Ah, Wimbledon. It claims to be the most prestigious Grand Slam, and certainly it is wrought with history and tradition – with the serene green lawns, crisp tennis whites and boasting big-named guests such as the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. But of course, the main focus is, and always will be, the tennis. There have been a number of players generating buzz, talk and hype (disregarding the usual big names of Federer, Djokovic, Azarenka and the like) – simply because they have pulled off rather incredible winning feats.
As the tournament rolls into its second week, let’s revisit some of the players creating waves in this year’s Wimbledon.
5. Ernest Gulbis
The Latvian is regarded as one of the most naturally talented players on tour, but unfortunately also carries the unwanted tag as one of the most under-performing players. However, he provided the first biggest upset of the tournament by defeating 6th seed and 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych in straight sets (featuring three tie-breakers). Gulbis displayed surprising mental strength to win the first two tie-breakers, and in the third set, he let 4 match points slipped past. About 99% of the tennis world naturally expected him to implode, and for Berdych to storm back and win in 5 sets. However, Gulbis had other plans. Almost uncharacteristically, he held his nerve to eventually prevail in the third-set tie breaker.
He then gave a hilarious post-match interview where he made fun of his own mental weakness. However, it didn’t end up being quite as funny when Gulbis then “pulled a Gulbis” against qualifier Jerzy Janowicz, losing in 5 sets.
4. Yaroslava Shvedova
Two words: Golden Set. Shvedova needed a wildcard to enter the tournament but riding on a wave of confidence from her French Open success (where, as a qualifier, she beat defending champion Li Na to reach the quarter-finals), she beat her first two opponents comfortably in straight sets. It was in the third round where she defeated current French Open finalist and 10th seed Sara Errani in straight sets. In that process, she didn’t allow Errani a single point in the first set, winning 24 points en route to serving the Italian a bagel. This feat has only been achieved by one other player, Bill Scanlon (1983, in Delray Beach), and is the first Golden Set in Wimbledon and in Grand Slams. Shvedova would go on to lose to Serena Williams in the fourth round, but not after giving the American a tough fight, managing to take a set.
3. Sabine Lisicki
There’s something about Lisicki and grass, and her penchant to dispose of reigning French Open champions. After defeating Svetlana Kutznetsova in 2009, Li Na in 2011, Lisicki beat this year’s French Open champ Maria Sharapova in straight sets, managing to turn the tables after her defeat to Sharapova in the Wimbledon semi-finals last year. Lisicki’s strong groundstrokes and aggressive game were effective against her opponent. Even as Sharapova was able to save 2 matchpoints in the second set, Lisicki converted her third match-point second serve ace to send the world no.1 packing from the tournament. She will be looking to match her results from last year when she takes on fellow German Angelique Kerber, who is having a breakout year of her own.
2. Xavier Malisse
A whooping 10 years ago, back in 2002, Xavier Malisse was a Wimbledon semi-finalist. 10 years later, Malisse is a member of the ATP’s Club 30 and admittedly struggling with his game. But upon entering Wimbledon 2012, he showed that there is life in him yet. His crafty game suits the green grass and he is much more than just a decent grass-courter. 13th seed Gilles Simon was the first seed to fall to him in straight sets, and Malisse continued his feat by beating 17th seed Fernando Verdasco to advance to the fourth round, where he played Roger Federer. One would have thought an upset is on the cards as Federer visibly struggled with physical issues in the opening set (the Swiss would go on to request a medical time-out, an occurrence that is as rare as a blue moon). But Malisse was unable to capitalise on his opponent’s discomfort, losing focus to fall behind two-sets-to-love. He fought back to take the third, and was on the verge of pushing Federer to 5 sets before Federer produced a little bit of magic to avoid a third-round repeat. Even if Malisse didn’t manage to advance any further, his efforts to defeat Simon and Verdasco are indeed impressive.
1. Lukas Rosol
Before this year’s Wimbledon, few tennis fans would have heard of Lukas Rosol, or know who exactly he is. After this year’s Wimbledon, all tennis fans, and a lot of non-tennis fans, would know this name. Rosol created one of the biggest upsets in tennis history when he sensationally dumped world no.2, reigning French Open champion and two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal in 5 sets, in the second round. What makes his feat even more unbelievable is that he has never even managed to qualify for the tournament before his momentous upset of Nadal. Even as Rosol went up 2-sets-to-1 against Nadal, no one even thought for one moment that he can pull off the unthinkable, and when the Spaniard won the 4th set comfortably, it seemed like the universe was restored to its order. However, Rosol came out virtually unplayable in the 5th set, breaking Nadal early and when it came to crunch time – to serve out the match, Rosol displayed pure grit and guts, hitting three aces and a forehand winner to give Nadal his earliest exit from a Grand Slam since 2005.
Unfortunately, Rosol’s run would end immediately at the hands of Philipp Kohlschreiber, unable to replicate his form. But regardless of that, his name has been etched into the tennis history books. Sufficient to say, this is probably the most defining and unforgettable point of his career thus far. People now know who Lukas Rosol is, and few would forget his name.
(Photo by: AELTC/Neal Simpson; AFP/Leon Neal)