April 22, 2013
The war of attrition is back.
That’s what I’m telling myself as I’m watching Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic hit ball after ball after ball after ball. Surely they can’t keep at it like that for this long, right? “These guys are hitting haymakers left and right, it’s unreal.”
But I forget that these two players can go at it for, seemingly, ever. They might be the two most fit players on the ATP World Tour and remember, they once battled for just short of six (!!) hours at the 2012 Australian Open final.
In the final of the 2013 Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, the match didn’t last six hours—Djokovic won 6-2 and 7-6 (1) after (only) 1:52 of play.
It’s my favourite rivalry in all of tennis, and it is definitely back. But it took a while, the beginning of Sunday’s final delayed due to rain. And yet, what’s an extra 51 minutes when we’ve been waiting for this match for about 11 months anyway, right?
Because Nadal sustained an injury at last year’s Wimbledon, him and Djokovic hadn’t battled in a while and it wasn’t sure that they still would. First, the Spaniard needed to reestablish himself and show the world that he was back at full strength. Once he did that, however, it was Djokovic who sustained an injury of his own, in a recent Davis Cup tie against American Sam Querrey.
Nadal has so many points to defend this year, at least until Wimbledon, that there’s little chance that he can improve his No. 5 ranking. While he did have a seven-plus-month layoff in 2012, that didn’t come until after his annual breeze through the clay court season. His haul, as usual, was impressive with titles at Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Roland Garros.
But already this year, he lost 400 points with that loss to Djokovic. And now he needs to win, and win, and win—but he lost against Djokovic.
The head-to-head series is now at 19-15 in favour of Nadal. It was all Djokovic in 2011, because everything in the ATP was all Djokovic that year. In 2012, Nadal came back because that’s what he always does. He attacked and had Djokovic pouncing, winning three finals against the Serb after having lost seven in a row.
Then, Nadal got injured and didn’t play a match for seven months and change. The last thing on his mind was probably a match against his rival—until this week, and the return of what I think is tennis’s most compelling rivalry.
The difference, this time, was Djokovic’s resiliency and capacity to take the ball so, so early because he always stood on top of the baseline. With a ball striker like Nadal, who puts possibly as much spin on his shots as anybody else, ever, this is an exploit. Djokovic’s backhand, especially, was lethal and looked a lot like the shot that helped his ascent to the top in 2011, except that now Djokovic is using it both cross-court and down the line.
By comparison, Nadal’s backhand wasn’t up to par. While it had some good moments, the shot wasn’t dangerous enough, and Djokovic seemed all too happy to exchange cross-court on Nadal’s backhand until he found an opening.
And for that reason, Nadal wakes up with his first loss in Monaco in 47 matches. The 26-year-old had won eight titles in a row at Monte Carlo and had lost only 7 sets in his career at the tournament. When Djokovic won the first set, so convincingly too, it was the first time in 7 years that Nadal lost the first set of a match in Monaco.
Simply put, the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters is the cake that Nadal gets, and that he gets to eat too, year in and year out. It had always been the Spaniard’s court right in the backyard of the Serb (i.e. Djokovic lives in Monaco), but no more.
This is an absolutely great win for Djokovic, but Nadal still has the trump card—a Roland Garros title. That tournament gets underway on May 26. Djokovic is my favourite for the event, and I don’t care that he’s not yours. Your favourite, I know, is Nadal because you’ll take Nadal over anyone at the French Open.
That’s the same reason you took Nadal for Monte-Carlo—he never loses in Monaco, right?
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
August 20, 2012
Welcome to Tennis Elbow, a new column that will look back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon has a special edition of the column–one that doubles as a profile of Tamira Paszek.
AS SHE TALKS ON THE PHONE, Tamira Paszek doesn’t sound like a player who has just pulled out of a tournament. She’s seems happy, thrilled almost. “Finally. We made it!” She says that, not me–though I’m certainly thinking it. (I’ve been on and off the phone with the WTA Tour PR rep, a woman named Tessa, for the past three hours trying to set up the interview and, at long last, I’m speaking with Paszek.)
