It was the women who deserved the headlines on Manic Monday at Wimbledon, with a Match of the Year candidate, a couple other tense three-setters and a pair of impressive performances by the Williams sisters.
By comparison, the men were much more tame, with some of the intrigue wiped out by injury. Despite two matches that went the distance and a third that would have if not for darkness, it was a mundane straight set win that was most noteworthy on the ATP end of play.
In his first match ever as the tournament favorite in a Grand Slam, Andy Murray was downright clinical in a 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 win over Nick Kyrgios to advance to the quarterfinals for a ninth consecutive year. With an interesting match seemingly in play through 10 games, Kyrgios simply could not match Murray’s consistency. After a 5-5 start, it was 14-5 Murray the rest of the way and the contrast between the competitors could not have been more different.
Kyrgios alternating between telling his player box to get up and then to sit down was reminiscent of Murray’s behavior in past matches against Novak Djokovic. Murray had a tendency to fall flat both physically and mentally against Djokovic, most recently in the Roland Garros final when Murray paid the piper for all the energy expended in first and second round five-setters against Radek Stepanek and the anonymous Matthias Bourgue.
With Ivan Lendl back in his corner though, the composed and focused version of Murray from their first stint together is back and he was on full display. There was no needless sets lost (like versus Kyrgios at the U.S. Open last fall), break leads squandered or petulant whining, just business.
As a result, he’s in the quarterfinals without dropping a set and well rested. Set up to win his first major in three years, Murray showed no indications of internalized pressure to take advantage of this golden opportunity.
He passed his first test of his new reality with flying colors. One down, three to go.
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— In fairness to Murray, his commitment to tennis was never questioned like Kyrgios. The mercurial Aussie reiterated in press that he doesn’t love the sport, but isn’t sure what he’d do without it. While some legends like Andre Agassi famously hated the sport, exchanges like this have to be taken into account:
Q. You doing all you can to be the best pro you can be?
NICK KYRGIOS: No.
Q. Is that something you want to change?
KYRGIOS: I don't know.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) July 4, 2016
Kyrgios’ attitude isn’t a crime. It’s his life to live, and if he wants to make a comfy living as merely a top 15 player, there’s worse ways to go through life. However, with players like the Big Four ushering the sport into a place where it requires complete dedication, his lack of it has to factor into future projections. Winning is hard enough for fully committed players. Let’s slow the hype train.
— Milos Raonic pulled off his first career comeback from two sets down over David Goffin, and he didn’t even need a tiebreaker to do it. It was perhaps a career-defining win for Raonic, though Goffin’s abysmal 3-29 record against top 10 players factors in here. The importance of Raonic’s feat won’t be known until we see how he follows it up.
— Federer crushed his first legitimate opponent of the tournament, sweeping Stevie Johnson, 6-2, 6-3, 7-5. One more win and he’ll tie Martina Navratilova’s all-time record for Grand Slam wins (307) as well as Jimmy Connors’ men’s record of Wimbledon victories (84). He also matched Connors’ mark of 14 Wimbledon quarterfinals.
— Jo-Wilfried Tsonga got a break after being the most disadvantaged by the weather. His friend and countryman Richard Gasquet retired in their first set due to his often balky back. Ever the gentlemen, Tsonga carried Gasquet’s bags to the locker room. He and Murray meet in the quarters.
— The other retirement was Kei Nishikori, who just can’t escape unscathed out of grass season it seems. His Wimbledon was again cut short, retiring with a rib injury down 6-1, 5-1 to Marin Cilic, the man who kept a major trophy from him at the 2014 U.S. Open. It’s a tough break for Kei, though he plans to be ready for Toronto and the Olympics. Cilic faces Federer next.
— Tomas Berdych failed to serve out the match against fellow Czech Jiri Vesely. He also lost more match points following that game and dropped the fourth set in a tiebreaker played in near darkness. They’ll play a fifth on Tuesday.
— With zero pre-Wimbledon grass wins to his name, Lucas Pouille beat grass maestro (he even tries on the surface!) Bernie Tomic, 10-8 in the fifth. He awaits the Berdych-Vesely winner.
— Finally, Sam Querrey took out Nicolas Mahut in straights, avenging a loss to him a couple weeks ago. Querrey not only backed up his win over Djokovic, he reached a long-standing goal of becoming a Grand Slam quarterfinalist.