Each had won a first round match. One has played more than 100 Grand Slam singles matches; the other less than 50. One has won two majors and is currently ranked number one in the world. The other has made it to one Grand Slam semi and reached a career-high of #19 in the world.
The first player cited is Angelique Kerber. As she has all year, Kerber labored, this time against a qualifier, 247th-ranked Irina Falconi, who had lost all four matches she’d ever played at Wimbledon. Kerber only intermittently showed traces of the form that took her to the finals here a year ago, grubbing her way through, 6-4, 6-4, in a match that saw her hit 15 winners and the same number of unforced errors. But after her desultory first round exit from Roland Garros last month, the 29-year-old Germany was likely happen merely to have gotten through her opener.
The second player, CoCo Vandeweghe, who versus 48th-ranked Mona Barthel labored through a first set, 7-5, before going on to rip her way through the second, 6-2. Vandeweghe too had lost in the first round of Roland Garros, but has never been thought of as a significant clay court contender.
But if each ostensibly posted the same result, their respective attitudes and speaking style simultaneously reveal much – or do they? Kerber has always been a mix of subdued, humble, occasionally petulant, scarcely arrogant. “I mean, there are much more expectation, much more pressure, from me, from outside, from everything,” she said after the Falconi match. “You have much more things also to do. So I think the biggest challenge is to schedule your day completely new than if you were, like, yeah, 10 in the world.” Clearly, as has been true throughout all of 2017, Kerber has been grappling with the challenges of life in the limelight both on and off the court.
That’s never been an issue for Vandeweghe, who has always conducted herself, per the Carly Simon song “You’re So Vain,” like she was walking on to a yacht. Following her victory over Barthel, Vandeweghe addressed what she’d learned from her new coach, ’87 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash. “Well,” said Vandeweghe, “he's introduced me to a lot of '80 rock bands, which before I wasn't quite familiar with. I keep having to remind him I was born in '91. But other than that, I mean, he's on top of me about mentally staying with it and everything like that, and it's a constant harping on that one.”
So do results make the person, as per Kerber’s search to articulate what she’s been through over the last year? Or does a person need to be validated by anything other than pure self-belief, evidenced by Vandweghe’s perpetual comfort of life as a jock?