Paszek is in Cincinnati, for the Western & Southern Open, but she’s just withdrawn. She was playing Sofia Arvidsson and was down 6-1 and 2-1 when she decided to stop. She had a migraine yesterday, and the headaches have carried over to today. “There was not much that I could do on the court,” she says.
Just 21 years old, the native of Dornbirn, Austria, is a rising star on the WTA Tour. If she’s in Cincinnati when she speaks to me, she was in Montreal before that, and she’ll have lost her match against Sloane Stephens in the first round of the New Haven Open by the time I’m finished writing this feature. That’s the life of a professional tennis player, but Paszek doesn’t mind it because she likes traveling and has been on the Tour since 2005. She says that it “always feels like coming back home” whenever she’s in Canada, and for good reason. “My father has lived in Toronto for 15 years,” she says before adding that she has family in Calgary and Ottawa as well as Toronto.
But none of these cities are her favourite in Canada. That’s Quebec City, where she loves “walking in that old part of town.” While Paszek is neither the first nor the last to succumb to the beauty of the Château Frontenac, her love story is also due to Quebec City being the site of one of her first great successes on the WTA Tour–a 2010 title at the Bell Challenge.
Yet, Paszek isn’t quite a star yet, although she has played like one at times in her career–in her first-round match at this year’s Rogers Cup for example, when she defeated No. 21-ranked Julia Goerges 6-2 and 6-1. Montreal is kind to her as it’s also where she recorded her first victory over a No. 1-ranked player, in 2008 against Ana Ivanovic.
“I’M OUTGOING, AND DOWN TO EARTH,” PASZEK SAYS ON THE PHONE. On Twitter (@tamira1990), she writes things that are similar to what you or I write, like the fact that she loves going to the hairdresser or watching The Change-Up. To me, she says that she loves to walk her two “crazy” dogs, Joe-Joe and Paris, as much as possible whenever she’s home.
After her win in Montreal over Goerges, Paszek answers questions from the media and she’s told that a reporter from Toronto also wants to interview her via camera. Most reporters from Montreal leave the room, but I stay back and pretend to write something down in my notepad–which I actually do for a while. I soon realize that she and the woman from Toronto are speaking in German. I understand nothing, but it seems funny–they’re laughing together, and it’s more a conversation than an interview. “I’ve known her for a long time,” Paszek says as she leaves the room.
AT 1:30 P.M., IT’S WARM OUTSIDE, 27°C TO BE EXACT. Looking back, that Wednesday, August 8, will be the last day of the 2012 Rogers Cup without rain but that’s not what we’re thinking about then. It’s just warm, humid and the air is sticky. Paszek has been practicing since 12:45 on court 2 with her coach. About 20 of us are sitting in the stands and watching her hit, because that’s when tennis players are most impressive. Paszek hits the ball flat and her shots fall deep near the opponent’s baseline. It’s tough to pull off, but it’s very effective if you do. When the shots don’t fall, though, that’s when Paszek has a hard time. She’s only 5-foot-5, but Paszek’s groundstrokes are as heavy as anybody else’s and truly, she’s better than her No. 33-ranking would suggest. This isn’t to say that being ranked 33rd on the Tour isn’t great, because it is. But Paszek can be higher.
In 2012, she has been hampered by inconsistencies and injuries, but she turned a corner this summer when she won the AEGON International in Eastbourne, and then reached the quarterfinals at the Wimbledon Championships and lost a close match against No. 1 Victoria Azarenka–6-3 and 7-6 (4). A month later, she was competing at the All-England Club again, this time for the 2012 Olympic Games. “I was at the opening ceremony and stayed at the (Olympic) village,” she says. “It was an incredible feeling.” In Montreal finally, Paszek will equal her best performance at the tournament and reach the quarterfinals where she’ll lose to eventual winner Petra Kvitova.
But for now, Paszek is stuck on a tennis court inside Uniprix Stadium, practicing with her coach Andrei Pavel. Now 38 years old, Pavel is a former ATP pro who was ranked as high as No. 13 in 2004 and who won the 2001 Rogers Cup. They’ve started working together this year, a little bit before Roland Garros. “He’s a great guy and a great person, and we get along well,” Paszek says. “He’s tough on the court, but when the day is done we talk about nothing that has to do with tennis.”
