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Meltdown of the Week


Finding Roger Federer Meltdown footage on YouTube is like finding a seat on the Number 4 Lexington Avenue subway at 9:30 in the morning. [Non-New Yorkers, take note: it's rare.] The Greatest of All Time usually deals with blown shots by dragging his middle finger across his forehead and tucking his hair behind his ear. Not this time. This was a semi-final match with Novak Djokovic at the 2009 Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida. Djokovic just broke Fed in the third and deciding set and was up 15-0 when the Greatest of All Time took his eyes off a routine approach shot that could have evened the score. Federer went through lots of racquets when he was playing the junior circuit; wonder if he felt a little wave of nostalgia upon banging this one hard into the court.

On the Sideline

Wimbledon: Tennis Hate Flows into Week 2 with Serena Upset

Tennis Hate continues to be as thick as the clotted cream on the strawberries at this year's Wimbledon.  The latest Greatest to go down: Serena Williams.

The reigning Queen of Wimbledon, uncharacteristically humbled. Courtesy Agence France Presse/Getty Images

Sabine Lisicki, the 24th seed, improved her record against the defending Queen of The Grass to 1-2 with a 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 upset.

Lisicki pulled it off despite being 0-3 down against Serena in the third set.  Normally, with the kind of tennis Williams has been playing lately (she came into the match with a 34-game winning streak), that kind of lead has pundits talking about who Williams will play in the next round.  Heck, after Maria Sharapova's upset in Wacky Wimby Week One, everyone had given Williams her 8th Wimbledon title.  

To add more nails to the coffin that everyone thought Lisicki was building out there on Centre Court, the German was 0-40 down, after having clawed her way back to 3-4 in the deciding set. Haters, it was Tennis Hate at its finest.  After a string of errors, seemingly bewildered by Serena's strong, deep returns, Lisicki made some big, clutch serves and leveled the game to deuce.  Wow!  

Lisicki does a victory face plant on Centre Court. Courtesy Getty Images.Then, serving for the game, Lisicki moved up to a short reply from Williams and decides to dink a little drop shot into the deuce court.  Huh?!  Serena put it away to bring the game back to deuce.  Lisicki shook it off, slammed an ace wide, then drew an error from Williams to wiggle out of what could have been a confidence-deflating loss.  

Here's how the WTA website described Lisicki's unexpected escape from Serena's clutches:

"[A] few huge serves here and a couple of big forehands there and Lisicki was right back in it, catching up to 4-all and, after an overhead that just missed the baseline from Williams, getting an opportunity to serve for the match at 5-4. And she converted - with one last inside out forehand winner, the No.23-seeded German finished off the No.1-seeded five-time Wimbledon winner." 

Lisicki was shaking and crying in her post-match BBC interview.  

"I'm so happy!" she cried.  

Uh-oh.  That's not the thing to say when Serena's around.  She recently mocked Maria Sharapova in  Rolling Stone for cooing the same phrase in interviews about her love life with Williams' former flame, tennis player Grigor Dmitrov, "the guy with a black heart."

Williams has called such sentiments "boring."  Her exit from Wimby spells the end, for now, of that delicious little story line.

All smiles on Centre Court for Lisicki....except while hitting. Courtesy Getty Images.Asked by the BBC interviewer how she was able to keep from dissolving into self-defeating self-loathing and other aspects of Tennis Hate when facing 3 break points -- and blowing a match point -- Lisicki said she just "hung in there."

"I was able to enjoy it," she said of the match.  Indeed, she SMILED, even when Serena got two successive points after her shot hit the net and wobbled weakly onto Lisicki's side of the grass.

She also said she was feeling some mojo from the clay court season.

“[It] gave me a little more energy knowing that she won the French Open and I beat the French Open champion three times in a row in my last three appearances, so…good omen."

Williams acknowledged that Sabine "played really well."  She also flatly said she should have done better.  "I definitely, probably should have made some shots.  Huge room for improvement."

When those sorts of results can happen to a player as good as her, there's absolutely no reason why it can't happen to me.” - Andy Murray on Serena Williams' loss

When SERENA WILLIAMS, one of the best female players of all time, says there's "huge room for improvement" in her game, it takes a bit of the bite out of my own despair at ever getting this game.

Meanwhile, Serena's ouster is acting as a weird omen of sorts for Andy Murray, who worries that he, too, is going to be hit with the Upset Virus going around the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

"When those sorts of results can happen to a player as good as her, there's absolutely no reason why it can't happen to me," he gulped. "That's why I'm not getting ahead of myself, and no one else should.”

Murray straight-setted Mikhail Youzhny and will face a resurgent Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals, who's playing better since ridding himself of that super-gelled mohawk he'd been sporting.  The product was limiting his movement on the court.

The other quarters in the men's draw:  Novak Djokovic (no surprise there) vs. Tomas Berdych; David Ferrer takes on Juan Martin Del Potro, through to the Wimby quarters for the first time;and  an all-Pole match between sleeper Jerzy Janowicz vs. Lukasz Kubot.

Sabine Lisicki is on to the quarterfinals, where she'll take on Kaia Kanepi.  In the other quarterfinal matches, it's Aggie Radwanska against Li Na, Petra Kvitova vs. Kirsten Flipkens and Marion Bartoli against the last American standing, Sloane Stephens.

The Sloane Ranger rallied from a set down to beat Monica Puig, who has had an outstanding first Wimbledon as a pro.  She said patience is what has helped her get over her own recent bout of Tennis Hate.

This photo says it all about winning and losing, Tennis Hate and Tennis Love. Can't we just wave at the winner? Must we TOUCH them? Puig and Stephens at the net.

As the WTA's website noted, Stephens hit a plateu after a breakthrough run at the Aussie Open.  

She won only two of her next nine matches and stayed put at No.17 in the world. But in the last month and a half she has won 11 of 14 matches, and is now primed to keep clawing up those rankings - how did she break out of her spell?

"I just kept believing in myself," she said. "I mean, it was a bad time. But just knowing that I am a good tennis player helped. I'm Top 20 in the world for a reason. I didn't all of a sudden snap my fingers and get good. I put in a lot of work, a lot of sweat, bad hair days, all that other stuff, to get where I was.

"I realized I couldn't just let that go to waste."

Haters, I've got the sweat and the work down.  All I need is the bad hair day.  Anyone want to grease me up for a mohawk?

I'm happy for Sloane, but I'm rooting for the veteran, Marion Bartoli.  She's come close to winning Wimbledon, losing to Venus Williams in 2007. She's such a grinder.  She's a loner.  Everyone mocks her wacky warm-up swings, her unconventional double-handed forehand, her herky-jerky service motion.  

A victory for Bartoli at the end of this wild Wimbledon of slips and falls, upsets and injuries, would be fitting.  

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