Wimbledon recap: Danielle Collins eyes Centre Court, Ben Shelton's phantom fastest serve


Welcome to the Wimbledon briefing, where The Athletic will explain the stories behind the stories on each day of the tournament.

On day six of Wimbledon 2024, the unluckiest lucky loser made hay, Danielle Collins dreamed of Centre Court, and football invaded the home of tennis.

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The unluckiest lucky loser makes his fortune

When Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard walked into Roehampton to start Wimbledon qualifying, he could have been forgiven for feeling a little miffed.

The Frenchman is ranked world No. 58, comfortably inside the top 100, but that’s not where he was in late May when the cut for Wimbledon entries took place.

So, he went to qualifying — and lost, in the final round, to Maxime Janvier. That had to sting too.

But then Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina withdrew, and American No. 20 seed Sebastian Korda went from facing a slightly maverick but ultimately navigable challenge to facing 51 aces, an average first-serve speed of 135 mph, and an average second-serve speed of 126 mph. Ben Shelton, who has a pretty big serve himself, says that the 6-foot-8 Frenchman doesn’t hit a second serve at all.

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Mpetshi Perricard has made the most of his second chance, even if he was unlucky not to have gone straight into the main draw. (Glyn Kirk / AFP)

After beating Korda, Perricard has come through two more matches and now finds himself in the fourth round, facing Lorenzo Musetti. Musetti, who is a master of the chipped, block return and the backhand slice, has the kitchen towel absorbency required to hold a candle to a serve as big as Mpetshi Perricard’s, which has produced 105 aces in the tournament so far. But he’s not just a server: His backhand, a one-hander like Musetti’s, has arc and pace, and he moves with the economy of the best on the green stuff.

Lucky, or unlucky? Sometimes, you just have to make your own.

Speaking of serves, did Shelton (more on him later) break the record for the quickest serve at Wimbledon on Thursday?

Well, yes, until he didn’t. When it happened, no one thought much of the serve in question except the speed gun, which posted 153 mph on its display after Shelton hit an unreturned serve against Lloyd Harris. There wasn’t much buzz about it though, which was odd for a record that normally gets people talking.

Watching the serve on video it quickly became clear why. It was far too slow. The serve, an ace out wide with some kick on it, was fast sure, but it wasn’t record-breaking fast.

After checking with IBM, which looks after such data for Wimbledon, a spokesperson explained that “one of [Shelton’s] serves was incorrectly recorded and displayed courtside as 153 mph. Following a review, this has been corrected to 132 mph.”

Sorry, Ben.

— James Hansen and Charlie Eccleshare

A return to a court of good memories for Elina Svitolina. A new stage for Danielle Collins?

Elina Svitolina was about the biggest story going at Wimbledon last year.

She was just a few months removed from maternity leave, rolling through the draw to the semifinals as bombs dropped on Ukraine, where much of her family still lives. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, pregnancy, and the birth of her child, Svitolina had been out so long that a lot of people had forgotten what a terrific player she could be — a former world No. 3, and a winner of the season-ending Tour Finals.

Svitolina was back on Wimbledon’s Centre Court on Saturday, where she beat Ons Jabeur, the finalist the past two years, 6-1, 7-6.

“Great performance,” said Svitolina who is suddenly looking like a potential finalist with the top half of the draw opening up following Iga Swiatek’s loss.

“Really happy the way I was playing, the way I was moving around the court.”

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Danielle Collins is enjoying a superb season, her last on the tour. (Henry Nicholls / AFP via Getty Images)

Another candidate to emerge from that side of the draw is Danielle Collins, the big-hitting American who lost the first four games against Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil, but regrouped during a rain delay and won 12 of the next 16 for 6-4, 6-4 wins.

Collins, who is stepping away from tennis at the end of the season to hopefully start a family herself, has another incentive for winning more matches: She has never played a singles match on Centre Court, the stage Svitolina holds so dear.

“That’s a huge bucket lister for me,” Collins said.

“You watch so much tennis as a kid and see all of these people that you look up to and idolize playing. And when you get to come here as an adult, it’s such a surreal experience.”

Collins is one of seven Americans in the fourth round of the singles at the All England Club, the first time that has happened in 20 years.

— Matt Futterman

Ben Shelton’s six days of serves, strength and (not very much) sleep

Shelton is young, and big, and strong, and seemingly filled with boundless energy on the tennis court.

He’s needed every bit of it this first week of Wimbledon, and then some.

Start with the lengths of his matches. He’s played three of them and he’s needed the maximum five sets in each one. His second-round win against Lloyd Harris of South Africa required a match-deciding tiebreak. Then there’s the rain, which has been happening a lot in London during the past 10,000 years or so, and especially the past week.

All three of Shelton’s matches started on one day and ended on another, meaning he has been on the court every day. He began his third-round match against Denis Shapovalov of Canada on Friday afternoon. So maybe it was the endorphins from his win talking after he beat Shapovalov 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 around 24 hours later.

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Ben Shelton has had to show all his strength on six gruelling days of tennis. (Clive Brunskill / Getty Images)

“I was telling my coaches that physically after this match today, it’s the best that I’ve felt in the last two or three months,” said Shelton, who has been nursing a sore shoulder and other niggles during the spring.

Then he went out and showed everyone just how good he felt, playing a doubles match with his close friend Mackenzie McDonald against Flavio Cobolli and Lorenzo Sonego. Of course, they split the first two sets and failed to finish before darkness settled.

They will finish Sunday probably, which is shaping up to be another busy day for Shelton. He faces Jannik Sinner, the world No. 1, in the fourth round.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Ben Shelton: ‘I didn’t want to be one of 50 Nike guys’

— Matt Futterman

Euro 2024 makes itself heard on Centre Court

It’s been clear that this year’s Wimbledon tournament, like all others, would be a football-free zone. No Euros matches, involving England or anyone else, would be shown on site.

Naturally, fans took matters into their own hands. When Alexei Popyrin went to serve at 30-30, down 1-4 in the second set against Novak Djokovic, a roar erupted from the Centre Court stands, as Trent Alexander-Arnold’s winning penalty kick sent England into the European Championship semifinals. The players laughed it off, and Djokovic even mimed a penalty — left-footed, which is how he plays the game — that Popyrin attempted “saving” on the other side of the net.

England plays their semifinal on Wednesday at 8 p.m., which if it goes to normal time, would finish just before 10 p.m. Play is unlikely to still be going on on the main courts by then, but if it is, whoever’s in action will be left in little doubt at how England are getting on.

— Charlie Eccleshare

Shank of the day

Club players: Jelena Ostapenko would crush you in a match — but she will also speak to your soul.

Wimbledon men’s draw 2024

Wimbledon women’s draw 2024

Tell us what you noticed on the sixth day as things continue …

(Top photo of Danielle Collins: Robert Prange / Getty Images; Design: Eamonn Dalton)





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