Meanwhile, Pavel says that it’s time for Paszek to capitalize on what she’s hinted at possessing. “It’s her time now,” he says.
The Austrian has been working on her groundstrokes for close to 40 minutes, but she’d rather be in a pool. That’s what she tells the fans. “Phew, it’s so warm. Are you using sunscreen? It’s dangerous with that weather,” she asks a woman. (She tells her that she is.)
Now a man starts talking to her. He says he’s been playing tennis for over 20 years–which, you know, just might be true–and that Paszek has a bright future ahead of her. “The next three years are the most important of your career,” he tells her. They shake hands, because the man is actually polite and respectful if a little odd. (Not all players would react like Paszek–and I tell her as much–but she thought he was hilarious. “What are you going to do, right?” she says.) The man starts giving Pavel coaching advice and saying that Paszek needs to spend time in a pool–she’ll like to hear that. He explains that it will help her body get rid of lactic acid, or something like that. Jokingly, the coach yells to his pupil that, “He’s saying you have too much gas.
-No, I’m saying you have too much lac-
-He’s saying you have too much gas.
-No, no. Lactic-
-What is this? I don’t like this conversation…about gas, or whatever else!”
Mercifully, the man leaves, Paszek and Pavel laugh it off, and then continue their practice. After returning Pavel’s serves, she practices volleys then works on her serve–which remains her weakness. “Hit 100 to 200, then we’re done,” Pavel tells her. He doesn’t say what’s next. Paszek probably hopes it’s the pool.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
August 2, 2012
by: Lyra Pappin
Last time Andy Murray played at Wimbledon the montage to open his match told us that the Scot “toiled under the weight of Great Britain’s collective desire”. American television isn’t exactly known for its subtlety, but the London 2012 games have shown that the Brits aren’t interested in understatement either. While drama and tension are prime goals for the games, the UK is safely on board with 15 medals, so perhaps the “collective desire” has been slightly alleviated. Of course there’s still the personal desire of Murray, which should be raging on into his semi-final match against world number two, Novak Djokovic.
While a win for Murray would be terrific, if not surprising, how much will it mean for his legacy as a tennis player? Not enough, I’d argue. If Murray gets past Djokovic, he gives himself a shot at a gold medal, a shot that’s long at best. Plus, regardless of the outcome at the Olympics, the reality is that until Murray wins a major, there will always be an asterisk beside his name, even if he wins in London. Taking Olympic gold is a real feather in your cap, sure, but it would be endlessly noted that his path there was built on best of three matches, rather than best of five. The final is played as a best of five, but every betting man puts Roger Federer in that match, the “Greatest of All Time”, who is especially bent on proving his ongoing greatness these days, and not having much trouble doing it. With Olympic gold being the only remaining empty spot in the litany of achievements in Federer’s career, it seems like Murray would have to pry gold out of the Swiss champion’s dead cold hands before he gets to have his moment under the British sun.
Another intangible to consider: is it worse for Murray to lose back-to-back finals against Federer or for him to lose in the semi-final to Djokovic? Putting silver or bronze aside, the ongoing midgame that is men’s tennis puts me more in the camp that Murray thinking he can’t beat Federer when it counts is an enormous problem. The silver lining of not being the silver medalist might be that Murray wouldn’t face Federer in a heavy match again until the US Open, a tournament the Scot loves and one that suits his game.
It’s also a rather big assumption that Murray has an edge on Djokovic, going into this semi-final and their first meeting on grass. Djokovic has something to prove at Wimbledon, after he was prevented from defending his title a few weeks ago, being taken out by Federer. Djokovic’s remarkable consistency in 2011 has been MIA in 2012 and going all the way at the Olympics would deliver a much needed confidence boost. The chances of Djokovic beating Federer are greater than Murray beating Federer, as the Serbian is exceptionally motivated by playing for his country, as evidenced by his strong Davis Cup play, and the pride he took in winning with his compatriots last year.
Federer’s semi-final opponent Juan Martin Del Potro has not been mentioned; sometimes you say more by saying nothing at all, you know?
