Katrina Allen is back with a summary of Wimbledon 2019.
One big story was Andy Murray’s comeback, albeit in doubles, since a hip resurfacing operation back in January.
And Serena Williams accepted his offer to play with him in the mixed! It was quite something to see two former singles champions with 42 Grand Slam titles and six Olympic gold medals between them, playing in what is generally regarded as a light-hearted event.
They lost in the third round to experienced top-seeded Bruno Soares and Nicole Melichar who gave them a doubles lesson, where the weakness of the scratch partnership showed, but it was fun while it lasted.
In the last 16 we had Kvitova, Barty, Wiliams, Konta, Gauff – all big personalities with great hitting styles.
The last 10 Grand Slams had been won by nine players so the tournament was once again wide open.
I am now going to blow my own trumpet. I saw the 15 yr old Cori Gauff in the qualifying event and sang her praises on the Wimbledon Debentures site. Because she is so young, she is only allowed to play 10 tournaments a year, to avoid what is known as “junior burnout”, protecting her from what happened to Jennifer Capriati, Andrea Jaeger and Tracey Austin, who all retired far too early, due to both physical and emotional pressures. Too much too soon.
And the youngest player was up against the oldest in the first round, 39 yr old Venus Williams, Gauff’s idol.
How would she deal with this, playing on a show court?
Well, Gauff won 6-4 6-4. Williams was pretty dreadful and I wouldn’t say it was a great-quality match but there was plenty of drama.
And then the teenager followed it up with wins over former semi-finalist Magdalena Rybarikova and, in a nail-biter, saving match points against Polona Hercog, while I was a spectator on court two, wishing I were on centre court, listening to the roars and following the match on Radio Wimbledon,
By which time she was knackered, losing fairly lamely to Halep. She looked to be emotionally and physically drained; press commitments, bombarded by potential sponsors and the stress of hugely physical matches.
She’s already reported to be worth one million pounds in endorsements but look what happened to Naomi Osaka after winning two Slams. This time, predictably, she lost in the first round. Maybe she Is already “burnt out”? This should be a warning to Cori Gauff.
The British player, Johanna Konta, got to the semis here two years ago. After her semi-final showing at the French, there were high hopes from the home crowd. Konta sort of shovels the ball over and crouches as she hits the groundstrokes which looks rather ungainly. And as for the laborious service preparation, well it’s a contest between her, Nadal and Djokovic as to whose is the most irritating.
She lost in the quarters to Czech player, Barbora Strycova, 7-6 6-1, completely falling apart after the first set, where she led 4-1. As at the French, she blew it through nerves, lamely pushing the ball into the net or ballooning it over the baseline. It was excruciating to witness.
She was pretty ratty in her post-match press conference. When asked if she could have performed better, she replied with a steely glare, ”In the way you’re asking your question, you’re being quite disrespectful and you’re patronising me. Please don’t patronise me” which completely silenced everyone – good tactics there at least.
Serena Williams powered her way through the draw and thrashed Strycova in the semis, making her opponent look like a park player.
In the final, she was up against Simone Halep, another former Slam winner.
The match lasted under one hour, with Halep winning 6-2, 6-2. It was a tense match which Williams looked like she might turn around at one point but the Roumanian scrambled and ran and scrambled some more. Williams just couldn’t finish off the points.
I would have loved to have seen this match as a best of five. It could have become really exciting. In fact, I think all the women’s matches should be best of five from quarters onwards and for both sexes to play best of three up until that point, which might go to some way to justify equal prize money.
The singles event was, as usual, dominated by the top three, Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. It’s become predictable. Maybe we should just start at the semis and toss a coin for the fourth player, and just be done with it.
Out of the last 57 Slams, 52 had been won by big four (the fourth being Andy Murray). The Wimbledon title has been won by no other player since 2002.
In the second round, we had a serious grudge match, after Nick Kyrgios had earlier referred to Nadal as ‘super salty’ (slang for bad loser). I feared Rafa was going to hammer him in revenge but it was a close match and an exciting one. Kyrgios won both points with his now-trademark underarm serve which so enrages Nadal.
Something else the Aussie did was to blast the ball at his opponent, with Nadal just managing to protect himself with his racket, after which he gave Kyrgios a full five second glare. “I was going for his chest” Kyrgios said unapologetically in the post-match interview.
When Nadal got through in four sets, he went completely crazy, as though he’d won the tournament rather than a second-round match.
