Wimbledon: It’s your baby, Serena
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Art Spander in Serena Williams, Wimbledon, articles, tennis

By Art Spander

WIMBLEDON, England — It’s your baby, Serena. This Wimbledon is all but yours. There may be a week to go, but most of the names and virtually all of the top ten seeds among the women have gone.

Underdogs are fine. In football and basketball, not tennis, a sport as dependent on name recognition as a solid forehand. Nobody wants Roger Federer to lose, especially tournament sponsors.

Serena — Mrs. Williams, according to the 18th-century concepts of the All-England Club, even if her husband’s name is Alexis Ohanian — came into this Wimbledon with a gift seed of No. 25 because she had missed so many tournaments after giving birth.

Which doesn’t mean anything. As shown by the results of the top-seeded players.

When No. 1 seed and No. 1 ranked Simona Halep was defeated, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, by Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan on Saturday only one of the women’s top ten seeds remained. And we’re only through the third round.

Maybe Steffi Graf could be accepted as a late entry. Or Martina Navratilova, who won nine times from 1978-1990, and is now on the grounds doing TV work. Sure, she’s not young anymore, but she’s still famous.

Tennis purists know about Hsieh, who with Peng Shuai of China won the 2013 Wimbledon’s doubles. But to be successful, a sport must bring in the masses. As the late Bill Veeck said about the so-called National Pastime, “If you had to depend on baseball fans for your support, you’d be out of business by Mother’s Day.”

Wimbledon, the Championships, has been in business since 1877. That doesn’t mean everyone is paying attention. It may be the oldest, most important tennis tournament in the world, but it’s still a tennis tournament, not the World Cup or the Super Bowl.

The players make the event as much as the event makes the players.

So with Halep, and defending champ Garbiñe Muguruza and Serena’s older sister, Venus, having been defeated all too early — along with Caroline Wozniacki and two-time winner Petra Kvitova — it could be Serena, 36, who’s the lady of them all.

Halep won the French Open a month ago. She went from a feat on clay to feet of clay on Wimbledon’s grass. Hsieh throws a knuckleball, in a matter of speaking, drop shots and slices, and her game — along with the Wimbledon lawn on Court No. 1 — confused Halep.

“I know she’s mixing the rhythm,” said Halep, who’s from Rumania. “She’s playing everything. It was really hard on grass court to do better. Still I had 5-3 in the third set. I had match point. It didn’t go my way today.”

Certain people can play hard courts. Certain people can play clay. Certain people can play grass. Great players, Graf, Navratilova, Chris Evert, Serena, won on all three.

“The ball is not bouncing two times in a row the same,” said Halep. “The difficulty was bigger today because of her game.”

Not that Hsieh, 32, doesn’t have her mental hang-ups. When she was serving for the match, Hsieh hit a fault, then paused before tossing up another ball.

“Because last year I play against (Lucie) Safarova, then I have two match points,” she recalled. “I make double-fault. Then have one match point. Double fault again. So today, I have a fault. Oh my God, not going to happen again. People was laughing at me. I need to cool down.”

Hsieh had injuries to both ankles, forcing her into a brief retirement two years ago. “I nearly thought of stopping tennis completely,” she said on her return in December 2016. “But here I am.”

There she was, ousting Halep and making a mockery of the seeding.

Serena was idle Saturday and, as is tradition, there is no play at Wimbledon on the middle Sunday, so she will be well rested for her fourth-round match Monday.

A seven-time champion, Serena was asked whether, with so many top players being knocked out, this would be an excellent chance for another title.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I think a lot of the top players are losing. But they’re losing to girls who are playing outstanding. If anything, it shows me every moment that I can’t underestimate any of these ladies.”

Nor do any of those ladies dare underestimate Serena Williams


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