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Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Ripped from the headlines at Wimbledon

By Kamakshi Tandon
Special to ESPN.com

A look at some of the takeaways from this year's Wimbledon:

1. Federer gets ripped by an opponent

Win or lose, Roger Federer's fellow pros rarely have a bad word to say about the guy -- they've even given him the sportsmanship award six years in a row.

But after Federer insisted injuries had played a significant role in his loss to Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals, Berdych didn't hold back.

"I don't know if he's just looking for some excuses after the match or something like that," Berdych said. "I mean, it happened to all of us."

It's not like players never discuss their physical woes. Eventual champ Rafael Nadal talked about his knee worries after his third-round match, and Fernando Verdasco's litany might top them all: After a first-round loss, he said he had been troubled by his nail, groin, elbow and left arm.

Federer's disclosure that he was troubled by back and leg problems was noteworthy largely because he brought it up almost right off the bat, without being prompted.

"I think [Berdych] was a bit more consistent than in the past. I lost to him in Miami this year, where it was a really tight match as well," Federer said. "But from my end, obviously, I'm unhappy with the way I'm playing. I couldn't play the way I wanted to play. You know, I am struggling with a little bit of a back and a leg issue."

Perhaps it was the sting of defeat. Or annoyance at the Berdych camp's joyous locker room celebrations. Or, most likely, an attempt to head off the inevitable speculation that Federer is done. "Critics will join me along the way, maybe more than in the past," he said on television after the loss.

The interesting thing is that Berdych dared to go a bit further. Federer's way of analyzing his upcoming matches has become a bit of a standing joke among tennis watchers over the years.

There will be a concise and accurate assessment of the opponent to start and a throwaway remark at the end about said opponent's dismal record against Federer in the past (which, let's face it, everyone but Nadal has). It usually goes something like, "You know, but he's never won a set against me, so we'll see what happens," "I've got a little more experience in these situations" or "I've won our last 258 matches, so hopefully I can keep that going."

"He's a great player," Berdych said. "But still, when I just read some newspapers in the morning, I was not surprised to hear something from him to the way that he's fine, nothing is bothering him. 'When we played the last match, I lost. But last time in Wimbledon, I won pretty easily.' You know, stuff like that."

Zing! On or off the court, it seems the mighty Swiss is no longer untouchable.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal showed an increasingly acerbic side of himself at this year's Wimbledon.

2. Nadal rips the officials

It's not that Nadal has never been willing to butt heads with others; it's just that you have to push him pretty hard before it happens.

"We're finished with him," he once said of former Spanish federation president Pedro Munoz after witnessing some appalling behavior that would take too long to relate here.

"I don't have nothing to speak with this man," he said after getting exasperated with former ATP head Etienne de Villiers' plan for shaking up the tour.

At Wimbledon, though, there often seemed to be some nagging conflict. First, he couldn't meet the queen because it was scheduled for the same time he had to get ready for his practice.

Then he was warned for receiving coaching from his uncle, Toni Nadal, during his five-setter against Philipp Petzschner in the third round. Rafa responded angrily, telling the umpire, "We gonna talk with the supervisor later."

It didn't stop him from being fined for the incident. "Sometimes in the past, Toni talk maybe too much," Nadal maintained. "But not today, in my opinion."

In the quarterfinals against Robin Soderling, he got ticked off once more. Early in the second set, the umpire decided to award a crucial point to Soderling instead of replaying it when Soderling successfully challenged the call. Nadal did appear to have had a play on the ball, but his parting shot at the umpire still seemed a little paranoid: "So you want to see another No. 1?"

During that match, Soderling called for the trainer when Nadal was about to serve for the third set. The Spaniard wouldn't criticize his opponent afterward, having received mid-match treatments himself earlier in the tournament. But he did believe that the trainer took too long to arrive. "For me, the wrong thing is we wait for the physio five minutes," he said.

Nadal has long shown a more opinionated side of himself when speaking in Spanish. He now looks to have become quite confident expressing himself in English as well.

3. The Andys' "rip-artee" with the press

Andy Roddick's post-loss news conferences have become legendary for their dark humor and biting sarcasm. But he has eased up over the past couple of years, and journalists treated him with kid gloves when he went out to John Isner at the U.S. Open a couple of months after the Wimbledon heartbreaker against Federer. After a tough five-set loss to Yen-Hsun Lu in the fourth round, though, the atmosphere was a little tense.

"I always struggle with how to describe my mood," Roddick said at one point. "I mean, there's only so many ways you can say it. So I'm sure you can use your intuition and reach out and come up with something."

He was asked whether he would wake up the next morning angry or disappointed.

"I'm going to be thrilled. I mean, c'mon," he replied. "Of course I'm going to be pissed off when I wake up tomorrow. I mean, if you got fired from your job, you probably wouldn't wake up the next day in a great mood. I mean, c'mon, let's go. We're better than those questions."

