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What the papers say

Serena Williams smiles during her news conference
by Clive White
Friday 28 June 2013

Whether it was the ease of Serena Williams’s victories at these Championships, and pretty much throughout the past 12 months, that prompted it, but many of the newspapers carried the story of Andy Murray’s playful challenge to the world No.1. It evoked memories of the notorious Battle of the Sexes match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs which, by happy coincidence, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

Alan Fraser, in the Daily Mail, quoted Williams’s surprised response to the suggested Las Vegas showdown. “Really? He wants to play me?” replied Williams. “Is he sure? That would be fun. I doubt I’d win a point but that would be fun. Murray is one of the top three people I don’t want to play. But, yeah, maybe we can have a little bit of a showdown. I get alleys, he gets no serves. And he gets no legs, yeah.”

It wouldn’t be the first time one of the Williams sisters had been involved in such a match. Some 15 years ago they claimed they could beat any man ranked outside the top 200 and one cigarette-smoking German called Karsten Braasch took up the challenge, as James Lawton, in The Independent, recalls.

“Braasch responded with 6-2 and 6-1 wins over Venus and Serena, respectively,” writes Lawton, “and then supplied another touch of topspin, saying: ‘I played like someone ranked 500 or so just to make it a bit more fun’.”

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In her column in The Times, Martina Navratilova surmises how a much-anticipated gentlemen’s singles showdown between the two top seeds, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, might unfold. “I don’t think you can twist the draw opening up as a negative thing for Murray,” she says. “We could see a final between a player who has been really tested and one who has not, but then Djokovic might be tired from having played in tougher matches.

“There is a difference between battle-tested and battle-weary. The trade-off is that Djokovic will be sharper but the battles will also make him tired. It doesn’t matter what shape Djokovic is in; he will be a bit slower if he has had a wearing semi-final. It’s accumulative.”

On the question of whether Roger Federer’s power is diminishing or not, the former multiple Grand Slam champion says: “Federer is on the wane and could have lost this match at any time in the past four years. I was being written off when I was 25 and yet that was when I really started to play well. You can’t write off Federer until he retires. You can’t be as motivated over every shot at 31, Federer’s age, as when you were 25. I felt that I was trying as hard but the results were not as good.”

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Steve Tongue, in The Independent, wondered what the watching Maria Sharapova would have made of her beau Grigor Dimitrov’s struggle to put to bed his second-round match against Grega Zemlja, of Slovenia. The score stood at 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3, 4-6, 8-9 when play was suspended last night.

“Sharapova may well have felt tempted to tell him that he should have killed the match instead of allowing a stubborn Zemlja to steal the second and fourth sets,” writes Tongue. “If Dimitrov has a fault, it appears to be on the big points, which cost him yesterday and will do so even more against better players as he and the young generation push to take the next step up.”

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Paul Hayward, of The Daily Telegraph, wonders whether men’s tennis has reached the end of a golden era following the premature defeats of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. “Re-visiting Rafael Nadal’s first-round exit here, and Federer’s fall two days later, you see just how blessed men’s tennis has been over the past 10 years, and how Wimbledon might struggle for glamour, brilliance and edge if the quartet is reduced to a duo of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. In any other age, a rolling Djokovic-Murray power struggle would be enough by itself, but tennis has grown fat and happy on its menu of Swiss virtuoso, Spanish demon, Scottish homeboy and Serbian warrior.”

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Tim Lewis, of The Guardian, enjoys the contrast in styles and even eras, as represented by the 42-year-old Japanese Kimiko Date-Krumm and Romania’s Aleandra Cadantu in their second round ladies’ singles match. “Since her comeback in 2008, Date-Krumm’s matches often feel like watching a player from a different era,” he writes. “She learned the game using a wooden racket in the 1970s and even now her ground strokes have a flat trajectory, with little of the swirling, dive-bombing spin that modern equipment makes possible. Her metronomic serve does scarcely more than put the ball into play.

“Yesterday, against Cadantu, the speed gun registered 81mph so often that it seemed there must be a mechanical malfunction... The Romanian is very much a modern player: swishing ponytail; suntan the colour of a teak coffee table; 100mph-plus serve. At the changeovers, Cadantu had a selection of three drinks of different shades while Date-Krumm sipped from a bottle of Evian, old school.”

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This is the first time in 101 years that no American has reached the third round of the gentlemen’s singles. Simon Briggs, in The Daily Telegraph, looks at the impact it has had on the sport’s huge American business and the lure of other American sports like basketball, American football and baseball, where greater fortunes can be made. “If you are a talented young sportsman, dreaming of a high roller’s lifestyle, chances are you will leave the racket on the shelf and pick up a glove, a puck or a shoulder-pad instead,” writes Briggs.

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Imogen Fox, in The Guardian, has found an unlikely fashion icon flying high among the ‘A’ list celebrities at this year’s Championships. She notes that Andy Murray’s girlfriend Kim Sears and Pippa Middleton “both favour pastels, wedge sandals and posh bags. Nice enough, but the pair lack the sartorial bite to be regarded as memorable All England Club trendsetters”.

Fox feels that strongest fashion statement of all has been made by Rufus, the hawk who is employed each year by the tournament to keep the pigeons away from the grass courts. She writes: “His purple and green moulded hood, complete with leather and gold plume, strikes the right sort of showman-like wardrobe note that Wimbledon 2013 is thus far missing – and it would not look out of place on an Alexander McQueen catwalk either.”

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