Wimbledon Reviewed: Federer Coolly Masters Murray & Serena Secures Fifth Championship
Once again, TV viewers were glued to their screens cheering on Andy Murray, once again, Roger Federer swept all before him to win at SW19, once again, Serena Williams affirmed the decision made by her father to pick up a tennis racquet at an early age and, once again, rain stopped play. A predictable tournament? Not a chance! LS Sport’s Alastair Fatemi casts a critical eye over a Championship that enthralled tennis enthusiasts worldwide and provided many a twist and turn over the course of a fascinating fortnight…
With the dust settling over the 2012 Wimbledon Championships and eyes now turning towards the Olympics, it is possible to reflect on what has been an incredible tournament rife with stories and shocks.
In the women’s draw, Maria Sharapova began as the bookies favourite having completed her career grand slam earlier in June at the French Open, while defending champion Petra Kvitova and 4-time champion Serena Williams followed closely behind. Interestingly, former world number 1 and Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka came in relatively under the radar. However, big names were tumbling at the first few hurdles including the sad loss of 5-time champion Venus Williams in the first round playing in what may be her final Wimbledon after becoming a shadow of her former self- having to contend with Old Father Time and an autoimmune illness. It appeared that, as has generally been the case with women’s tennis over the last few years, anything was possible.
After a tournament that included many notable highlights such as Heather Watson’s great run to the third round, Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan’s historic ‘golden set’ (where she didn’t drop a point) in the third round, Serena showing a champion’s resolve to battle through back-to-back three-setters before dismissing Kvitova in the quarters and Azarenka in the semis, and the popular German Sabine Lisicki coming back from injury to upset a mentally fatigued Sharapova to open the second week before falling to Angelique Kerber in a thrilling all-German quarter-final, a fittingly surprising final came to pass.
Although seeing Serena in the Sunday showpiece was not that surprising, the same cannot be said for the relatively unknown (given her number 3 ranking) Agnieszka Radwanska who battled the odds and illness during the fortnight to reach her maiden grand slam final. At times, people worried whether Radwanska would even win a game given Serena’s imperious form and much greater power. However, Radwanska showed her tactical intelligence and fighting qualities to grab a set and force the final to a decider. In a final that was high on quality albeit low on drama as the outcome was never really in doubt, Serena claimed her 5th Wimbledon crown marking an emotional return to greatness having recovered from a near-fatal blood clot on her lung a year earlier. She had hit 265 winners in the tournament, a record 102 aces and by the way, went on to win the women’s doubles title with her sister Venus later that evening for the 5th time. What a story, what a player, and what a champion.
The men’s tournament felt much more familiar in many ways with ‘Murraymania’ beginning to set in after England’s Euro 2012 defeat. It was naturally assumed that the top 4 players would reach the semis, Andy Murray would fall short again, and a fifth straight Nadal-Djokovic grand slam final would take place. However, sport is a funny old thing and what transpired was one of the most memorable championships in recent times. The first week produced some all-time classics including Rafael Nadal losing to world number 100 Lukáš Rosol (playing only his second grass-court tournament and first Wimbledon) in the second round. This was arguably the biggest upset in grand slam history and sent seismic shockwaves through the draw. Many immediately began talking up Murray’s chances as all were now keenly aware that, unlike the previous two years, he would not have to play Nadal in the semi-finals. However, there was still a long way to go as it had been made abundantly clear by Rosol (who lost in the next round) that nothing was guaranteed. Indeed, lighting almost struck twice as 6-time champion Roger Federer was forced to recover from two sets to love down for the eight time in his career against flamboyant Frenchman Julien Benneteau in the third round. In the meantime, defending champion and world number 1 Novak Djokovic was making serene progress and local hero Murray was showing real form and fight as he made his way through what was arguably the toughest draw of any of the top 4.
After Murray’s 11:02 p.m. finish against Marcos Baghdatis brought a dramatic first week to a close, the second week promised much with most of the top seeds still in action. Federer recovered from a worrying back issue in the fourth round and dramatically improved his form putting on a master class in the quarter-finals in front of Prince William to set up a mouth-watering semi-final clash against Djokovic. Murray weathered the storm in a rain-delayed match against Croatian Marin Cilic (who had won his previous match 17-15 in the fifth-set) before surviving an epic contest against world number 5 David Ferrer to set up a semi-final against the ever-increasingly popular and charismatic Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. Both were high-quality affairs with Federer rolling back the years to dismiss Djokovic in an incredible four-set display of accurate serving in the first semi, before Murray sprinted out of the blocks and held his nerve to close out Tsonga after a screaming forehand return was shown to have clipped the line right at the death.
A Federer-Murray final would take place with nationalistic fervour reaching fever pitch – especially after wild cards Jonathan Marray of Sheffield and Denmark’s Frederik Nielsen completed a fairytale run to win the men’s doubles with Marray being the first Brit to do so for 76 years. The stage was set – was it destiny for Murray to fulfil his dreams in the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and London taking centre stage at the Olympics? Alas, he was up against a certain Mr Federer who knows a thing or two about Wimbledon and grand slam finals (this was his 24th) and had beaten Murray in their previous two grand slam meetings (both in finals) without the loss of a set. However, in a final where there was much on the line for both, Federer was the one who began nervously. Murray went a set up and had Federer by the scruff of the neck in the second. The nation began to believe. However, Murray left the door ever so slightly ajar and Federer, arguably the greatest to ever hold a racquet, was good enough to take advantage. It all began to slowly unravel for Murray as Federer sneaked a tight second set before rain meant the roof would have to be closed. Being the best indoor player in the world, it was advantage Federer. Murray played a great match and fought with everything he had, but was once again reduced to tears by the Swiss genius who was virtually unplayable in sets 3 and 4. Federer had tied Sampras at 7 Wimbledon titles, regained the number 1 ranking, and won a record 17th grand slam. Murray, although he had lost the final, gained more valuable experience and captured the hearts of many after exposing raw emotion in the trophy ceremony.
In a Wimbledon full of memorable matches, surprises and fairytales, as far as Federer and Serena are concerned – some things remain the same.
Author: Alastair Fatemi