By Ricky Dimon
Perhaps they should reinstate no play on Middle Sunday at Wimbledon, because a deep breath is needed.
Saturday was quite simply a circus.
Just how much news was made at the All-England Club? Well, world No. 1 and heavy title favorite Iga Swiatek lost for the first time in 38 matches and by the time play ended a little after 9:00 pm her result was hardly more than an afterthought. That’s because Rafael Nadal of all people had a lengthy post-match discussion with his opponent, and even that paled in comparison to what transpired simultaneously on Court One and then in the ensuing press conference.
First, the relative calm before the storm that was Swiatek’s exit…. The recent French Open champion and Wimbledon top seed not only lost, but she was also not even competitive with Alize Cornet in their third-round contest. Swiatek made almost five times as many unforced errors as Cornet (33 to seven) and the Frenchwoman converted five of six break points to cruise 6-4, 6-2 in one hour and 33 minutes.
“What can I say,” Swiatek said. “I know I didn’t play good tennis. I was pretty confused about my tactics. As a solid player, she used that pretty well. For sure it wasn’t (a) good performance for me.
“But I hope [the winning streak] is going to be the thing that I’m going to be proud of. I mean, right now even I am satisfied with this streak. I’m happy that I was able to do that.”
As for Nadal, he may not be on a 37-match winning streak overall (his stands at 10) but he has won 17 matches in a row at majors and still has a chance to win the calendar-year Grand Slam. Following a lackluster first two matches at the All-England Club, the reigning Australian Open and French Open champion did not come close to being derailed on Saturday evening. Nadal delivered by far his best performance of the fortnight to defeat Lorenzo Sonego 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in two hours and four minutes.
There was, however, some unexpected late drama. After the roof was closed because of darkness with Nadal leading 4-2 in the third set, Sonego came back out in rejuvenated form. The No. 27 seed held easily and then broke Nadal at love to get back on even terms at 4-4. At that point the Spaniard called Sonego to come talk at the set, apparently voicing his displeasure of excessive grunting. The discussion was brief but it may have halted the underdog’s momentum, as Nadal took the next two games easily to clinch victory. A much lengthier conversion ensued during the handshake.
Nadal did not go into specifics even though it was clear his frustration was over the grunting, but he did apologize for the way in which he handled it.
“Well, first of all I have to say that I was wrong,” the 22-time major champion admitted. “Probably I should not call him [to] the net. So (I) apologize for that. My mistake in that; I recognize that.
“[What happened] during the match, I don’t want to comment because (it) is something that I spoke with him in the locker room and it stays there. Only thing I can say is I saw him personally [and apologized]. My intention was never to bother him at all–just to tell one thing that was bothering me that I think he was doing. That’s it.”
A lot of things bothered Stefanos Tsitsipas during his uproarious 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(7) loss to Nick Kyrgios. Among a multitude of incidents that took place during the highly anticipated showdown was Tsitsipas hitting a ball into the stands in frustration that either almost hit or perhaps did hit a spectator. Kyrgios wanted the Greek defaulted from the match on the spot, and things only went downhill from there. The chaos included Tsitsipas repeatedly trying to peg Kyrgios with balls in the middle of points.
Afterward, neither player held back in the press room.
“It’s constant bullying,” Tsitsipas said of Kyrgios’ antics. “That’s what he does; he bullies the opponents. He was probably a bully at school, himself. I don’t like bullies. I don’t like people that put other people down.
“He has some good traits in his character, as well. But he also has a very evil side to him, which if it’s exposed it can really do a lot of harm and bad to the people around him. Myself, when I feel like other people disrespect me and don’t respect what I’m doing from the other side of the court, it’s absolutely normal from my side to act and do something about it.”
“I don’t know what to say,” started Kyrgios, who also beat Tsitsipas in Halle. “I’m not sure how I bullied him. He was the one hitting balls at me; he was the one that hit a spectator; he was the one that smacked it out of the stadium. I didn’t do anything.
“I would be pretty upset if I lost to someone two weeks in a row, as well. Maybe he should figure out how to beat me.”
Shots fired on the court. Shots fired off the court, too.
Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.