- Federer d. Del Potro in two (Confidence: 100%)
- Murray d. Djokovic in three (Confidence: 65%)
- Final: Federer d. Murray in three (Confidence 85%)
For more tennis talk, follow Lyra Pappin on Twitter at @lyrapappin.
July 10, 2012
Lyon, France – July 9, 2012 - Babolat is very happy to announce its new partnership with The Championships, Wimbledon. Starting January 1st, 2013, and for a period of five years, Babolat will become the official shoe brand of The Championships, Wimbledon.
“Wimbledon is an iconic tennis tournament and an international tennis brand. We’re proud to be able to establish a partnership between Wimbledon and our Babolat tennis shoes. With Wimbledon, we share both being at the origin of tennis and being on the cutting edge of the sport. Our high standards for equipment are demonstrated each day, on courts
everywhere in the world, and from now on, on the grass at Wimbledon,” said Eric Babolat, Chairman and CEO of Babolat.
As from 2013, Babolat will equip the ball boys and girls during The Championships.
Mick Desmond, Commercial Director at the All England Club said: “We are delighted to be in partnership with Babolat for the provision of shoes for our ball boys and girls on the grass courts at Wimbledon. Babolat and Wimbledon share many of the same brand values as well as a strong heritage in tennis and we look forward to a long association in the years to come.”
July 9, 2012
As long as tennis is played, there will be grass courts, and those who specialize in them. Yes, the surface no longer plays faster than all others, and racket technology has made serving big and charging the net less effective there, but its unusual footing and unpredictable bounces make it a unique discipline even now.
In the Open Era, since the game’s four majors became the metric by which tennis greatness was defined, a few players stand above the rest. This week we count down 10-6, with an honorable mention thrown in. Can you guess those in this section?
Honorable Mention: Goran Ivanisevic
One Wimbledon title
Four Wimbledon finals
Goran Ivanisevic’s run in 2001, in which he won his only Wimbledon title despite being unseeded and having not reached so much as a tour final since 1998, wasn’t just a miraculous, feel-good story. Without that one title, much of his achievements on the surface would have felt like promise not met, and the massive serving that intimidated even Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi would have not received its just reward.
He’d already been to three Wimbledon finals, with only Agassi and Sampras, the most accomplished all-surface players of his era, denying him the championship. But in 2001, thanks to a wildcard from tournament organizers, seven rounds of inspired play and a little luck, the player who helped make ‘90s grass court tennis what it was enters the record books not as a disappointment, but as one of the most accomplished grass court players of his era.
10: Arthur Ashe
One Wimbledon, one Australian Open title, one US Open title
Arthur Ashe is best known for fighting apartheid and for changing how AIDS was perceived even as it claimed his life. Many still call him the greatest ambassador the sport ever had.
If there’s any downside to his advocacy work, it’s that it gets more attention than his numerous merits as a player. Going into the 1975 Wimbledon final, he’d already won a couple of grass court majors in New York and Australia, but was considered a heavy underdog against the proto-power baseliner Jimmy Connors, winner of three major titles the previous year. However, the thoughtful Ashe played the quintessential tactical match, employing service placement, chipped returns and off-speed groundstrokes to drive his younger, stronger opponent mad.
Though Connors would spend the next two decades building his reputation as an all-time great and tireless competitor, Ashe shattered his image of invincibility, while furthering his own as a champion. In doing so, he achieved a broader platform for his later fights against racism and fear of HIV/AIDS.
9: Stefan Edberg
Two Wimbledon titles, once a Wimbledon runner up
Two Australian Open titles
Whenever tennis watchers say they miss serve-and-volley tennis, what they really mean is that they miss Stefan Edberg.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s the game was starting to bifurcate along power lines, as hard and clay courts were being taken over by overpowering baseliners and grass courts by towering servers. Edberg had neither of these weapons, but still found great success in disarming both styles with his swift feet and great hands. While his high-kicking serve and elegant backhand helped put him in contention, it was his swarming of the net that made his rivalry with Boris Becker at Wimbledon in the late-’80s and early ’90s great viewing.
His early Australian Open successes made him an accomplished grass court player, but it was his those three Wimbledon finals that made him a legend. One of those watching the Becker-Edberg trilogy on Centre Court was Roger Federer. That Edberg won two of the three finals against Boom Boom during that stretch showed that feel and movement could overcome size and power, a lesson the Great Swiss would apply decades later.
8: Rafael Nadal
Two Wimbledon titles, three times a runner up
When he followed up his first Roland Garros title in 2005 by falling to Gilles Muller in round two of Wimbledon, few could have imagined the journey Rafael Nadal would tread across England’s lawns over the next few years. In fact, few would have guessed that only one year later the Spaniard with the loopy groundstrokes, iffy serve and deep court positioning could make the necessary adjustments to reach his first Wimbledon final.
His exemplary athletic ability certainly helped, but it was his careful planning that made his three consecutive finals appearances possible, and his incomparable heart that made his victory in 2008 the greatest match in the Open Era.
He’s added an additional title and runner up appearance since then, emerging from the shadow of the Great Swiss and carving his own legacy on Wimbledon’s list of champions.
Not bad for a clay court player.
7: Jimmy Connors
Two Wimbledon titles, four times a runner up
One US Open title on grass (five on all surfaces)
One Australian Open title
Arthur Ashe’s 1975 triumph wouldn’t have meant nearly as much without Jimmy Connors’ 1974 season, one of the great performances in the history of men’s tennis.
At the game’s three grass court majors Connors prevailed that year, and it was perhaps nothing more than bureaucratic feuding that kept Jimbo from matching Rod Laver’s 1969 calendar-year Grand Slam. We’ll never know for sure, but we do know how he dominated the events he did play.
And no one knows that like Ken Rosewall. Already a legend of the game, a former No. 1 with eight major titles to his credit, Rosewall added to his stature by reaching the finals of that year’s Wimbledon and US Open despite turning 40 later that year. In those finals, though, Rosewall had no answer for Connors’ crushing returns and underrated net play, winning just six games in England and only two in New York.
Connors reign would be short-lived, though, as Ashe disrupted it the following year, and starting in 1976 Jimbo would be overmatched on the lawns of London by Bjorn Borg: Though he won his share against the Cyborg Swede, particularly in at the US Open, Borg defeated him three times at Wimbledon’s latter rounds.
Of course today Connors is better known today for his undying hunger, and not his early dominance, and he demonstrated this in 1982. Eight years after his first title there, Connors outlasted John McEnroe, the man who’d finally beaten Borg the year before, in five sets.
It was a longer journey than expected, but in retrospect, the one that feels most appropriate for Jimbo. As he would later say: “(T)here’s always somebody out there who’s willing to push it that extra inch, or mile, and that was me. I didn’t care if it took me 30 minutes or five hours. If you beat me, you had to be the best, or the best you had that day.”
And hunger is essential on the one surface that some creatures consider food.
6: Rod Laver
Two Wimbledons, one Australian Open title, and one US Open title (as a pro)
Two Wimbledons, two Australian Championships, and one US Championship (as an amateur)
Some questions can never be answered, and that’s especially true when comparing the pre-Open Era greats with those who came later. It makes the career of Rocket Rod Laver especially hard to analyze, as the Grand Slam-centric Open Era started in 1968, about three years after his status as the game’s top player started and at least two before he was dethroned.
Sticking to the criteria of measuring the players strictly by their Open Era achievements, though, Laver still put up some remarkable numbers. In 1969 he swept the game’s major titles when three of the four were played on grass. Given that he’d also won Wimbledon the year before, and would win 77 titles after 1968, many of which came on lawns, his status as one of the Open Era greats is assured.
When lumped together with his pre-Open Era achievements, including another calendar-year Slam as an amateur in 1962 and 200 singles titles, there are many who consider Laver the greatest of all time.
That’s debatable, but his position as a universally admired player and person is beyond questioning, as is his impeccable grass court acumen.
Coming soon: The top five grass court players in the Open Era. Can you guess them?
July 9, 2012
by: Tom Cochrane
Roger Federer is back on top of the world, defeating Andy Murray in 4 sets to capture a record-equalling seventh Wimbledon title and reclaim the world number one ranking.
