Tennis

Tebbutt: Wimbledon 2022  – Halfway Through

The first week of the 2022 Wimbledon championships ended as scheduled on Sunday. In the past there has been tennis at the All England Club on the middle Sunday, but only as a last resort to try to catch up on matches, and rounds of matches, delayed by inclement weather.

Even if there were anomalies in the draws this year because seedings are now done directly from the WTA and ATP rankings – an out-of-form (COVID related) Anett Kontaveit as the No. 2 seed in the women’s singles and Casper Rudd (no significant record on grass) as No. 3 among the men – there were an unusually large number of casualties over the first seven days.

Former champions Angelique Kerber, Garbine Muguruza, Serena Williams and Petra Kvitova were all eliminated. Among the men the most prominent absentee remains eight-time champion Roger Federer who is still not fit enough (right knee) to be back competing. Of more current relevance – Matteo Berrettini and Marin Cilic, both former runners-up and in-form players, as well as 2019 semi-finalist Roberto Bautista Agut – all withdrew after positive COVID-19 tests.

Berrettini, after winning lead-in events in both Stuttgart and at Queen’s Club, and women’s top seed Iga Swiatek, were the most missed – the 20-year-old, No. 1-ranked Pole after she was ousted in the third round by an enterprising Alizé Cornet and her own inability to find a comfort level on the grass this year.

As a result, No. 3 seed Ons Jabeur has assumed the favourite’s role in the bottom half of the draw with 2019 champion Simona Halep, seeded No. 16, in the top half. But it would be a brave soul who would predict that they will both reach next Saturday’s final.

Things are more ordered among the men, with the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds – Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal – the presumptive choices to be in the men’s July 10th championship match. Of course there’s one gigantic wild card in the person of mega-talent and mega-mayhem maker, Nick Kyrgios, possibly destined for a blockbuster semi-final against Nadal.

A brief word about Kyrgios and his unconscionable conduct. He sucks all the oxygen out of a match – with his unrelenting arguing, chattering and histrionics – reducing his opponent to a passive bystander. The crux of the Kyrgios issue is that he is such a sensational player that opponents – such as Stefanos Tsitsipas on Saturday – have to red-line their games to compete with him all the while having to deal with the incessant sideshow going on in which the 27-year-old at the other end of the court plays the starring role. If he was a player of an inferior calibre, the circus atmosphere would be easier to manage for his opposition – but Kyrgios pushes opponents to the max in terms of tennis performance and forces them try to manage the distractions of his outrageous behaviour.

CANADIANS AT THE BIG W

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

The only Canadian remaining in any of the main events was Gabriela Dabrowski, playing with her Australian partner John Peers in the mixed doubles. On Monday evening in No. 3 Court, the No. 4 seeded Dabrowski and Peers were beaten 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in a close quarter-final by the sixth-seeded Sania Mirza of India and Mate Pavic of Croatia.

On Sunday in women’s doubles, Dabrowski and partner Giuliana Olmos of Mexico, seeded No. 3, were eliminated 6-4, 6-3 by the unseeded American pairing of Danielle Collins and Desirae Krawczyk.

JUNIORS FLYING THE MAPLE LEAF

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

There are five Canadians in the junior girls and boys singles events.

Maybe the best story so far is the only boy at Wimbledon – Jaden Weekes. The 17-year-old from Montreal left home May 20th and is still missing one bag of his luggage. It apparently remained in Montreal for six days and then somehow made it across the Atlantic to London but has yet to be discovered or scanned.

In that luggage were two pairs of grass-court shoes, some casual clothes and the Pro Stringer he uses to string his racquets. He was able to subsequently order a pair of grass-court shoes online with next-day delivery and has been using that one pair ever since.

Weekes, ranked No. 21 in the International Tennis Federation junior rankings, won his opening round at Wimbledon on Saturday 6-4, 6-3 over Peter Nad of Slovakia and on Tuesday will play No. 3 seed, Mili Poljicak. The 17-year-old Croat already has an ATP ranking of No. 553.       

“I’m enjoying it a lot,” the 6-foot-1, left-handed Weekes said about playing on grass. “It’s my first time but I think my game suits it perfectly. I love playing aggressive, coming in to the net. My volleys are my best skill, I’d say, so I’m enjoying it a lot.”

Weekes’ mother Maravic, of Filipino ancestry, is a nurse at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal. His father Elvis, whose family comes from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, works for Canada Post. 

“I started playing tennis at six years old in Montreal (Ville Lasalle),” Weekes said. “I have a brother (Kyle) and my parents played for fun. They introduced it to my older (two years) brother, and as a younger brother you always want to compete and copy what your older brother does. I picked up a racquet and I started playing too. Since then I’ve loved it.”

Kyle is on a tennis scholarship at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York.   

Jaden is currently taking grade 12 correspondence courses – there’s no grade 12 in Quebec – from a school in Nebraska to complete high school and eventually be eligible for an American college tennis scholarship. 

This summer he plans to play Challengers events including in Winnipeg, Vancouver and Granby, Quebec. “I’m excited for that, it’ll be the first time experiencing the pro circuit,” he said, “excited to see where my game is at. I think I can do good.”

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

Weekes’ coach is Martin Laurendeau, the former ATP No. 90 (1988), long-time Canadian Davis Cup captain and ex-coach of Denis Shapovalov. He has high praise for Laurendeau. “Martin’s amazing, I love him,” Weekes said. “He’s so understanding, he’s so passionate. He really loves the game. He knows what it takes to be a pro because he’s been there and he’s worked with (Denis) Shapovalov as well. I really trust him with everything and I try to take in everything he tells me.” 

“His game has a great profile and he’s very athletic,” Laurendeau said about his player. “He’s very fast and explosive and very agile. He’s a lefty who likes to play an attacking game – serve-and-volley, going forward to the net. At the junior level that’s tough for lots of players because most of the juniors stay on the baseline. He’s an excellent, natural doubles player. He’s probably our most promising player in Canada at the moment.”

When Félix Auger-Aliassime is home in Montreal he likes to hit with Weekes because he has a solid game and they get along well. “Whenever he’s in town we practice together,” Weekes said. “He’s such a great role model and such a great person. I really look up to him.”

Asked if he’s taking sets from Auger-Aliassime in practice, Weeks laughed, “I wouldn’t say that yet, but hopefully in the future.”

   

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

For the second time at a Grand Slam event in 2022 after the Aussie Open in January, four Canadian girls (three of them seeded) have advanced to the second round.

The highest seed is Victoria Mkoko at No. 5. The 15-year-old from Toronto advanced to the third round on Monday with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 win over Ella McDonald of Great Britain.

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

The 10th seed is Annabelle Xu, 18, of Montreal. She made it to the third round on Monday by beating Talia Neilson Gatenby of Great Britain 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

Kayla Cross, seeded 13th, saved five match points in her opening round of singles and on Sunday, the 17-year-old from London, Ont., is now in the third round after a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Irina Balus of Slovakia on Monday.

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

The fourth Canadian is Mia Kupres, an 18-year-old from Edmonton. She was beaten Monday in the second round 6-2, 6-4 by No. 2 seed Celine Naef of Switzerland.

FAVOURITE PIC

Photo: Martin Sidorjak

Jannik Sinner played a fabulous match on Sunday, defeating Carlos Alcaraz 6-1, 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-3 to set up a quarter-final against top seed and eight-time champion Novak Djokovic on Wednesday.

Feature Photo: Martin Sidorjak

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