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What the papers say

Eugenie Bouchard waves to the crowd after her match on Centre Court
by Clive White
Tuesday 1 July 2014

Optimism over Andy Murray's progress, the rise of the newcomers Bouchard and Kyrgios, and John McEnroe's ideas for the future. 

Whisper it quietly, but Andy Murray is looking like a two-time Wimbledon champion at the very least. That seemed to be the general consensus of the British media, but as Simon Barnes writes in The Times: “It doesn’t do for anyone in this country to get cocky about sport: look what happened to the cricket team. Not that a mood of gloomy resignation did much for the football team.”

However, Barnes couldn’t help but get just a little cocky, even a touch over-confident about the British No.1’s level of play and what that might lead to. “In fact if it wasn’t pushing our luck and tempting fate and being a trifle blasphemous, I’d be inclined to say that Murray has been playing a little bit like God. So let’s say he’s been playing a little bit like Rodge, which is almost the same level of blasphemy, but strictly accurate.”


Novak Djokovic got a little bit carried away, too, in his moment of triumph against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, as Oliver Brown in The Daily Telegraph noted. “Novak Djokovic tends to save his Tarzan histrionics for when he wins a Grand Slam but, given 16 months have elapsed since he claimed the last of his six titles, his arms-outstretched gesture upon routing the ebullient Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the fourth round last night told its own story.

“The top seed has felt profoundly chastened at losing four of his last five major finals and this hugely impressive victory against the Frenchman, who rallied with a rousing defiance in the third set, marked the reassertion of his status as tennis alpha male.”


For all the success of tennis greats like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams very few have a recognisable army of supporters like the 20-year-old Eugenie Bouchard, who have this unusual habit of lobbing stuffed animals at her.

“The Genie Army is a bit like cricket’s Barmy Army, only minus the trumpet and more sober, and comes to laud the brightest young star in the tennis firmament,” says Rick Broadbent in The Times. “Now she is in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, two years after being the girls’ champion, a feat she puts down to being a nerd who tried to get 100 percent in all her maths exams.

“Poor old Alize Cornet, the conqueror of Serena Williams on Saturday, was stuffed and placed on a marble plinth on Bouchard’s mantelpiece, next to her book of logarithms and the 70 soft toys donated by her growing cult.”

Oliver Brown in The Daily Telegraph warns that the girl who is named after Princess Eugenie may also be something of a prima donna, which the Canadian freely admits herself. Brown writes: “Some regular observers of her behaviour claim that she has plenty in common with Maria Sharapova in terms of her readiness to reach the summit by any means possible, even if it means acting with a degree of icy hauteur that alienates her peers.”


Petra Kvitova, like a lot of players – Ana Ivanovic to name another – has struggled to handle the demands and expectations that follow a major victory, in her case winning the 2011 Wimbledon title. In those days her confidence couldn’t be greater, but the No.6 seed is making good progress again at this year’s Championships. Alyson Rudd, in The Times, harking back to the day she won her only Grand Slam title writes: “On that occasion, minutes before her final against Maria Sharapova, Kvitova was sent a text message by her manager. ‘How are you feeling?’ she was asked. ‘I will beat her,’ Kvitova replied. She did and it should have been the start of a glittering career.

“The 24-year-old went from carefree wannabe to angst-ridden champion. With the help of a sports psychologist, though, she has gradually learnt to absorb that single Grand Slam victory, she has accepted that while it is part of how she is judged, it means nothing out on the court. It will not guarantee her extra points in tight matches. She has to do as much work as she ever did, if not more.”


Several of the papers report Stan Wawrinka’s criticism of the fixture scheduling of the All England Club that could mean he will have to play five matches in seven days because of the rain delays to last Saturday’s programme.

James Riach, in The Guardian, quotes the Australian Open champions as saying: “To play a five-set match, it’s never easy. But if you look at this week, me or [Feliciano] Lopez or [John] Isner have to play three matches in three days, five-set matches. It’s terrible for the body.

“I was surprised they didn’t move any doubles matches, because they played doubles five-set matches on Saturday on many courts... They don’t listen to the player. They just do what they think is good for them.”   


No less an authority than Rod Laver is predicting that Nick Kyrgios could take over from the current crop of greats in five years time. Simon Briggs, in The Daily Telegraph, reports Rocket Rod as saying: “These great players of today, in five years they’re not going to be there. Certainly not [Roger] Federer. Nadal at 34? I don’t see him playing at peak level.

“There’s no end to how good he can become. It’s just a question of what he wants, if he’s prepared to put in the work... but he mustn’t be too discouraged when he starts going down again. Tennis is like a ladder: you take two steps up and one step down. But if you keep working you get there in the end.”


The success of young Nick Kyrgios at these Championships is starting to be reflected in the commercial opportunities available to the player that Australian tennis has been waiting for. Neil Harman, of The Times, quotes John Morris, of Global Tennis Connections as saying: “People are knocking on the door and commercially this Wimbledon has been great for Nick. Yonex have offered five times what the current deal is, and in those terms, it has gone through the roof. The same with Nike.”


A story in the Daily Mail reports John McEnroe as advocating that the game replace match officials with a high-tech computer system, suggesting that it would make tennis edgier. “But critics said he cannot be serious. Umpire of 20 years Carlos Bernardes said the job was not only to rule on shots, but also on code violations.” No, McEnroe probably was being serious.

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