One can only imagine how Roddick would have reacted to the question posed to Andy Murray by a British journalist after his semifinal loss: "Where does this one sit with your other disappointments?"

Monotone Murray, however, just replied, "I don't know. I'm very disappointed just now."

4. Berdych rips up the draw

Berdych has now reached the French Open semifinal and Wimbledon final in back-to-back majors, finally starting to show the kind of results expected of him for years.

Combine his runs with those of Soderling at the French Open the past two years and Juan Martin del Potro at the U.S. Open last year, and it's a sign that a new, taller breed is starting to turn up the standard of power on the men's tour yet another notch.

5. Isner and Mahut rip up the record books

Reciting these statistics just doesn't get old. Isner and Nicolas Mahut's three-day epic, henceforth known as "The 70-68," set the record for:

• The longest match ever played (11 hours and five minutes; the eight-hour fifth set alone ran longer than the previous mark of six hours, 33 minutes).
• The longest set ever played (70-68, with the previous mark being a puny 25-23).
• The most games ever played (183, well ahead of the respective 122 and 112 records set in doubles and singles in the past).
• The most points ever played (881), winners ever hit (490) and longest scorecard ever printed (eight pages). (No one has checked these, exactly, but it's a pretty sure thing.)
• The most aces ever hit (Isner's 113 and Mahut's 103 both beat the previous record of 78).

Like the match, you could go on and on and on: How about Mahut having to come back on Court 18 to play doubles later that day, only to be sent off for darkness once again? You can't make this stuff up.

6. Djokovic rips his shirt

Despite his recent ascension to world No. 2, Novak Djokovic's recent form has been so patchy that he was the underdog in his quarterfinal against Lleyton Hewitt. After scoring a tight but convincing win, the Serbian ripped his collar and tore his shirt right off, showing how important the victory was to him. Is it a sign that he's back … or that he has dropped back?

After surviving five sets in the opening round, Djokovic had a good run to get to the semifinals, but he looked drained when facing a firing Berdych for a spot in the final. Coach Marian Vajda reports that Djokovic's breathing problems, apparently caused by a pollen allergy, are still "up and down," affecting him greatly in some matches and not in others.

His first couple of hard-court tournaments should indicate what impact it will have on him during this part of the season.

7. Serena rips her serve

Isner and Mahut weren't the only ones putting up impressive stats at Wimbledon.

Sure, Serena served fewer aces (89) and won fewer points (467) on her way to the title than Isner did during his first-round match (113 aces and 478 points, actually fewer than Mahut's 502). But her ace count was nearly triple Venus Williams' 30, the next-highest total, and she was broken only twice during the tournament.

Her win didn't come down to serving alone, but it certainly played a large part in how easily she won -- Serena did not drop a set during the tournament and lost only 41 games, her third-fewest in winning a Grand Slam.

After Serena lifted the trophy, Martina Navratilova bestowed another title on her -- "the best serve in the history of women's tennis."

8. Zvonareva doesn't rip her bandages

OK, so maybe there has been too much recounting of Vera Zvonareva's meltdown against Flavia Pennetta at the U.S. Open last year. But it was one to remember -- as six match points fell away, the Russian cried, screamed, swore at the umpire, smacked her legs and began ripping off the tape on her knees by hand after being refused scissors (a good call by officials, surely).

There wasn't much sign of that Zvonareva at Wimbledon, as she coolly overturned one-set deficits in the quarters and semis to reach her first Grand Slam final, where she fell to Serena.

But then, after she lost the first set of the doubles final later that day, the dam burst. Zvonareva sobbed into her towel at the changeover and also had tears trickling down her cheeks at the end of the match.

So "Good Vera" and "Bad Vera" are both active. Who's going to win the inner battle more often this summer?

9. Pironkova doesn't rip the ball

Tzvetana Pironkova's slice forehand and ability to change the pace off that wing was a trademark of her run to the Wimbledon semifinals. Put together with the success of Francesca Schiavone's top spin, Samantha Stosur's kick serve and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez's serve-volleying, and it's been a good period for games with a bit of variety on the women's tour.

But can it last through the hard-court season, where the surface doesn't reward spin as much?

10. Rip up the roof

This year marked the first time since 1995 that there were no rain delays during the Championships. In fact, since the Centre Court roof made its celebrated debut last year, it has been used only once for rain; even then, the drizzle had largely stopped by the time they got it closed. It has come into play more often for lack of light than for weather, this year allowing Djokovic and Olivier Rochus to finish their five-set battle under the lights on the opening day.

Just as carrying an umbrella tends to keep the clouds away, having the roof is turning out to be a virtual guarantee of sunshine.

Kamakshi Tandon is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.