Wimbledon, Part 1
Part 1 because I realized partway through the tournament that there were going to be some momentous events that I wanted to break out into more detail.
Girish Girsh actually started out more impressively than his more accomplished countryman, and cruised through the first three rounds to his best-ever finish here without a hint of a challenge. In the fourth he met with Pierce Gaskell, and the American, a more skilled grass player, figured to have a fairly easy time with him. Girsh had other plans, snagging the first set. After they traded the next two, the match ultimately came down to a very tight fourth-set tiebreak. Gaskell ultimately prevailed there and used the momentum to seize an early break in the 5th, narrowly stopping Girsh's dreams of getting to the second week. 4-6, 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 was the final. Gaskell was given everything he wanted and then some in this match; it was literally a coin-flip with how close it was(153-151 total pts; 35-34% return points won) and probably only experience got him through. A point or two goes the other way in that tiebreak and Girsh would have made it through.
Even with that though, it was the most impressive tournament I can recall in Girsh's career. He was excellent every time out over his four matches here, equaling his best result in a Slam and very nearly getting to the quarters against a significantly better opponent. He certainly looks primed for a big fall if he can keep up his recent improvements.
Meanwhile, Anil Mehul's charmed draws this year continued. His path to the semifinals looked clear of any major obstacles and he was on the opposite side from Iglar. One couldn't ask for a better situation -- it looked like a semi date with Benda was on the cards unless one of them fell prematurely. He had lapses in each of his first couple of rounds, then a bit of a testy third-rounder in which 21st-seed Mugur Kinczllers was dispatched 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. It looked like Mehul was a little off his game this week, leading to concern as he faced (10) Roger Federer(SUI) in the fourth round. Federer is about a year younger, just coming into his prime, and one of more accomplished grass-courters in the world. He can't compete from the baseline and isn't very fast, but is strong and has a world-class serve, a tough combination on grass.
It looked like a dangerous spot for Mehul, but he rose to the occasion and actually had a bit easier time with this match than the previous one, cruising through in straight sets to meet up with Marcek in the quarters. Like Iglar, Marcek pays little attention to grass and was not expected to be a serious threat here. He pushed the match to one tiebreak, which Mehul won easily and again was through in three sets.
Wimbledon is normally unpredictable, but this set up a semifinal pairing of the four top seeds in the draw: Iglar vs. Hogue on the other side, and for Mehul, it was time for Benda's Last Stand. On grass is the one surface where Mehul and Benda are pretty much evenly matched. If Benda won, he had a chance still to retain the #2 spot in the rankings this year; if not, it would likely be over soon for him. The winner would get another chance to end Iglar's reign of terror on the Czech's most vulnerable surface. Form had held so far ...