Wimbledon: The Old Guard Not Quite Ready to Ride Off Into the Sunset
Novak Djokovic win keeps title within the 'Big Four'
One wins the title when least expected to do so, another makes it to the semifinals and yet another enters the quarterfnals. Oh yes, based on what we saw at Wimbledon the old guard of men’s tennis is not yet ready to ride off quietly into the sunset.
The pack of talented youngsters who seemed almost ready to topple the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic from the exalted status they have been occupying for quite a while now will have to wait for some more time before they are able to do so.
Indeed Djokovic’s triumph at Wimbledon makes it a remarkable 16 straight years that the title has been won by one of the “Big Four’’ the remaining member of the quartet Andy Murray unable to participate in this year’s competition because of injury.
Murray and Nadal have won the title twice while this was Djokovic’s fourth Wimbledon title. Federer of course is way ahead with eight. Also Djokovic’s win meant that he, Federer and Nadal have won a combined total of 50 Grand Slams between them.
The Serb’s victory was all the more remarkable as he was way down in the bookmaker’s list on the eve of the championships and who could blame them? An elbow surgery had kept him out of action for quite a while and predictably enough when he came back shortly after the season started his form was patchy. He had bad defeats in early rounds and this saw him slide down the rankings to 21. He came into his own shortly before Wimbledon commenced by finishing runner-up at Queen’s club but even then hardly anyone looked upon him as a serious challenger.
He was seeded 12th and with the fierce competition available in the men’s event everyone was looking to either Federer or Nadal, the top two ranked players to take the title. Or it was reckoned that perhaps one of the quintet of young challengers in Marin Cilic of Croatia, Alexander Zverev of Germany, Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria and Dominic Thiem of Austria seeded No 3 to 7 in that order were in with a chance.
After all two of them had won a Grand Slam with Cilic coming up trumps at the US Open in 2014 and del Potro winning the same event five years earlier. Cilic was also finalist at Wimbledon last year while del Potro was a semifinalist in 2013. One additional point in del Potro;s favour is that he defeated Federer in the final at the Indian Wells Masters in March this year a morale booster for the World No 4.
And yet when it came to the big stage youth faltered while experience prospered. One by one all them fell by the wayside with only Del Potro making it to the quarterfinals.before going down to Nadal in a five set thriller.
Indeed at this stage all seemed set for a Nadal – Federer final and fans were already discussing a repeat of their classic 2010 final. However Kevin Anderson had other plans. Not many have beaten Federer after being two sets down but the South African managed to do so and suddenly it seemed a very open Wimbledon what with Djokovic and John Isner joining Nadal in the last four.
Clearly at this stage the Nadal – Djokovic semi final was going to be a virtual final and as events proved this assumption was right. But in the meantime everyone’s attention was diverted to an epic semifinal between Isner and Anderson. At six hours and 35 minutes it was the second longest match ever at Wimbledon and the major talking point was the engrossing but prolonged final set which was finally won 26-24 by Anderson.
Naturally there was much discussion whether there should be a change in the rules that stipulate that there is no tie break in the deciding set. Even the winner agreed that there should be a change in the rules and generally the view was there could be some limit. Indeed the Federer – Anderson quarterfinal had the final set going to 13-11 while the semifinal between Nadal and Djokovic had the final set going to 10-8 and there were an unusually high number of tie breaks in the other sets spread over all matches indicating that the competition between the players had become closer.
The marathon semifinal took its toll on Anderson who was clearly not at his best in the title clash but to be fair to Djokovic his semifinal against Nadal which started on Friday had to be continued on Saturday so he too could not have had his customary rest. In any case Djokovic always seemed the better player and his triumph only proved that you should never write off a classy player with loads of determination, qualities that have pushed him back into the top 10. .
The women’s singles always had an open look about it once it was clear that Serena Williams was clearly not at her best after coming back into the game following childbirth. It speaks volumes of her fighting spiirt that the winner of 23 Grand Slams made it to the final after being seeded as low as 25th. And her chances of equalling Margaret Court’s all time record of 24 Grand Slam titles seemed pretty rosy at this stage with most of the other contenders having fallen by the wayside.
However one contender remained and she proved to be insurmountable for the great lady of world tennis. Angelique Kerber who had grown up idolizing Steffi Graf proved too strong for her and the 12th seemed German was a popular and deserving winner. But on the basis of her performance at Wimbledon it is clear that Serena is on the comeback trail and her chances of equalling Court’s record may still be fulfilled – perhaps even at the US Open in September. .