It was Friday the 13th. So it wasn’t a huge surprise that a few wacky events took place at Wimbledon.
But what transpired, from 1 p.m. when John Isner and Kevin Anderson walked onto Centre Court until 11:05 p.m., when Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic walked off with unfinished business, was beyond anyone’s imagination.
Chapter 4 is called The Supporting Players
WIMBLEDON – With short points, changeovers and time between points, there are plenty of opportunities for shots of people other than the two main characters during a six hour, 36-minute tennis match.
Front and centre among those highlighted was Justin Gimelstob.
A broadcaster, talent manager, television producer, student, father – and member of the ATP Tour player council – the 41-year-old American former player has no issues with putting himself front and centre in the business of tennis.
He gets a lot of flack for that on social media – never more so than on Friday.
Back on Team Isner
Gimelstob coached John Isner for a couple of years in 2015 and 2016. And he returned in 2018, although not in full-time role as he shares duties with David Macpherson.
Even back in their first iteration, Gimelstob was big on Isner hitting the ball harder within boundaries, returning harder, and coming to the net to finish points off.
That’s what the 33-year-old did this Wimbledon, and it nearly got him to the men’s singles final.
But it was Gimelstob’s performance in the player’s box, shown repeatedly on the television broadcasts, that had social media quite in a tizzy for awhile.
Dressed in a suit and tie with aviator glasses (next to the more tennis-attired Macpherson), Gimelstob was standing and pumping his first on virtually every point.
In fact, once, he stood up, pumped his right fist – while still holding on to the hand of his seated girlfriend with his left hand. That’s multitasking.
It also looked as though he and Isner were exchanging hand signals among other coaching methods which, as we all know, isn’t kosher.
As a member of the Player Council, for which Anderson is vice-president and to which Isner was just elected for a return term, Gimelstob cheering on one player at the expense of another is just another of those myriad conflicts of interest tennis seems to have little stomach to even address.
Never mind the coaching thing.
But, as Gimelstob pointed out to your Tennis.Life correspondent during a chat a few years ago, nothing in tennis prevents him from putting his fingers in as many pies as he can and until it does, he’ll keep doing it. Can’t argue with that chutzpah.
He has a lot of yellow cards in his file already, for things he’s said that way crossed the line. But he was probably loving every moment of it on Friday.
Except for the ending, of course.
Legends matches postponed
Gimelstob, paired with Brit Ross Hutchins, had legends matches scheduled the same day as the last two Isner singles matches.
So both times, they had to postpone. He and Hutchins will play Xavier Malisse and Colin Fleming Saturday. And, with the round-robin format, with Gimelstob and Hutching at 1-1 and Malisse and Fleming at 2-0, it’s essentially a match for the title.
So Gimelstob may end up with the hardware after all.
Cicak, the marathon woman
Respected chair umpire Marija Čičak got the assignment for Anderson vs. Isner.
She had to know that it was going to be a butt-buster. But there’s no way she could have known just how much of a marathon it was going to be.
Hopefully she got some tips from fellow umpire Mohamed Lahyani, who was in the chair for all three days of the Isner vs. Mahut marathon back in 2010, which ended up 70-68 in the fifth set.
As far as we could tell, she never needed a bathroom break during the six hours and 36 minutes it took to determine a winner.
That kind of endurance requires a fair bit of liquids management.
It also requires a pretty comfortable perch to sit in.
If she was in any kind of distress, it never showed.
So Čičak gets the “best supporting actor” nod for Saturday.
Mrs. Isner – a trouper
Madison McKinley, who married John Isner last December, is seven months pregnant with their first child.
Despite that, and no doubt rather uncomfortable, Mrs. Isner didn’t miss a moment of her husband’s valiant attempt to reach his first Grand Slam final.
She was kind of hard to notice, with Gimelstob front and centre in the Players’ box.
But her support was truly an impressive thing.
It’s a good thing she never left. The match was so long – and so stressful – that her husband might well have wondered if she went into labor and headed off to the hospital while they were in the middle of the fifth set.
The BBC – spelling impaired
It was a long day for everyone.
But still, as the BBC put up a graphic showing now Novak Djokovic passed time of the time in the locker room waiting for his match with Rafael Nadal, they went full-out spelling fail on his Twitter handle.
You know that the legion of Djokovic fans thought this was a deliberate affront.
In truth, the “r” and “n” side by side can easily be mistaken for an “m”, if you look too quickly.