In the vast list of traditions that the Wimbledon Championships strictly and proudly follows is the middle Sunday break. It is the only Grand Slam that has an off day built into its two-week schedule. It is a rest day for the players, organisers, security personnel, the local residents – from the hustle-bustle of a Grand Slam fortnight—and even the grass courts, which have taken a pounding during the first week.
After the lull, comes the storm. A blockbuster day featuring all the Round of 16 matches is now known as the Manic Monday.
This year though, the Sunday break may also serve as downtime for the fans flocking to SW19. After all, the opening week of the tournament has been a turbulent ride that has rocked both the men’s and women’s draw.
On the opening day itself, the men’s singles draw had the irresistible clash between Stan Wawrinka and World no 6 Grigor Dimitrov. A four-set win for the Swiss made the 27-year-old the first big name to exit in the first round. But there were more names to follow as the week went on.
By Sunday, at the end of the third round of matches, 22 of the 32 seeds have been beaten. Unseeded players beat nineteen of those. Two of the biggest upsets came in the form of Marin Cilic and Alexander Zverev’s defeats to Guido Pella and Latvian qualifier Ernests Gulbis respectively.
Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion who has been the most consistent player outside the Big 4 – also the finalist at Wimbledon last year and the Australian Open in January – was involved in a five-setter against Pella that was played across two days. The third-seeded Croat had taken a two-set lead on the first. Then came the rain that forced play to stop, washing away with it Cilic’s momentum, and allowing the Argentine to fashion a miraculous comeback and stunning upset in the second round.
On Saturday, NexGen sensation Zverev, the fourth seed too was involved in a five-setter against qualifier Gulbis. The World No 138 Latvian, who was once ranked as high as 10 stretched the 21-year-old throughout the 3-hour-20-minute contest that ended with a dramatic 7-6(2), 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-0 scoreline.
Another first-round upset was French Open finalist Dominic Thiem’s retirement against World No 95 Marcos Baghdatis. The seventh seed slipped during the first set and injured his back, eventually retiring at the start of the third set.
In the third round, there was also an intense clash between the talented 15th seed Nick Kyrgios and Japan’s Kei Nishikori. The mercurial Australian had shown signs of maturity in the first two rounds but did not have an answer against Nishikori’s watertight defence. The 24th seed from Japan, who had reached the final of the 2014 US Open though came up with a straight-sets win to book only his second fourth-round appearance at Wimbledon.
The women’s draw has become an even more open affair. With the defeat of top seed and French Open champion Simona Halep in the third round to Su Wei Hsieh – the first time since 2008 that the top seed was ousted by an unseeded player at Wimbledon – only one of the top 10 seeds remains in the competition.
And Karolina Pliskova, the seventh seed hasn’t been in the best touch so far this tournament. But she is one of the seven seeds that still remain in the competition. Of the 25 seeded players from 32, that failed to make it past the third round, unseeded opponents beat 20.
The biggest upset perhaps was Hsieh’s historic win over Halep. But that came days after 2004 champion Maria Sharapova lost her first round match to Russian qualifier Vitalia Diatchenko.
Manic Monday now has some thrilling, and surprising, contests on offer.
The top two seeds in the men’s draw Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will resume their campaigns with fourth-round clashes against Adrian Mannarino and Jiri Vesely respectively. Nadal, who won the 2008 final in an epic battle with Federer, is hoping to return to winning ways at the Big W. He hasn’t been past the fourth round at Wimbledon since he reached the final in 2011.
The NextGen has again made a significant impact on the Championships and will look to forger their way ahead. Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas, who won the Wimbledon boys’ doubles title in 2016, will take on towering American John Isner, whose ace count this tournament is already 113. The hard-hitting Karen Khachanov, 22, may also prove a handful for Novak Djokovic, who still hasn’t hit top form and was given a tough time by local-favourite Kyle Edmund in the third round.
In the women’s section, seven-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams has steadily got better with each outing and looks on track for a record-equalling 24th singles major. She takes on Russian qualifier and fellow mum Evgeniya Rodina.
The highest ranked and seeded player left in the draw, Karolina Pliskova may find it tough to tame Kiki Bertens, a player brimming with confidence. The 20th seed will come into the match fresh after ousting Venus Williams in the third round.
For all the twists and turns Wimbledon has come up with this year, there are a few similarities from the last edition. Federer is still carving up his opponents on grass while Nadal gives chase. Meanwhile, the women’s field is completely open again. This time though, Serena’s presence might be the clincher.e: