Wimbledon midterm grades
In knocking out Rafael Nadal, Lukas Rosol impressed with his level of play
Roger Federer and Serena Williams flirted with disaster, but are both still alive
Venus Williams, who lost in Round 1, has become a shadow of her former self
Middle Sunday at Wimbledon ranks among the more endearing traditions in Sports. Forgoing all that weekend revenue, the tournament catches its breath for a day. After one frenetic week and before another, the cast of remaining characters gets a day to physically recuperate, luxuriate in the village, watch football/soccer, and tour the Tate Modern if so inclined. It also provides an interregnum for us to dispense midterm grades, albeit from far, far away.
Lukas Rosol: Czech veteran scores the upset of the year (much less the tournament) taking out Rafael Nadal in Round 2. The result was shocking but so was Rosol's level of play. One wonders why don't more players "zone" like this in big matches?
Maria Sharapova: It's feeling a lot like 2004?
Brian Baker: Tennis-seeing Tennessean qualifies for the main draw and reached the middle weekend. At some point this will morph -- if it hasn't already -- from a nifty comeback story to, "Whoa, this guy might have top-shelf potential." If he had started his joy ride a bit earlier, he would have almost assuredly been a U.S. Olympian.
Yaroslava Shvedova: Not only reached the second week of a Slam for second time this summer; she turns in a golden set, surrendering no points in the first set against Sara Errani.
Kim Clijsters: Appears to be making the most of her last Wimbledon. Despite little match play coming in, she breezes into the fourth round.
U.S. Men: Nice bounceback after the debacle in Paris.
Sania Mirza: Solely on the basis of this letter.
Qualifiers: This should be a B-plus. Though only two remain at this writing, more than half of the players who had to earn their way into the main draw won their first match.
Sloane Stephens: Another B-plus. Continues her upward mobility. But her defeat against Sabine Lisicki was a winnable match.
Ernests Gulbis: "I beat Thomas Berdych, a high seed and former finalist, in my first match. I lose to a qualifier in my second. Say, this Wimbledon is my career writ small."
Roger Federer and Serena Williams: Both multi-time former champions have flirted with disaster, he against Julien Benneteau, she against Jie Zheng. But they survived. Which is all that ultimately matters.
Gilles Simon: The issue of equal prize money is ripe for debate and measured examination. And you hate to whack him for voicing what many others feel but won't articulate publicly lest they too go through the spanking machine. But it's all pennies on the dollar compared to what could be at stake if the men and women joined forces demanding more revenue from the Majors.
ESPN: The consensus from the vox populi ... you love the coverage hours/platforms, the absence of tape delay and the presence of Darren Cahill. You don't like the sense of staleness, low energy and we've-heard-this before among the talent; the heavy preference of men's matches; and the occasional unforced errors. (i.e. references to seeded veteran and former Wimbledon semifinalist Jie Zheng as an "unknown young player.")
Rafael Nadal: Barely two weeks after winning the French Open, the former Wimbledon champion suffers what might well be the biggest tennis upset of the last quarter century. In Paris, he appeared to be back in business. Now, he heads to the Olympics encompassed by questions.
Venus Williams: Good for her for soldiering on. But -- much more because of her autoimmune disorder than her age -- she is a shadow of her former self. Losing 6-1, 6-3 on grass in Round 1? That's hard to comprehend.
John Isner: Great guy. Brutal result. And to his credit, he knows it.
Struggling WTA'ers: Caroline Wozniacki, Li Na, and Sam Stosur -- each either a No. 1 player or Grand Slam champ within the past 13 months -- exit in the early rounds.