Day 13 Recap
Having failed to win a set in his previous 3 Grand Slam finals, Andy Murray started Sunday’s final in far better shape, breaking Federer in the opening game of the match. Despite squandering that break, Murray broke again in the ninth game of the first set to claim the opening set 6-4.
Federer was attempting to dictate play and was making a lot of unforced errors in doing so. Murray was counterpunching effectively and serving particularly well. The fourth seed had break points in multiple games in the second set, but was unable to capitalise. That came back to haunt Murray when serving at 5-6 to take the set to a tiebreaker. At 30-0, having won 15 of his last 16 points on serve, Murray lost focus ever so slightly and Federer took advantage, breaking the Scot to level the match at a set apiece.
A torrential downpour early in the third set meant a slight delay and a change of environment, as the roof was closed on Centre Court. This proved to be a key change to the match, as Federer started serving a lot better without any rain or sun to bother him, and the Swiss master started to step inside the baseline and control the points with his fearsome forehand. A marathon game on Murray’s serve midway through the third set eventually went Federer’s way, and the third seed held on to the advantage to claim a 2 sets to 1 lead.
Federer was only a set away from victory now, and he charged towards the finish line, as a desperate Murray tried everything to stay with him. With Murray’s first serve percentage dropping to below 50 percent, Federer was getting plenty of looks at the Murray second serve, and a break seemed almost inevitable. It duly came, and Federer had the opportunity to serve for the championship. The Scot made the Swiss star earn the game but, ever the consummate professional, Federer made no mistake, with tears forming in his eyes as he celebrated an historic victory.
For the 17-time Grand Slam champion, it’s a clear reminder to the rest of the tennis world that he is not yet a spent force on the ATP Tour, and it’s a well-deserved victory after the Swiss maestro’s tremendous form in the past 9 months.
For Murray, it’s another devastating defeat in a Grand Slam final, but the Scot can at least console himself with the fact that he played well and wasn’t far away from winning. In fact, to my mind Murray’s defeat came down to 2 things: not being able to win the second set when he was clearly on top, and the rain, which changed the momentum of the match and the playing conditions when the match resumed.
That’s it for this year’s Wimbledon coverage. I hope you’ve enjoyed the coverage. I’ll be back later in the year to cover the US Open.
July 8, 2012
Montreal, July 8, 2012 –One day after Eugenie Bouchard (Westmount, QC) won the girls’singles title at Wimbledon, Filip Peliwo (Vancouver, BC) followed suit on Sunday at the All-England Club by winning the boys’singles crown to complete the Canadian sweep.
Peliwo defeated World No. 1 Luke Saville of Australia 7-5, 6-4 to win his first junior Grand Slam title in his third consecutive Major championship match of the season. The 18-year-old Canadian, ranked no. 4 on the ITF junior rankings, erased a 2-5 deficit in the opening set to win 7-5 and needed one break of serve at 3-3 in the second set to secure a straight sets victory after hitting an ace on his first match point. He avenges his loss to Saville in the final of the Australian Open earlier this year.
Peliwo is the first Canadian boy to win a Grand Slam singles title and completes a historic Wimbledon junior singles sweep for Canada.
Bouchard successfully defends Wimbledon doubles title
Bouchard completed girls’trophy sweep on Sunday by taking the doubles title alongside American Taylor Townsend. The pair defeated Belinda Bencic Ana Konjuh 6-4, 6-3 in the final to give Bouchard her second straight doubles title at Wimbledon after winning last year with American Grace Min. With her three titles on the famed London grass courts, Bouchard has won more junior titles at Wimbledon than any player in the Open Era.
July 8, 2012
No. 3 seed Roger Federer captured his seventh Wimbledon title on Sunday at the All England Club in London, defeating hometown hero Andy Murray, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.
After overcoming the loss of the first set, Federer increased his net approaches and aggressiveness from the back of the court to square the match at one set all.
Striking 12 aces and winning 76 percent of his first serve points, Federer gained more confidence in his game after a 40 minute rain delay took place at 1-1, 40-0 in the third set. With the roof closed and no elements to contend with, Federer’s serve became even more accurate when the players stepped back on court, and the next two sets were captured in easy fashion.
