My Wimbledon predictions of a couple of days ago were no better than average: 13 right and 7 wrong. I certainly didn’t anticipate that my two picks to win it all – Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal – would both lose today.
Nadal was interesting in the post-match interview. His English is not all that fluent and sometimes that makes him a more revealing interview than those players who have perfected the inoffensive non-answer. He was not in a great mood, and while he was gracious enough in congratulating Nick Kyrgios on his victory, he made it clear that he was not conceding any notion of Kyrgios’ ultimate worth to the game of tennis as being anything close to his own.
What he seemed to be saying, and what Barack Obama has been saying (and acting upon) in the last week, is that it’s a real grind to have to bring your “A game” every single day. The next new thing, whether it’s a fresh young player like Nick Kyrgios, or a fresh young political crisis, is always nipping at your heels.
Sports stars and presidents are always in the spotlight, with their every action and reaction being scrutinized and strategized against by their opponents. John McEnroe, surely the most interesting tennis commentator of the last 25 years, said a few days ago that as tennis players get older, they enjoy winning as much as always, but that losing hurts more. This would seem to belie the notion that the older you get the more accepting and philosophical you become about not being able to stay on top forever. Ambition, it seems, is something of a pain killer: defeats suffered on the way to something greater can be borne as long as the overall direction is positive. But once you have climbed to the top of the pyramid every defeat is a diminishment of what you once were. (I’ve never forgotten reading about how difficult it was for astronaut Buzz Aldrin – the prototypical upwardly mobile striver – to come back to earth following the Apollo 11 moon landing. He suffered for years from depression and alcoholism because he just couldn’t figure out how anything he could do on earth could top walking on the moon.)
One of the things that seems so remarkable about Roger Federer is that he is simultaneously able to embrace acting “mature,” and yet not too mature. I especially like the photo that came out today of Federer watching the Swiss soccer team playing in the World Cup. Federer had already beaten Tommy Robredo in straight sets, the quick victory essential for giving Federer a chance to watch the Swiss squad against Argentina. The photo was sent out on Federer’s Twitter account, with the comment “slightly nervous.” He is wrapped in one of his daughters’ Minnie Mouse blankets. (Switzerland lost 1-0.)
In the name of sticking my neck out again and exposing myself to hoots of derision from the truly well-informed, here are my revised predictions for the remainder of Wimbledon:
For the men:
Quarter Finals – Djokovic over Cilic. Murray over Dimitrov. Wawrinka over Federer. Raonic over Kyrgios.
Semi Finals – Djokovic over Murray. Wawrinka over Raonic.
Finals – Djokovic over Wawrinka.
For the women:
Semi Finals – Halep over Bouchard. Kvitova over Safarova.
Finals – Halep over Kvitova.