Novak Djokovic successfully defended his title at 2019 Wimbledon while the women's side saw a first-time winner at the Championships in Simona Halep, here are some key takeaways from the two weeks.
- Novak Djokovic reduced the gap on Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to two and four slams respectively after emerging as the men's singles champion for a second year running. In the tussle among these three and the quest for being the 'GOAT', the plot thickened over the question: When the dust settles, who will have the most slams?
- Simona Halep produced a first in the form of her first Wimbledon title and a first Wimbledon title for Romania. Her rise on the surface came out of absolute nowhere as she reasoned 'she loves grass'. And how refreshing was her surge to the title? She started the final against Serena Williams on the attacking mode and never took the foot off the gas. Special props on an equally lovely speech.
- Given the length of Federer's career, he has seen numerous highs and quite a few lows. Multiple morale-boosting wins and so many dismal defeats. But rarely has Federer looked deflated, looked this emotional in defeat. During the trophy ceremony, as he answered questions, it seemed he wanted to be anywhere but there. Or there but holding a different trophy. Last possible instance of Federer looking a mess in defeat was back in 2009 Australian Open. Then, too, Federer trailed after first and third sets but the difference was in the fifth set. In Melbourne then, Roger's level dropped in the decider but here it didn't. He had two match points and was moments away from major number 21. Few loose points and it wasn't.
- Serena Williams didn't show it but how disappointing would that loss be for her? Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka last year and now Halep. One could argue she won't mind reaching the final considering she didn't play since Roland Garros. But, in the end, with no trophy to show for, it would not please champions like Serena. To make for an even sorrier reading, the scores in the finals read: 3-6, 3-6, 2-6, 4-6, 2-6, 2-6. The longest gap between two major titles for Serena was 33 months (1999 US Open and 2002 French Open). If she wins the US Open, then the current drought would be arrested at 31 months. If not, it would be 36 months by the time Melbourne comes around...
- Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah became the first Colombian pairing to win a grand slam men's doubles title. They beat Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 in a four hour and 57 minute marathon. "For Colombia, it's huge...We just won Wimbledon for Colombia," said Cabal. "It's huge. I don't know how to explain it, but it's huge for our country. I hope everybody enjoys us."
- Special mention for Robert Lindstedt. He took not one but two blows to the head from his partner Jelena Ostapenko. Staying on that team, Ostapenko may be miserable when it comes to singles but she was spectacular in the mixed. In the end, Ivan Dodig and Latisha Chan were the triumphant mixed doubles pairing. They beat Ostapenko and Lindstedt 6-2, 6-3 in the final.
- Sticking to mixed doubles. How fantastic was it to see the event get some much-deserved attention? Plenty (or all?) of credit for that goes to Andy Murray and Serena Williams ("SerAndy" or "MurRena") who came together, and after some delays, played on Center Court. How often do you see a mixed doubles match early into a slam being played in front of such a large crowd? How often do you get people talking about the mixed anyway? Now if only the tennis organisers paid heed to the doubles events as well in terms of court scheduling, coverage and prize money.
- Spare a thought for the women's doubles pairing of Su-Wei Hsieh/Barbora Strycova and Gabriela Dabrowski/Yifan Xu. They were scheduled to take court after the men's doubles on Saturday. But as that match went on for four hours and 56 minutes, the women's doubles final was moved to a day later. It was now going to follow the men's singles final. And then Djokovic-Federer battled for four hours and 55 minutes. So the question on many minds, as the women's teams appeared on court, was: 'Will they make the Champions dinner?' As things would pan out, Hsieh and Strycova had little trouble in getting past the winning line. With their 6-2, 6-4 win over Gabriela Dabrowski and Xu Yifan, Strycova became the World No 1 doubles player. Not a bad two weeks for her.
- What a fortnight it has been for Ukraine. Elina Svitolina became the first Ukrainian to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam.
A future main draw champion?
" Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 13, 2019
Then, Daria Snigur won the girl's title to become the second Ukrainian player to win the junior championship at Wimbledon. For the trivia aficionados, the first was Kateryna Bondarenko.
- Roger Federer, Nick Kyrgios said the courts played slow at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. Rafael Nadal put it down to the weight of the balls which made things tougher for the players. The organisers, however, said the court was at the same level and speed as not just last year but for many years. Either way, two usually clay court specialists in Guido Pella (quarterfinals) and Roberto Bautista Agut (semifinals) made the latter stages of the tournament.
Percentage of serve-and-volley points played by men's singles players at #Wimbledon in 2002: 33% in 2019: 5% Percentage of serve-and-volley points played by women's singles players at #Wimbledon in 2002: 5% in 2019: 1% " Chris Oddo (@TheFanChild) July 10, 2019
To further the debate, fewer men and women served-and-volleyed this Wimbledon than in the past; and the average rally length saw an increase as well.
- Japan continues to dominate tennis in Asia. Joining Kei Nishikori in the top-10, Naomi Osaka a two-time grand slam winner and recent World No 1 surging Yoshihito Nishioka is Shintaro Mochizuki. He won the boy's singles title to become the first Japanese to win a junior boys' Grand Slam title. He matches the feat of Kazuko Sawamatsu, who captured the Wimbledon and French Open girls' titles in 1969.
- Quite a few great stats appeared: Barbora Strycova, at 33, became the oldest first-time semifinalist at a grand slam. Simona Halep's three unforced errors in the final against Serena Williams were the fewest in a Wimbledon final since the records have been maintained since 1998. Novak Djokovic and Roberto Bautista Agut played a 45 shot rally - the longest at Wimbledon since 2005 (start for the recording of the stat). Djokovic vs Federer was the longest Wimbledon men's singles final and the first time since 1948 a player went on to win after saving championship points. Mindboggling stuff.
- Special shout out to Bautista Agut and his friends. All of them were to be in Ibiza for the Spaniard's bachelor party but his run into the semis delayed those plans. No harm done. They made their way to London, as a surprise, and were full of noise in the semifinal against Djokovic. "We had everything reserved from Wednesday or Thursday until Sunday. They all knew before there was a small chance for me to be here, playing in the quarter-finals," said Bautista Agut. "I think they really had a good plan. They spent Wednesday in Ibiza. They came to watch a good match, the semi-final of Wimbledon. They came as a surprise. It was really nice to have them in the crowd. They support me so much," he went on to add.
Bautista Agut and the 'Ibiza 6', as the came to be known, did eventually shift the party.
- She couldn't prolong her presence on the grass court of Wimbledon but while she stood, it was an absolute feast to have her. Cori Gauff, 15, came through the qualifiers to become the youngest to participate in the main draw of a grand slam. And then she stepped up to Court No 1, alongside legendary Venus Williams, to win in straight sets. She continued to occupy the big stadiums in her second-round win (over Magdalena Rybarikova on Court 1), third round win (over Polona Hercog on Centre Court) and fourth round defeat (to Simona Halep on Court 1). Not even the top players get such billing and yet here she was, at all of 15, featuring on the big stage in front of thousands of fans. Not just the people in attendance, even those watching on TV tuned in in numbers. As per data made available at the end of first week, her win over Hercog peaked at 5.2 million on BBC, 2.4 million for Rybarikova and 2.1 million for the first round against Venus. Maybe that's why she was put on the big courts?
- Bernard Tomic joined Anna Tatishvili in players getting their entire first round prize money docked. The Australian was fined 100% of his 45,000 pounds prize money after a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 and 58-minute loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Tatishvili had been handed the same punishment, and fined 46,000 euros, for her first round 6-0, 6-1 exit, at the hands of Maria Sakkari, at Roland Garros. They became the first two players to be fined under the 2018 rule that required players in first-round matches to "perform to the required professional standard." Absurd rule now that one thinks of it. How is the tournament referee to decide whether an athlete has performed to the desired level? Mind, Tomic's loss is not the worst in terms of duration or games. Further, the rule was to prevent walkovers and see complete matches - which is true for both matches. Player's union anyone?
- Staying on the topic of fines. Serena was fined $10,000 for damaging one of the Wimbledon courts with her racket. Not new. But where it is new and somewhat absurd, is the fact that the incident happened before the Championships even began! "The code given is for unsportsmanlike behaviour. The reason is court damage," a spokeswoman said. In comparison, Italy's Fabio "no filter" Fognini was fined $3,000 for wishing "a bomb would explode at the club."
Fabio Fognini, down two sets to Sandgren, is NOT happy that #Wimbledon put him on Court 14.
"A bomb should explode here." pic.twitter.com/EBnLwGHOPP
" Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) July 6, 2019
He defended it by saying it was in the heat of the moment and due to the condition of the grass. But, surely, the difference in fines need a rethink?
- Wimbledon introduced the new fifth set tiebreak rule to end the madness that was a difference of two games in the decider. It was first employed in the men's doubles match between Henri Kontinen and John Peers vs Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram with the Finn/Kiwi pairing winning 13-12 poignantly on Court 12. It was also used in the mixed match between Artem Sitak/Laura Siegemund and Dabrowski/Mate Pavic. This time it was the Kiwi/German pairing which won 13-12. But the new rule found its christening on the grand stage in the men's singles final. Absurd, though, that Djokovic had to check with the chair umpire on when it came into effect. At 10-10, he thought, which is not a good picture for the sport where different rules apply to fifth set in all four slams!
- How miserable an event for the ATP Next Gen was it? Besides the usual suspects in Djokovic, Federer and Nadal, the fourth semifinalist was also 30-plus. Among the quarterfinalists, David Goffin (28), Guido Pella (29) and Kei Nishikori (29) are all touching 30 with Sam Querrey (31) already ahead of the threshold. Here's how the top-10 players under 25 fared: Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov (first round); Taylor Fritz, Alex de Minaur (second round); Karen Khachanov, Daniil Medvedev, Felix Auger-Aliassime (third round) with best by Matteo Berrettini (fourth round).
- To bring you up to speed with the sheer dominance of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer: one of the three have now won 11 straight Grand Slams (since 2017 Australian Open); 15 out of 17 since 2015 Wimbledon; 50 out of 58 Slams since 2005 Roland Garros and 54 of 65 Slams since 2003 Wimbledon.
- On to the ladies then. One of the concerns with the WTA Tour is lack of rivalries. Some put down the women's tour for lack of consistency. But another way of looking at it is that there is considerable depth in women's tennis. So much so that even a player of the calibre of Serena can't get a set in the final.
It's the first time there have been no repeat women's semi-finalists through the first three Grand Slams of the year since 2004:
🇦🇺 Henin, Clijsters, Zuluaga, Schnyder 🇦🇺
🇫🇷 Suarez, Myskina, Capriati, Dementieva 🇫🇷
🇬🇧 Serena, Mauresmo, Davenport, Sharapova 🇬🇧#Wimbledon
" The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) July 9, 2019
To further highlight the propensity for new faces to come in and take the challenge to the big guns, there have been four different semifinalists at all three grand slams.
- Stepping away from on-court action to off-court. If at Roland Garros the talking point was Dominic Thiem getting booted out of the media room to allow Serena to get done with her mandatory interaction, at Wimbledon some players would have wanted to get out on their own. Djokovic, Johanna Konta and Kyrgios were the players involved in tense interactions. Woof!
- Going outside the gates of Wimbledon and to a meeting room in London. That was the venue where Djokovic, president of the ATP Player Council, found himself locked for seven hours before the tournament got underway. ATP's issues within the board room already looked a mess in the last few months. It got worse in the lead up to the tournament with four members - Jamie Murray, Robin Haase, Daniel Vallverdu and Sergiy Stakhovsky - resigning due to disagreement in the direction that the sport is taking. The meeting was intended to appoint an interim players' representative to the ATP board as a replacement for disgraced Justin Gimelstob - who stepped down after being found guilty of assault. The ten-man council was locked at 5-5 over two candidates: former player Nicolas Lapentti and former ATP executive Weller Evans. Eventually, the tiebreaker went in Evans' favour amid reports of Gimelstob flying to London ahead of the vote and with a pull on the final decision. Djokovic and a member of the media had a heated exchange, after his second round, following the Serbians' relationship with Gimelstob.
- Sticking to the ATP politics and the issues facing the future of the sport. John Isner highlighted the expenses that players have to make for a Grand Slam as against the prize money on offer. The American, apparently, spent 30,000 pounds for his stay in London with extra payments made as salary for coaches and physios followed by the flights involved. Tough!
- Getting back on court with India's performance at Wimbledon. Prajnesh Gunneswaran was the only entrant in the singles draw and exited in the first round, for a third Grand Slam running, with a straight-sets defeat against Milos Raonic. In the doubles department, Divij Sharan and Marcelo Demoliner fared the best with their campaign ending in the third round. Purav Raja, Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, Rohan Bopanna and Leander Paes all lost in the first round in men's doubles. In the mixed, Sharan and Bopanna exited in the second round while Paes couldn't progress beyond the first. Underwhelming on the whole.
- Invitational tennis at slams is an extremely entertaining category. With nothing to lose, former players let loose and turn entertainers. Henri Leconte decided he needed a break late in the match and wanted to take a proper breather.
📽ï¸😂 You have to watch this!
🎾 The umpire gets a surprise invitation to play in the doubles...and does himself credit, despite a wonderful fall! pic.twitter.com/WBDduvvbV1
" Sporting Life (@SportingLife) July 9, 2019
What did he do next? Hand the chair umpire his racket. And the umpire did a fairly good job of it!
- There's nothing to lose in invitational doubles. And little to gain either. But that doesn't make any difference to legendary Martina Navratilova and Cara Black. The duo played together last year and produced an incredible point.
Rolling back the years...
" Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 15, 2018
This year, too, they entered the highlight reel at the Championships with a sublime rally against Mary Joe Fernandez and Ai Sugiyama.
Point of The Championships? 😱
" Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 10, 2019
- We close out our wrap with honourary mention of Marcos Baghdatis. The Cypriot who reached the 2006 Australian Open final bowed out of the sport with a loss to Berrettini in the second round. And then he did what Baghdatis is loved for - bare his emotions for all to see. He patted his heart with both hands, knelt and leaned his forehead on the grass, before planting a kiss on No 2 Court with tears rolling down his face.
Marcos Baghdatis just finished his last professional match ... thanks the crowd, proceeds to give away: 9 rackets, the shoes he had on, the extra pair, his clothes, including underwear 😂😂😂 Berretini waiting patiently then leaves 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻
" Federer Gal (@FedererGal) July 4, 2019
"I didn't want to leave the court," said the 2006 Wimbledon semifinalist. "It was a nice farewell. It felt amazing."