(June 17, 2015) LONDON, England – The big emotional high notes of the first two days at Queen’s – Monday, Lleyton’s Hewitt’s 16th and final appearance, Tuesday, Rafael Nadal’s loss – have given way to mid-tournament flatness. The biggest news of the day is that Hewitt, who is currently ranked 117, has been granted a wild card into his 17th and final Wimbledon. Until or unless British favorite Andy Murray loses, that may be it for major excitements until the final. True, two current Grand Slam champions are still in the draw – Stan Wawrinka, facing Kevin Anderson, and Marin Cilic, facing Adrian Mannarino – but neither is famed for his grass court game.
There were hopes – if not high ones, at least of the “new! kid! big! chances!” variety – for the second round match between the veteran Frenchman Gilles Simon and newcomer Thanasi Kokkinakis. For two games, this seemed justified as Kokkinakis quickly went up 2-0. And then…those hopes faded quickly despite some nice moments: a dink volley here, a well-executed drop shot/lob combination there. The match lasted an hour and 16 minutes and went 6-4, 6-2 to Simon.
“I liked it yesterday,” Kokkinakis joked about the grass. “I didn’t like it so much today.”
Afterwards, Kokkinakis tweeted, “Feel bad for the spectators tbh about that one….😐 yuck. Hope to redeem myself on the doubles court with Rusty”. To the press, he explained, “I felt like I had to say something. I felt like it was one of my poorest performances in a while.”
Jet lag can sometimes be worse a couple of days later than it is at first. Kokkinakis had planned to play the qualifying here, but instead went home to Adelaide to pay a quick visit to his sick grandmother. He was on the way back when he got the news Queen’s had awarded him a wild card. He arrived back Monday at noon, and although he declined to blame the “something like 48 hours in [the air in] three days”, he admitted to waking up “pretty tired” this morning and to getting distracted by spotting Top Gear TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson in the crowd.
Wawrinka vs Anderson which ended 7-6, 7-6 in Anderson’s favor, was a more tense affair but, much like the grass-court contests of 20 years ago, came down to serve and return. “Maybe [I] didn’t return great,” Wawrinka said afterwards, “but he was serving big”.
Yesterday, after his win against a coughing Nick Kyrgrios, Wawrinka said he thought he’d be better able to manage the aftermath of winning his second major title; after the first, the 2014 Australian Open, he took six weeks off, and then struggled to get his form back for some months.
“Australia, everything was new and I didn’t know what to expect,” he said yesterday. “Everybody was saying it’s going to change your life and change your career. And that’s true. You win a first Grand Slam, especially in that era and you have only the big four winning Grand Slam since 10 years. So that was a big thing for myself. I did few mistakes after. I had a lot of ups and downs. I had to learn and to change the way I was and trying to adapt myself to my new life. ” This time, although he thinks the achievement is bigger, “what’s coming after, I have more under control”. And, of course, no chance to take off much time: Queen’s and Wimbledon awaited.
Today’s losses, put together with Nadal’s, leave the bottom half of the tournament draw looking a little anemic: Milos Raonic, seeded 3, and Simon, seeded 7, are all the remaining seeds, and they play each other in the quarter-finals on Friday. For the right to face the winner of that match in the semi-finals, Anderson will play Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who put out Alexandr Dolgopolov, whose win against Nadal carried him no further. In the top half, tomorrow top-seeded Murray faces Fernando Verdasco, Grigor Dimitrov faces Gilles Muller, fourth-seeded Marin Cilic faces Viktor Troicki, and, in probably the most interesting match-up of the four, John Isner plays eighth seed Feliciano Lopez, who is an exceptionally strong grass-court player.