Commentary

Tipsarevic, Kudryavtseva turning heads with play and rhetoric

From a stealth Serb's coming-out party to a rhapsodic Russian's spunk, it's been a roller-coaster ride at Wimbledon.

Updated: June 29, 2008, 8:28 PM ET
By Bonnie D. Ford | ESPN.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- It was a week for understudies, upstarts, unsung veterans and up-to-now underachievers of 2008 here at the All England Club. We think the unusually sunny weather might have altered the climate in this corner of the tennis universe.

 Janko Tipsarevic
Ryan Pierse/Getty ImagesOne of the most intellectual players on tour, Janko Tipsarevic has reached his second career Wimbledon round-of-16 appearance.
Understudies: No one could be a more gracious supporting actor than Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic, who's been overshadowed by the emergence of his younger compatriot and friend Novak Djokovic. But Tipsarevic got some marquee treatment after his second-round upset of Andy Roddick, and we expect that to continue next week, as he's got a good shot at getting to the semifinals.

The more Tipsy we get from here on in, the more we may enjoy this party. "Maybe I'm being a little bit too honest with the press now, but definitely the reason is when I play against big guys, top 10 players, world No. 1s, ex-world No. 1s, in my head there is this thought knowing that if I don't play good, I'm going to get killed on the court,'' he said last week. "That leaves me with no option, and I rise to the occasion.''

Asked for the millionth time whether this has anything to do with early deprivation, Tipsarevic answered with our quote of the week: "No, I don't believe in Rocky Balboa stories and this. We don't have money when we were kids and now we fight more than the British. This is complete Hollywood story, which I don't believe in.''

Meanwhile, on the women's side, Jelena Jankovic upstaged recently crowned No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in making it to Week 2.

Unsung veterans: Thailand's alliteratively named Tamarine Tanasugarn, who holds dual U.S.-Thailand citizenship, reached the Wimbledon round of 16 five out of six years from 1998 to 2004 and cracked the top 20 in 2002. But she was largely forgotten until she came out of something like nowhere at age 31 to win the most important title of her career on grass at the Ordina Open in Holland the week before she arrived here. She now has won 10 straight matches on grass and survived a sore hamstring to upset No. 13 Victoria Azarenka in the second round. … In the over-30 men's category, Rainer Schuettler of Germany, who eliminated James Blake in the second round by TKO in five sets, now has won nearly as many matches here (three) as he has at the ATP level the rest of the season (four).

Upstarts: Two days after ousting Maria Sharapova, a chastened Alla Kudryavtseva seemed to want to retract her spontaneous comment that she was motivated to beat the No. 3 seed because she didn't like her tuxedo outfit. "Oh, my God, can you get over it?'' she asked when reporters brought it up on Saturday. "Let's talk about tennis, yeah? I was surprised when I saw the newspapers. I didn't think it was going to be such a big thing.'' We hope she hasn't lost her sense of humor or her spunk. The Sharapova win was impressive, but we also give major credit to A-Kud for getting over the emotional bends that must have afflicted her when she had to play the equally unintimidated Shuai Peng of China in the next round on an outer court. The 20-year-old Russian fought back from a subpar second set to win that match. … Marin Cilic, Croatia's Next Big Thing (Do they make them any other way?), also 20, reached his second Slam round of 16 this season. … Bethanie Mattek isn't new to the scene at age 23, but she's newly fit and is playing the best tennis of her life, so we'll include her, too.

[+] EnlargeAna Ivanovic
Julian Finney/Getty ImagesAna Ivanovic shows her appreciation to the net after a let cord saved the day in a second-round encounter versus Nathalie Dechy.
Up-to-now underachievers of 2008: When Richard Gasquet beamed with happiness and relief after beating countryman Gilles Simon to advance to the fourth round, it was almost as surprising as having seen our shadows all day here in normally cloudy SW19. Gasquet has had the most dispiriting year of any top-10 player -- much of it because of injury and the oddly oscillating competitive attitude that was on display at his disappearing act at the Davis Cup quarterfinals against the U.S. team. He seems like a different player here, as if he just wiped out the memory bank between now and last year's transcendent victory over Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals. It would be great to see Gasquet and his poetic backhand in top form. His upcoming tilt with contemporary Andy Murray will open the second week with a bang. … We were starting to wonder whether Nadia Petrova was still interested until she got to the International Women's Open at Eastbourne and charged to the final. Grass is apparently good for her diet. Ditto for Marcos Baghdatis and Nicole Vaidisova.

Romantic gesture of the week: Ana Ivanovic kissed the let cord after the second-rounder in which it saved her a match point against France's Natalie Dechy. It was one of those slow-motion moments that sometimes guarantees good luck going forward, but Ivanovic's affections were not returned by the fickle net, and she crumbled in the next round.

Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com. She can be reached at bonniedford@aol.com.

Bonnie D. Ford covers Olympic sports for ESPN.com.