Tying his head-to-head with Murray at eight-all, Federer will take a slight 75 point lead over Novak Djokovic when Monday’s rankings are released. The Swiss star will also tie and break Pete Sampras’ record of being No. 1 in the world for a combined 285 weeks.
Federer and Murray will next see action at the Olympic Games in London beginning on July 28.
Murray was attempting to become the first British player since 1936 to capture a major title.
July 8, 2012
by: Tom Cochrane
Serena Williams won her fifth women’ singles title at the All England Club on Day 12, overcoming a mid-match meltdown to defeat a gallant Agnieszka Radwanska in 3 sets.
Day 12 Recap
Many tennis fans were wondering if Radwanska would suffer any nerves playing in her first Grand Slam final. The Pole was very tight early on in the match, dropping her opening two service games as Williams imposed herself on the contest. The third-seeded Radwanska managed to win a game late in the first set, but a bagel was about all she avoided in the opening set as Williams claimed it 6-1.
After a brief rain delay, the second set appeared to going the same way as the first, with Williams breaking serve and taking a 4-2 lead. But with the match seemingly almost over, Radwanska managed to relax and started playing much better tennis. As Williams’ serve started to misfire, Radwanska began stepping into the court and taking the ball earlier, which allowed her to put Williams under some pressure for the first time in the match.
A poor service game from Williams allowed the Pole to level the second set at 4 games apiece, and a noticeably tight Williams again lost serve at 5-6 to hand Radwanska the second set. Suddenly, the Centre Court crowd had a match on its hands, and everyone was debating whether Williams would be able to recompose herself.
After fighting through the opening 4 games of the set to level at 2-all, Williams went back to basics, getting her first serve into play, stepping into the court and generally rediscovering the aggressive play that had catapulted her into the final. Two successive service breaks gave the American the chance to serve for the championship, and she claimed it in style, smacking a sizzling backhand winner down the line before collapsing to the ground in joy.
For Williams, it was the fourteenth singles major of her illustrious career, and one that clearly meant a lot to her after all of her injury and health problems over the last two years. For Radwanska, it was a great tournament and the Pole refused to roll over in the final, which is a credit to her competitive spirit and tenacity. It might not be the last time we see her in a Grand Slam final
Match of the Day – Day 12
Roger Federer vs. Andy Murray
Both players head into this final with a lot on the line. For Andy Murray, it’s another chance to win his first Grand Slam final. Having lost his first 3 major finals, Murray now gets to play his fourth final at home, with the British media and public desperate for their first local men’s champion since 1936. For Federer, it’s a chance to equal the Wimbledon record for men’s singles titles, reclaim the world number one ranking and extend his record of Grand Slam singles titles to 17.
This match-up is an intriguing one, as Murray leads the head-to-head count over Federer, having won 8 of their 15 career meetings. But while Murray has been able to beat Federer in regular ATP Tour tournaments, the Swiss master is responsible for two of the three defeats in Grand Slam finals that Murray has suffered, suggesting the third seed handles the big occasions better than the Scot.
Murray has played a fantastic tournament and, having been the favourite in all of his matches to date, in some ways I think he will be more relaxed in this match knowing that most people expect Federer to win. Playing on the grass will give Murray another advantage, as the sets will be tight for the most part, and if the Scot can defend his second serve points as well as he has throughout the tournament to date, then he will prove hard to break.
Federer played a superb match against Djokovic, serving particularly well and getting plenty of bite on his forehand. That match was played undercover, and having the roof closed assisted Federer as it gave his serve a bit more speed and generally increased the speed of the court. If the final is played with the roof open, as is forecast at this stage, then I think that will help Murray, who will look to take his time in constructing points.
In many ways, of his 4 major finals I think this represents Murray’s best chance at winning a Grand Slam. In his first couple of finals, I think Murray simply expected it would happen, and Federer turned Murray’s dreams into nightmares in ruthless fashion. In his last final, in Melbourne last year, Murray was simply outplayed by a dynamic Djokovic. This time around, Murray knows not to expect anything, but still believes he can win if he plays his best tennis.
