Iga Świątek’s win streak reached No. 37 with a tough three-set win over a Dutch lass, Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove, in the second round at the AELTC Championships. Mr. Pleszczynski and I looked at the up side — gritty come-from-behind, forehand in good form, and other self-deceptions to avoid admitting she was not dominating on grass, as she has been most of the year on other surfaces. As tennis fans in general and supporters of American and Polish players in particular, we also support Israeli players but if there were any in the Qualifying Draws at Wimbledon, we missed them. We support players from other countries too, of course, because sports is let the better man win and the woman too, but you go with the home team and that need not subvert the old fair-and-accurate.
Our position on the AELTC ban of Russian and Belorussian players due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is that they are stinkers for not inviting TAS to the tournament despite we have been fair and accurate about Boris Johnson, who was a pretty good tennis writer.
However, the AELTC is a private club and we are told they do not kowtow to the Government, which is down on Russia. It would have been better for the old fair-and-accurate to verify on the scene that they were not taking orders from Whitehall. You read John Le Carré’s A Most Wanted Man and, even if it is fiction, you worry about the reach of the powers that are.
Moreover, Bojo, as the PM is affectionately known on Fleet Street, was said by one of England’s great editors and war reporters, Max Hastings, to be a vain man without regard for truth. Although Mr. Johnson threatened his former boss, the latter called his bluff and was not put in the Tower.
As to Mr. P and me, we are all for private clubs and non-interference by politicians. So they can do whatever they want. Their position is that raw aggression should not be rewarded. How punishing private athletes is on the same order as blocking Russia’s foreign trade or the bank accounts of its ruling class is not entirely clear, but it is their club.
Also, they say, banning Russians and White Russians would enhance security on account you do not know how much danger will swirl around the grounds at the venerable old Wimbledon club if Russia-haters get it in their heads there are targets for their rage nearby. This brings to mind Arabs banning Israeli athletes from their events on spurious security grounds, and while it is surely an argument, it is not persuasive. If there is a security issue, the responsible agencies can round up all the usual suspects prior to the event and keep them in a cellar somewhere until it is over.
Their other argument is what if a Russian or White Russian won and then had to be, as tradition demands, personally congratulated by the Duchess of Cambridge or the Duchess of Sussex or another one you read about in Richard III. My answer is to play Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans” over the loudspeaker, but again, there is a point there inasmuch as the masters of the Kremlin would likely exploit the occasion for propaganda, and in war, PR matters, though not as much as artillery.
Well, it is their call, so what ho, enjoy the show even without the full cast. Anyway, Miss Iga went down in the next round and Mr. P. and I lost interest. She was beaten by a gritty, spunky, outspoken, French demoiselle, Alizé Cornet, from Nice (whose mayor is a right-wing chappie, Christian Estrosi, athlete and erudite both). Miss Cornet beat Serena Williams on the same Court No. 1 — on the exact same calendar day in the same third round eight years ago. Miss Williams was No. 1 in the world then, as was Miss Świątek on the fateful day.
As she will be at the end of the tournament because due to the Russo-Ukraine unpleasantness, the Tennis Establishment ruled that there would be no gains or losses of ranking points at this year’s Championships.
Miss Williams went down in the first round, scotched by a shrewd and wily demoiselle, Harmony Tan. This is interesting if you are prone to the mistaken, if common, notion that all demoiselles in France play the same way. The game plan of Miss Cornet, who beat Miss Świątek, was to hit as hard as possible and keep the ball low, which on the Wimbledon grass means very low (it skids). It worked, because Miss S., who prefers clay and hard surfaces, catches the ball from a height with her blitzing forehand and sends it into a corner out of the other young lady’s reach. It worked. After 37 times of wrong-footing her opponents on the wrong foot or sending them scrambling like frightened hens after the ball, it was Miss Iga’s turn to be flummoxed by the furia.
Okay, but Alizé (Miss Cornet) is now into the round of 16, where she faces Amanda Anisimova, New Jersey’s greatest tennis player, who overcame Georgia’s Cory Gauff in a superb match on both sides, three sets and nearly three hours, in which Miss Anisimova showed that her own big groundstrokes are worthy of the bestest’s, and plus she has a court sense that keeps her in control of the point most of the time.
Miss Gauff (she is only 18; but note that Miss A is only 20) is playing with Jack Sock, fastest forehand in tennis, in mixed doubles, carrying Old Glory into the second week on the Fourth.
Maryland’s Frances Tiafoe got his foot in, but lost on Sunday to David Goffin (Wallonia) in the finest match of the first week; and at the end of five sets over four and a half hours it was Goffin’s. Tiafoe’s effort was superb, Wimbledon tennis as it ought to be, and far more memorable than the previous day’s spat between Nick Kyrgios and Stephanos Tsitsipas. Basically, the latter accused the former of gamesmanship (“distracting … bullying …evil…”). Kyrgios countered that Tsitsipas is a pansy (the word he used was “soft”).
Never mind; we still have Taylor Fritz and Brian Nakashima to lead the second week charge in the men’s draw. As they are both California heart throbs, there is more happy proof, following the Warriors, that the Golden State’s decline is not ineluctable. Soon enough, we may hope, we again will “… be safe and warm/If I was in L.A.”
The most venerable and famous tennis club in the world broke its never-on-Sunday tradition, and chose to do it on the day it marked Centre Court’s centennial. It was a nostalgic and gorgeous ceremony. The club dates from 1868 and the Championships from 1877, but Centre Court was built in 1922. Damaged by German bombs during World War II, it is the lawn upon which only the greatest tennis feet have trod, and many of the best among the greatest were present yesterday, with entertainment provided by Sir Cliff Richard, admittedly hard-core nostalgia, and Freya Ridings.