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Thrills, Spills, Love Interest and Heartbreak – a Fitting Farewell to Wimbledon’s Manic Monday

By Alix Ramsay

It was the last Manic Monday, the end of a grand tradition at Wimbledon. The second Monday has always featured every fourth round match in both the men’s and women’s draws and follows the greatest tradition of them all: the middle Sunday of rest (we are radical like that in the UK: that whole Sunday followed by Monday thing…we Brits are cutting edge).

The middle Sunday was the magical moment of calm in the middle of the mayhem of The Championships. The rest day was created to let the grass have a day off to recover and for the groundsmen to prepare the courts for the business end of the tournament. It was also a chance for everyone to breathe and relax, if only for a day. Of course, the practice courts were always busy, as were the treatment rooms, the ice baths, the gym – Wimbledon was a hive of activity but there was no pressure. It was bliss.

But now, in these days of 24/7 demand and supply and of sponsors, broadcasters and money men looking for yet more ways to squeeze a few more quid out of any event, the time has come to play on the middle Sunday. The grass is tougher these days and the groundsmen have more scientific ways of making it last. Alas, those same groundsmen never share around their magic potions to the rest of us to ensure that we can last the distance, too.

Anyway, this Monday was the last Manic Monday – and we had it all. There were old GOATs processing majestically into the last eight; there were young guns blasting their way into the quarter-finals. There were injury dramas, heartbreak for the local heroine, a happy couple both winning and – and of course there had to be – there was rain.

Novak Djokovic, the seemingly unstoppable No.1, barely broke a sweat as he swept aside Cristian Garin 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 in 109 minutes while Roger Federer looked a little troubled for a set but soon sorted himself out to beat Lorenzo Sonego 7-5, 6-4, 6-2. That took care of the two established superstars.

Denis Shapovalov picked up from where had left against Andy Murray on Friday and dismissed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-1, 6-3, 7-5 while Karen Khachanov survived a bizarre fifth set of 13 breaks of serve to come through against Sebastian Korda 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 10-8. Felix Auger-Aliassime was also locked in a titanic struggle with Sascha Zverev before he finally got the upper hand 6-4, 7-6, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4. It took him four hours and two minutes to get the job done and book his appointment on Wednesday with Matteo Berrettini.

Berrettini whistled through his encounter with Ilya Ivashka 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 in 107 minutes and was back in the locker room by mid-afternoon. And a good thing, too, because that gave him plenty of time to finish up his chores for the day and get himself over to No.1 Court in good time to watch his girlfriend, Ajla Tomljanovic, take on Britian’s latest, greatest hope, Emma Raducanu.

Tomljanovic has been on the tour for a decade and her best grand slam result was reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros in 2014. Since then, she has had her injury woes and major shoulder surgery. Her run here this year is her reward for her hard work and determination in getting back to where she wants to be.

Raducanu, on the other hand, is just 18; she is still waiting for her A-level results and she has a ranking of 338. She came to Wimbledon as a wild card (and even then, she wasn’t included in the first draft of wild cards) and then romped through the first three rounds without dropping a set.


But on Monday night, under the roof on No.1 Court, it all came to a tearful end. She dropped the first set 6-4 and then looked to be in some distress at the start of the second set. Clutching her stomach between points, she also looked to be having trouble breathing. The doctor and the physio were called at the first change of ends (Raducanu was 3-0 down) and, as she sobbed, she left the court. She never came back. The message was relayed to the crowd that she has pulled out but there was no further information about her injury – if indeed it was an injury.

In commentary, John McEnroe suggested that Raducanu simply couldn’t handle the pressure although Tomljanovic thought that theory was “harsh”.

It was a horrible end to what had been a dream tournament for the 18-year-old. But at least she will go away £181,000 better off (which is a lot when you’ve just finished your school exams) and ranked No.175 in the world. She has also shown her potential on the court (if she can stay healthy, she will be very, very good) and off it: she has charmed the crowds, transfixed the broadcasters and sent the marketing men into a frenzy. Although Martina Navratilova advised caution there.

“Emma was born to be here,” Navratilova said. “She runs like a deer out there. If you can run like that and hit the ball, you’re in good shape. You make these big jumps in your career and she’s done the big jump at Wimbledon. She’s totally embracing it – I love it.

“Now there’s one word she and her management need to learn: no. Everyone’s going to want a piece of her now. She’s going to be in demand, and she has to keep her eye on the long-term prize.”

As for Tomljanovic, she was impressed with the way Raducanu had ridden the wave of British over-excitement as she progressed. Interviewed by all and sundry, the teenager was on the front page of every Sunday newspaper after her win on Saturday and there wasn’t a TV or radio news programme that didn’t have her as the headline story. This was wall-to-wall coverage.

“I wasn’t surprised with her level of tennis because there’s been so many young girls that can hit the ball,” Tomljanovic said. “I get more impressed with young girls being at this stage so early, handling it mentally. At 18, I don’t even remember what I was like, but I wasn’t doing that. I find that impressive.”

Tomljanovic now faces Ash Barty for a place in the semi-finals. But that is not her only concern. Her boyfriend plays Felix A-A – easy to imagine who she will be supporting, then. Except that her cousin, Nina, is Felix’s girlfriend and the tight-knit gang of four have been supporting each other every step of the way these past eight days. All three have played on the same day throughout the tournament which has left poor Nina running around like a wet hen trying to be there, on court, for them all. Wednesday’s men’s quarter-finals could be a tough day for the Tomljanovic girls.

Federer, meanwhile, was just happy to be into his 18th Wimbledon quarter-final (he holds the record in that department; Jimmy Connors has the second-best record with 14 trips to the last eight). He was even happier to learn that his opponent is yet to be decided.

Daniil Medvedev and Hubert Hurkacz were in the fourth set with the Pole leading 4-3 on serve (and Medvedev leading by two sets to one) when the rain settled in for the night. They will be back on Tuesday – this time under the roof on Centre Court – to settle their differences and decide who will face the Fed on Wednesday. With tongue in cheek, he smiled when he was told about this fact. This was a good thing.

For Federer, every day is a new adventure. At the age of 39 and coming back from such a long lay-off, he is not quite sure what to expect of himself.

“When you’re young, you don’t ask yourself the question,” he said. “But when you’re me, with the year I had, it’s all question marks all over the place. You have to prove it again to yourself that you can actually do it.

“I was willing to take losses for the sake of information, just to be out there, get the body in shape for hopefully when Wimbledon comes around that I can actually wake up in the morning and feel all right, that I can still go out and play five sets.

“I feel that way, so it’s very rewarding and it’s a good feeling. Now we’ll see how much more I got left in the tank. Clearly was important again to win in straight sets. Looking forward to the next round.”

It had been a fitting, final farewell to the best day in grand slam tennis. Goodbye Manic Monday – we are going to miss you. But not half as much as we are going to miss a day off on the middle Sunday. Bah humbug to progress.