Kyrgios’s friend and fellow Aussie bad boy, Bernard Tomic, lost to Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the opening round and was fined for ‘tanking’ (i.e. not trying), forfeiting his full first round prize money of £45,000. A couple of years back, he declared that he was bored by the game and promptly lost his racket sponsor. I wonder why he bothers carrying on.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, went out on day one in five sets to 89th ranked Thomas Fabbiano. The Greek player has been touting himself as the next Slam winner. He is rather getting ahead of himself. He also has a lot to learn about the grass court game.
Another “next gen” player, Alexander Zverev also lost in the opening round, although that’s not much of a surprise anymore since Zverev usually loses early in a Slam and is not living up to expectations.
So yes, the big three got to the semis. Their quarter final matches were rather boringly predictable although at least when Federer whitewashes an opponent, you get to witness poetry.
The surprise odd man out was Roberto Bautista Agut, a Spanish clay court specialist, no doubt helped by the high bounce of the dry grass due to the lack of rain over the fortnight. Amazingly, Agut managed to get a set. There were many long hypnotic rallies, one of which was an incredible 45 shots. Incidentally, am I the only one to think Novak resembles a rubber spider, all bendy arms and legs?
There was a huge build-up to the other semi, Federer vs Nadal, where the ball moved around with so much heavy spin at times, it was as though they were playing in a hurricane.
At the end of the fourth set, there was a small patch of sun remaining on the court, to which Federer hit over and over, so that Nadal was playing half-blinded. Federer is clever like that.
Nadal isn’t just an incredible retriever and imparter of huge spin, he is also supremely fit. Could the nearly 38 yr old Roger really keep up? He overcame that by playing shots virtually on the half-volley off the baseline, saving energy and negating that ferocious spin.
Federer finally came through in four sets amidst unbelievable drama in the last couple of games.
So – Novak vs Roger in the final.
If you’re reading this and you’re a serious tennis fan, you will probably have witnessed one of the most dramatic men’s final in many years.
Federer had two match points in the fifth and Novak came up with incredible shots. You somehow knew he would.
Ironically, Wimbledon introduced a tie break at 12-12 in the fifth set this year to put a stop to interminably-boring serve/volley matches and this was the only singles match at this year’s championships which went that deep. Well, we would have liked this to go on into the night. 22-20 would have been just fine by most people.
95% of the crowd appeared to be for Roger, and Novak was uncharacteristically subdued, knowing full well if he showed any signs of pumping himself up or arguing with the umpire, he would have been booed out of sight.
When the tie-break began, I somehow knew that Novak would hold his nerve better, which proved to be the case, as Roger shanked a forehand high into the crowd on match point.
It seemed a tragic way to end a stunning match.
I missed the speeches and presentations because the cricket nuts at the tennis club insisted we switch over to the world cup cricket which, even though I’m not very interested in the game, was also breathtaking in its drama.
The Wimbledon men’s final produced almost five hours of almost unbearable tension; the women’s final, less than one hour, in a very one-sided match. Oh, dear the anti equal prize money lobby will be up in arms. It’s hard to know what to say to that other than that the women, even in a one-sided best of five, simply have to be paid the same, if only on a symbolic basis.
And there are some dull men’s finals’ matches. This just happened to be a classic.
Gael Monfils retired with a damaged ankle in the fifth set in the opening round. The closest he got to going deep into the tournament was watching his girlfriend, Elina Svitolina, in the semis.
After Tsonga beat the ‘tanking’ Tomic, he was predictably crushed by Nadal in the third round as was Lucas Pouille by Federer and Benoit Paire by Roberto Bautista Agut.
The French women fared little better, with none making it to the third round.
Nicolas Mahut got over the upset of being dumped by his usual doubles partner, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, in favour of Andy Murray, and got to the final with fellow Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin in a scratch pairing. Five incredible sets with the French finally getting broken after Mahut got walloped on the neck and then the groin on successive points, but it was Roger-Vasselin who cried into his towel after the loss.
Other than the final set tiebreak, Wimbledon introduced other changes.
One thing, which I’ve always griped about – they have stopped calling female players Miss/Mrs and now address them instead by their surname from the umpire’s chair, as they do with the men.
They also banned the plastic racket covers, no doubt to the delight of Sir David Attenborough, who was spotted in the Royal Box.
So, the end of the European circuit, which started back in April. I’ve been glued to the tv since then. I shall now emerge from my darkened room and actually get out there and start playing, before summer completely passes me by.
By Katrina Allen