Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews the 2018 Wimbledon tournament on the men’s side.
Welcome to Wimbledon, this little slice of heaven where they give you cream and strawberries on a patch of grass. (Okay okay, not exactly but you get it.)
We have finally arrived at the foremost KING OF A BIG deal™ event on the tennis calendar, the Wimbledon Championships at the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club where men are gentlemen, women are ladies and where both absolutely must only wear white on the holy grass that they play on. Welcome to Wimbledon, where traditions abound at every turn and don’t you dare put some sponsor logos on our freaking grass courts or we will riot, but also please say hi to the royals sitting in first row for us.
Welcome to Wimbledon, where we like to make a big deal out of our champions. A Wimbledon title really isn’t worth anything more than either of the three other Grand Slams, but in our mind it does.
Welcome to Wimbledon, finally, where our Big Four on the men’s side could stand to benefit a bit by adding another Wimbledon Cup to their mantle.
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— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) January 28, 2018
All that said, we’re starting with a man for whom winning the 2018 Wimbledon title probably wouldn’t change much if only because at this point, at almost 37 years old and after 20 years on the ATP World Tour, there’s basically no real way for the Swiss to really add to his legacy. Give him another Grand Slam if you want, all it does is bring his tally to 21. (Don’t bring up Ken Rosewall’s 23 major titles, of which only 4 came after the start of the Open Era.)
Yeah, Federer is secure and comfortable as the pretty clear-cut greatest male tennis player of all time.
They’ll say that Rafael Nadal would need it. That he’s become too much of a one-trick pony and that all he really ever does anymore is win on clay. But don’t you dare see this in a negative light: when your pony masters his one trick the way Nadal does the clay court, why would you teach him anything else?
It would perhaps mean a bit more if he wins it against Federer, who has turned back the clock and once more become Nadal’s foremost nemesis over the past few years, having won their five previous meetings since 2015. But sure, capturing another major wouldn’t hurt the Spaniard’s standing in the long run: it would bring him one closer to Federer and further chip away at the latter’s claim that he’s the sport’s one true GOAT.
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) June 28, 2018
If anyone could stand to gain the most from another Wimbledon title, it’s Novak Djokovic. Since completing the career Grand Slam in 2016 by winning the French Open, the Serb went on the coldest of cold stretches as he battled through injuries, bouts of inconsistencies, lack of confidence, or all three at once. For someone who had been so central to just about every big match and big moment on Tour for about five years since his masterful 2011 season, Djokovic has been utterly inconsequential in the two years since. After compiling an unreal 33-16 record against Federer and Nadal from 2011 to 2016, edging past the pair in the process, Djokovic has fallen way, way behind and started losing matches he had no business in losing before.
Is Djokovic done? It would be preposterous to say so, especially given that both Federer and Nadal were deemed just that at various times over the previous five years. But a stellar result at Wimbledon would go a long way to show us he’s still capable of excellence: it would also close the gap between him and Pete Sampras to a mere one for most Grand Slam titles ever.
Winning this year’s Wimbledon would help the Brit immensely, if only to nurse his broken ego (and seemingly broken body), but in the grand scheme of things it probably wouldn’t do all that much. Andy Murray’s legacy is secure: he’s the fourth wheel to three of the five greatest players of all time. He’s both much better than all but three of his contemporaries while at the same time not nearly as good or successful as the three contemporaries.
Not even another Wimbledon trophy would change this legacy. But for Murray himself? It would probably do wonders to help him regain his form.
…You know, that’s what we had written down before Murray announced he was withdrawing from the tournament. Oops.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG