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Wimbledon Tennis, 2018

LanguedocLiving, Jul 16

by Katrina Allen

Much of Wimbledon was rather flat this year due to World Cup frenzy coinciding with the Championships.

Even some of the players appeared to want to cheer on their teams rather than play their own matches.

Frenchman, Gael Monfils, rushed through an after-match press conference and charged off so he could see France play their second half. The journalists also probably wanted to get the conference over as fast as possible so that they too could watch the footie.

But football was nowhere to be seen in the public sphere. No announcements about goals, not one non-tennis screen in sight.

So, crowd attention was divided between the live tennis and the football on i-phones. I suspect massive cheers at England goals were pretty off-putting for players. I don’t know if they came during rallies because I too was watching the football at that point.

But the committee at least made one concession, putting the British Kyle Edmund’s match against Novak Djokovic third on, after the England vs Sweden match would have finished.

The England footballers were doing great!!! Semi-finals for the first time in decades; fantasists were getting “It’s Coming Home” tattooed on their bodies. I expect tattoo-removal experts are now doing a fine trade.

Wimbledon finals start at 2.00 pm on the Sunday. “That’s our tradition” they say. Even if England got to the World Cup final, starting at 4.00 pm? “Yes”. Stubborn and over-obsessed with their precious traditions if you ask me.

So, to the tennis. Let’s start with the women.

In the women’s Grand Slam events, the last seven singles titles have been won by different players.

In the men’s game during the same period, the Slams have been won by just two men, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer.

That tells us there is more parity within the women’s game, which makes it exciting and hard to pick a winner.

To illustrate the point, the women seeds fell like ninepins in the first week. Only one seed within the top ten, Karolina Pliskova, made it through to the second week.

I suppose you could call Serena Williams a top-tenner but, after an extended lay-off due to pregnancy and subsequent recovery, she was down to 25th seed, which made her a dangerous floater.

Gone was the dodgy play on display in Paris. Serena loves Wimbledon and was desperate to win.

When Williams wins a crucial point, she pumps her fist, doubles over and screams like a wailing banshee. I’m not sure how sporting that is, especially after an opponent has made an unforced error, but, like Becker in his heyday, she cannot, cannot stand losing. It has to be intimidating.

She also hits the ball ferociously hard, frequently using the clever ploy of belting it at her opponent’s feet before they’ve even finished their service action.

In the quarters, Jelena Ostapenko (former French Open champ), another one who thrashes the ball, put out the “pocket rocket”, 5’3” Dominika Cibulkova. Ostapenko goes for broke on virtually every shot. She is also one of the few female players who wears shorts, which I find absurd, since shorts are so much more comfortable than the short skirts which their sponsors no doubt insist on.

Perhaps they worry that their players might be mistaken for lesbians, which really wouldn’t do… As if…

Talking of which, Belgian player Alison Van Uytvanck rushed to kiss her coach and girlfriend after her third round win, which caused a bit of a stir. But good on the BBC who replayed the celebration on Match of the Day to a grin and approving nod by Martina Navratilova, who was presenting the programme.

There were some reasonably close quarter-finals with a couple going to three sets but the semis were rather damp squibs, both being straight setters.

Serena, unsurprisingly got to the final, her opponent being Angelique Kerber, who’d never won this tournament.

Kerber managed some extraordinary retrieving and finally wore Williams down in straight sets. Meghan Markle was rooting for her friend Serena from the Royal Box, but other than that, Kerber appeared to be the crowd favourite.

Serena’s a bit of a marmite player; you love her or hate her. Let’s just say that I was happy Kerber won.

The French women didn’t go particularly far with just Kristina Mladenovic getting as far as the third round before losing to Williams.

The French men didn’t do badly, though, with Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils impressively making the second week. Monfils actually looked like he meant business for a change, scoring an impressive win over Sam Querrey and then losing in a tight four-setter to Kevin Anderson in the fourth round.

Sadly for the Brits, Andy Murray pulled out of the tournament due to an ongoing hip injury which has been plaguing him since last year’s championships. The only other realistic British hope, Kyle Edmund, did well but lost to Djokovic. Edmund is good but he’s no Murray.

Anderson went on to beat the favourite, and international heart-throb, Roger Federer, 13-11 in the fifth set and I briefly went into mourning. I think almost everyone does when Roger loses.

By now, World Cup fever over after England’s exit, and locals able to concentrate on the tennis, the tournament really took off.

The men’s semis produced an epic between two heavy servers - John Isner and Kevin Anderson, the latter winning 26-24 in the 5th after 6.5 hours, the longest semi ever; which prompted cries of “tie break in the final set please”. It has to happen sometime; maybe at 12-12 would be a good compromise.

Which meant the match everyone was really there for, Nadal vs Djokovic, didn’t start til 8.00 pm and, much to the annoyance of the crowd, was stopped at 11.00 due to the local curfew.

Which also meant that the crowd who had women’s finals tickets the following day had the unexpected treat of the end to that match.

Their final set was breathtaking, some of the best tennis I’ve ever seen. I was torn between wanting Rafa to win and not wanting the match to finish - ever! This really should have been the final. It was so dramatic.

Anderson vs Djokovic in the final. Would Anderson manage to stay upright for the whole match after his marathon semi? I think everyone was fearing a complete whitewash.

And that’s how it looked in the first two sets, which Djokovic breezed through 6-2, 6-2. Impressively though, Anderson didn’t completely fold. He even had set points in the third set, courtesy of a few Novak double-faults. He managed to force a tie-break which Djokovic won fairly comfortably and, with that, his fourth Wimbledon title.

I’m always so sad when Wimbledon is over. The upside is that now I can get down to all those tasks which I’ve been ignoring over the past fortnight.


Picture of Novak Djokovic by Katrina Allen

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