Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the 2017 Wimbledon.
Alright, maybe that headline isn’t quite right.
After all, a quick Wikipedia search tells you that the 1999 Wimbledon winners were Lindsay Davenport and Pete Sampras, not Garbine Muguruza and Roger Federer. But this 2017 edition definitely had a little bit of a deja vu aura to it, wouldn’t you say?
That’s probably because had Williams won as well, then the combined age of the two singles champions would have been 72. But alas Williams, who first won at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club way back in 2000, sorta collapsed and, well let’s not jump the gun, we’ll get to that.
First is the piece de resistance, Roger Federer’s eight title at the tournament he most admires in what was a pretty standard and anticlimactic 6-3, 6-1 and 6-4 final scoreline against Marin Cilic. This is not to badger the tall Croatian finalist, but the 28-year-old seemed a little too happy to be there.
Mind you, against Federer, this most perfect and gentleman of champions, this is not a crime—especially not in this setting, the most perfect and gentlemanly of venues, the one that soaks in all the tradition and decorum that it can. At Wimbledon in the final against Federer, far smaller men than Cilic (figuratively, though literally also!) have fallen before King Roger. Because, as Nike put it, you don’t just play Roger Federer on grass. You play on his grass.
In this final, Cilic couldn’t really put a dent in Federer’s game—and who could blame him, since no one had managed to all tournament long. We’ll be going all armchair psychologist here but it seemed like after losing the first set, Cilic just couldn’t really manage his expectations and emotions. And when you want it too much, against anyone but especially against Federer, then you’ll have difficulty managing your forehand, serve returns, etc., and nothing good comes of that.
Cilic will be fine. He’s won 17 career titles, including the 2014 US Open, and amassed well over $18 million in career prize money. He’s not Federer, or Rafael Nadal, or Novak Djokovic (or Andy Murray to a lesser extent) but we forget that not everybody can be them. Cilic is a perfectly fine tennis player. Our world needs some of them too, and that ought to be enough.
The win continues what’s been a dream 2017 season at the age of 35 for Federer and gives him an unthinkable eighth Wimbledon title, and 19 overall Grand Slam nods. (We’re not quite sure what’s the most impressive part of that sentence.) Supposedly heavy is the crown, though you wouldn’t have known from watching Federer play.
If Cilic only somewhat collapsed in the men’s final, we can’t say the same for Williams a day earlier. In the women’s final, the 37-year-old had a great opportunity to further add to her legend in facing the southpaw Muguruza from Spain, but she lost 7-5 and 6-0. She almost won the first set, sure, but in the end she couldn’t match the Spaniard’s agression.
You can explain the loss in a variety of ways for Williams, who turned pro the same year her opponent was born, who had to overcome quite the blunder from authorities back home and who is battling an autoimmune disease every day, but don’t forget that mostly she was just facing quite a formidable foe.
Also, there’s a very easy and real explanation for how Williams lost the final eight games of the match after two set points in the first. In the second set, the 37-year-old had 10 unforced errors and won 12 total points. You’re not going to win playing so poorly, and Williams didn’t.
She blew it and collapsed. It doesn’t have to mean anything beyond that, but don’t be afraid to say it.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG