Top Seeds Upset at Wimbledon

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At the Wimbledon tennis tournament Friday, No. 1 seed Ana Ivanovic was defeated by No. 133 Zheng Jie of China. Bud Collins, a columnist for The Boston Globe and ESPN and a commentator for the Tennis Channel, makes sense of this and other events.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

A major upset today at the Wimbledon tennis tournament in England. Top-ranked Ana Ivanovic was beaten by Zheng Jie of China, a player who was ranked 133rd.

For more highs and lows at Wimbledon, we're joined by Bud Collins. He's a columnist for the Boston Globe and ESPN and a commentator for the Tennis Channel. Welcome to the program.

NORRIS: Well, thanks, Michele. Yeah, we've had a lot of fun around here today. We'd all been looking for the Serbian surge, you know, this tiny country with all the good tennis players. But they've had a tough time. They lost Novak Djokovic, who is the number 3 player in the world, off Marat Safin the other day. And now, Zheng Jie taking over and beating Ana Ivanovic. And that just doesn't seem possible.

NORRIS: Yesterday, Maria Sharapova was bounced out of the tournament. Tell me what happened yesterday.

NORRIS: She played very badly. I really thought she was sick. She's not an alibier(ph) at all, she didn't mention that. But I felt she just didn't play at all. She couldn't put the ball in the court. And this is of course is what's happening when you've got so many players who are pretty much equals, no dominant figure like you've had Federer among the men. And so it's just another one of these upsets. And we're going to see more of them, I believe.

NORRIS: And there are a lot of upstarts at Wimbledon this year.

NORRIS: Upstarts and upsets, right.

NORRIS: Who shall we keep our eye on?

NORRIS: Well now, gosh, I think Jelena Yankovic, who is a Serb - and she won the Italian title - I think you have to watch her very carefully because some of her main rivals have been knocked off. There's a little Polish kid named Agni Radwanska. Now we haven't had any good Polish players since the First World War. But she's in there and she plays Kuznetsova next.

And also, an American - of all things, an American - Bethanie Mattek from Wisconsin beat Marion Bartoli, who was the finalist last year. And so we do have - for the United States anyway, it's the Williams sisters against the world, I think.

NORRIS: Now, but let's move over to the men's side if we can. Andy Roddick is out, James Blake went down early - you've been talking about the Americans. The Europeans on the men's side have really been dominating the sport for some time. What will it take for American men to get back on top of the game?

NORRIS: That's a good question, that's a several million dollar question that is bouncing around the U.S. Tennis Association these days. They've just appointed Patrick McEnroe, the U.S. Davis Cup captain as the development chairman of high-performance players, and he's got a big job. Because for some reason, in the United States, we're not getting a good number of real athletes to play tennis. That's what we're lacking.

So Roddick had his U.S. Open title in 2003, but he hasn't improved much. James Blake has never been able to master grass, I don't know why, but it's a mystery to him. And those are the two top guys. So it's a long way back for the United States.

NORRIS: Does Federer look like he is marching toward his sixth straight win?

NORRIS: No, I don't think he is necessarily. I don't think he's been playing as well as he did at this time last year. But he got a terrific break when Safin beat Djokovic. Because to win, to hold his title, Federer would've had to beat Djokovic in the semifinals and Nadal in the final. If things happen, that's just a little wishful thinking on many parts. But he got rid of Djokovic, who's been giving him a hard time. So it really does look like a Federer and Nadal final, to me anyway, and I think Nadal is going to win it.

NORRIS: Well, given what happened at the French Open, that final could be epic.

NORRIS: Oh, I know. It's not going to happen like that. It was on a clay court, Michele, and, well, Roger just doesn't respond very well to the dirt.

NORRIS: Well, Bud, it's always good to talk to you. Take care.

NORRIS: Thank you very much, Michele.

NORRIS: That was Bud Collins. He's a columnist for the Boston Globe and for ESPN. He's also a commentator for the Tennis Channel.

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