To my mind, this is almost a 50-50 contest. I’ll back Federer, on the basis of his far greater experience at this stage of major tournaments, but as noted above, there is a lot riding on this match for both players, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see each of them get tense at various stages. Whoever can defend their second serve best, and capitalise on their break point opportunities, will prevail. Federer in 5.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve to wrap up the men’s final tomorrow.
July 6, 2012
by: Lyra Pappin
The story didn’t have to go this way. It didn’t have to be that Roger Federer is entering his eighth Wimbledon final and landing a chance to become world number one. There could have been an upset. He could have lost in the second round, like long-time rival and French Open champion, Rafael Nadal. He could have pulled out with an injury; he is turning 31 soon and his body simply can’t take it. He could have lost in the semi-final to world number one Novak Djokovic. He’d never done that before, he had never lost in a Wimbledon semi-final, so it would have been perfectly acceptable. His game is on the decline, his age is a hindrance and his will is worn.
Except, it isn’t.
Against the odds and one year shy of the 10th anniversary of his first major win, his first Wimbledon title, Roger Federer will again appear on centre court on Sunday afternoon in England where he could win his seventh Wimbledon title and a record 17th major.
Entering the tournament, Federer didn’t bother with humble predictions or false modesty. Telling reporters, “It’s my time of year now,” at the onset of the fortnight, Federer made his intentions clear. He followed suit on court, moving with typical ease and grace through opponents. A brief hitch by way of Frenchman Julien Benneteau saw Federer make an uncharacteristic dig into a five set match, proving further that he was not interested in taking a spectator’s view of the trophy ceremonies. He wasn’t sweating it, either. “It was like he’s still such a long a way from the finish line,” Federer said of Benneteau’s two-set lead. “There is no reason right now to go crazy about it. Let’s see how the third starts and then we’ll take it from there. Like I said, I have been there so many times that I also know how to handle the situation.”
Frightening news for his opponents: confidence drawn from the domination of his winning record has been bolstered by experience with losing. In direct contrast to Federer’s disdain with what he deemed a “lucky shot” from Djokovic on match point during the 2011 US Open semi-final, he is embracing a looseness that results in a tighter stranglehold for those facing him. “I’m pretty relaxed, you know… Maybe I am the way I am today because I used to be completely nuts on the tennis court before. So I was able to turn that around and now, yeah, I know it’s just a tennis match.”
Whatever he says, anyone who sees Federer play finds it hard to describe what he does on the courts as “just a tennis match”. During the surprisingly efficient handling of Djokovic in the 2012 Wimbledon semi-final, Federer did everything right. He served with precision, exercised control in his shot selection and moved through the court with speed and vigour. Djokovic looked flustered, unprepared and bewildered. At times, he looked resigned. It would be a mistake to chalk this up to a bad day for the world number one. Djokovic is fit, dangerous and skilled. Questions as to whether he could surpass Federer in records, titles and perhaps take a run at the Greatest Of All Time moniker were asked with legitimacy during his superlative 2011 rise to number one. Djokovic looked bad on the court during that semi-final in London on Friday because Federer made him look bad; he took a page from the Serb’s will to succeed and set his mind to it, a novel approach for the Swiss champion. Federer, for all his talent, is stubborn. He expects to win and he expects his opponents to comply. During this Wimbledon semi-final, he set that attitude aside and took to defeating Djokovic with hungry determination. For Federer, the relentlessness paid off.
In his post-match interview, there was no trace of coldness and Federer looked a decade younger, his eyes teary with a raw gratefulness not often seen from the most famous man in tennis. For so long, Federer was used to getting what he wanted. Winning is a reward that became harder to hold and as the trophies and finals began to elude him consistently, he was transported back in time, back 10 years when he was climbing the rope to number one, two steps forward, one step back. Talent never questioned, but results never guaranteed. Finally, he’s reached a point where the goal is again in sight: a Wimbledon title, and with it, a second chance at a number one. Or as Roger puts it, just another tennis match.
For more on Wimbledon, follow Lyra Pappin on Twitter at @lyrapappin.