Time for our annual Wimbledon roundup surely. So how was yours? I through domestic events ended up watching quite a bit more than usual. Overall, a very entertaining fortnight while slightly short on classic matches between the favourites. The fact that injuries were the big tournament story tells you something. We had the early round spectacle of patently-unfit players turning up and withdrawing after a set in order to get their match fee – understandable in the case of someone ranked 200 in the world, less so in the case of Stan The Man who went out meekly. Later on those who crossed their fingers and hoped it would get better – Djokovic and Murray – also had to face up to the fact that their bodies were just not up to it. The women’s championship was dominated by the further rise of Johanna Konta, an exemplar of the ultra-coached player. The Jobot has an extraordinarily impassive presence, all part of her ‘process’ that makes her very hard to beat, but difficult to warm to whatever nationality she is. I’m fine with cheering her as a Brit, but feel that to win a slam she’s going to have to add a bit of variety to her game. Her matches with Vekic and Halep were both great examples of executing her game under pressure and swung to and fro in a way virtually none of the men’s matches have.
And to max out on her endorsements she’ll need just a bit more self-expression. The other star of the women’s draw, was Venus – offering hope to us all at age 37 (age being the other big theme at this championships). The women’s final showed us that occasionally tennis, usually an accumulative game, can show you when someone hits the wall. Having had arguably the best of the first set, and having some first set points at 5-4 against Muguruza, Venus’ game disintegrated as completely as a Tour de France rider boinking up some mountain in the second.
Over on the men’s side the match of the tournament was Muller v Nadal. The form player in the world, seemingly back to his OCD forehand-ripping, grinding best was edged in an epic fifth by a laconic Luxembourger aged 34. Nadal will wonder quite how he lost, against a big server who Nadal crashed against again and again only to fade away at the end – the strain of serving second fourteen times in the final set finally crushing him.
Second to this, as entertaining without being quite as epic, was Murray v Fognini. The Italian cuts a piratical jib from his beard to his many-skulled sportswear. He managed to pick up a points deduction for swearing, ran out of challenges then stopped a point to challenge…and remembered he had none left. In between he played sublimely in patches until Murray got his grind going.
The other less-than-stellar player who had a great run was Sam Querry, a laid-back American who disposed of Tsonga, Muller and Murray in a flurry of enormous serving and constant surprise.
And so, in the absence of all bar one of the ‘famous five’ by the semis, to Roger. This Wimbledon surely saw us reach Peak Rog. Offcourt the crazy fans (including a large number of Chinese/Japanese for some reason) brandished signs with ’19’ ‘Fedex’ ‘100’ ‘Marry me Roger’ or ‘Wenger out’. There’s no question that Arsene would see Roger as the ultimate Arsenal player. On court he spent the first week dispatching lesser mortals in exhibition match style, seemingly operating in third gear. Raonic in the quarters was painful: a somewhat robotic player who – with his weapons of a big serve and big forehead neutralised – was left utterly without ideas of how to beat Federer. Federer’s carefully paced season has been expounded upon at tedious length. Its clearly important to Murray to stay Number One, its clearly important for Djokovic to try and play himself back up to form after an awful year. That’s why they want to play all the time. Federer can set his own goals and timetables, a luxury none of the other have.
The final itself (spoiler alert if you’ve not watched it yet) was an utter letdown. Rog cruised to 19 while being the beneficiary of a tournament that saw all the other big guns blow up en route. Yes, he got his classic Rog gegenpress on – minute-long games on his own serve, 5 minutes on his opponents – but Cilic clearly couldn’t handle the occasion. How much was a physical injury, how much a mental meltdown may become clearer. It was a sad sight.
Will Djokovic and Murray take a therapeutic holiday is question number one. Can Konta step up – probably away from Wimbledon probably is question number two. Nadal v Federer for the US final please.