Sunday, July 14, 2013

2013 WIMBLEDON: Tournament Review

After spending a few days reflecting I think I am finally ready to put down my thoughts about the 2013 Wimbledon. Andy Murray winning Wimbledon, becoming the first British man to do so in 77 years is simply a great story. Additionally, that Marion Bartoli, the ultimate outsider, was able to seize her opportunity to join the exclusive club of major title winners is also a great story.

The Top 5 things I will remember from this year's Wimbledon are:

1. Andy Murray winning Wimbledon, establishing himself as multiple slam winner and ending Britain's 77-year drought of a male British champion at Wimbledon. He is now the current holder of 2 of the 4 major tournaments and has to be the favorite to defend his US Open title.

2. Roger Federer losing in the second round of the major tournament that he has won seven times to unheralded, serving-and-volleying Sergiy Stakhovsky, thus bringing to end one of the most remarkable streaks in sports, his consecutive streak of 36 major quarterfinals appearances. It should be remembered the great Steffi Graf  lost in the first round (to Lori McNeil) as a 5-time champion in 1994 and won multiple majors afterwards.

3. Right behind Federer's shocking exit in the 2nd round is Rafael Nadal's exit in the first round to Steve Darcis. It's hard to say which exit is more shocking, but as a Federer fan, I place his exit first. After all, Nadal has only won Wimbledon twice and had lost in the 2nd round here last year to Lukas Rosol. These two results just cement the fact that the era of men's tennis being dominated by the Federer-Nadal rivalry is well and truly over, and that the Djokovic-Murray rivalry is now the most important in tennis.

4. Marion Bartoli's amazing title win, not dropping a set, only the 6th player to ever do so, without facing a player in the Top 15. This was a result of the draw opening up after numerous stunning upsets of major champions, many executed by her opponent in the final, Sabine Lisicki who beat 5-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams, Samantha Stosur and Agnieska Radwanska en route to her first major final. Bartoli is only the 3rd French woman to ever Wimbledon and the first to win her first championship after playing in as many as 47 major tournaments.

5. Doubles often gets short shrift but the Bryan Brothers won their 15th major title and are now the reigning champion in all four majors and they won the Olympics Gold last year, thus accomplishing their own Golden Bryan Slam. If they win the 2013 US Open doubles title they will be the first men's doubles team to win a calendar Grand Slam in the Open Era.

Now let me discuss the Men's Final because I have already published my thoughts on the Women's Final.

Men's Final Review
The straightforward match score 6-4 7-5 6-4 does not match the sheer drama of the final. Although it was not the best match of the tournament in terms of high-quality tennis by both players (that honor would go to the semifinal between Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic that lasted nearly 5 hours and ended in the 5th set), it was the most emotional and tension-filled.

Murray played some of his best tennis, while Djokovic (perhaps tired or negatively impacted by his long semifinal) did not. Even so, one never felt that Djokovic was out of the match. Murray won the first set despite blowing four break points in the very first game, but managed to capitalize on his chances later in the set after the two had traded breaks. Once Murray got his second break he was able to serve out the set on an ace. Djokovic started the second set with an early break and was up 4-2 when Murray was able to break back and even the match at 4-all. In the eleventh game, Murray returned Djokovic's serve well to force two errors and to go up 0-30. The two played some exhausting rallies and Murray and they each win one, but that means Murray has two breakpoints. Could Murray actually win a set against Djokovic after being down 1-4? The answer is yes, and again Murray serves out the set easily to go up 2-sets to love!

Murray extended his momentum at the beginning of the third set to go up 2-0 and just when you thought Djokovic would fade away and Murray would jog to the finish line, Djokovic not only broke back but was able to reel off a string of four games in a row and doubt rippled through the British public watching the match in unprecedented numbers. Could Djokovic really come back from 2-sets down to dash the home country's hopes at Wimbledon? But Murray was able to break back and again hold serve to even the set at 4-all despite being down a break earlier. It was then that Djokovic blinked for the last time, getting broken and then Murray was up 5-4 and serving for the championship!

The final game was absolutely excruciating. Murray went up quickly to 40-love on two Djokovic return errors and a Murray forehand winner. Triple championship point. From that point on Murray could not make a first serve and Djokovic came back to deuce with some very strong service returns and deep groundstrokes. Eventually, Murray had to save three(!) breakpoints after having blown three Wimbledon championship points, a mentally tough performance that very few players could ever manage. I believe that if Djokovic had been able to break for the third time in that 3rd set, he would have won it. And he almost certainly would have used that momentum and Murray's despair at having squandered 3 opportunities to win the title to get an unsurmountable lead in the 4th set. Then who knows what would have happened in the 5th set, but I think most people would bet money on Djokovic coming out on top. However, none of that happened and finally on his 4th match Murray served a very strong serve into the corner, which Djokovic returned well and then when Murray hit his forehand deep into Djokovic's backhand corner, the Serb missed his attempted backhand down-the-line into the top of the net. Game, set and match, Murray!

It was the first time in 80 grand slam matches that Djokovic had failed to win a set (which last happened in the 2010 Wimbledon semifinal against Tomas Berdych) and it was his 3rd loss in the last four major finals he had contested (l. 2012 French Open to Nadal, l. 2013 U.S. Open to Murray, l. 2013 Wimbledon to Murray). Murray on the other hand has reached the final in the last 4 majors he has entered winning 2 of them. It should be noted that prior to Murray's emergence Djokovic had won 4 of 6 major finals and is currently on a 16-major quarterfinal appearance streak. The future is bright for both these great champions.

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