Monday, July 8, 2013

My review of Wimbledon 2013

The Wimbledon Championships of this year are now over. After all the upsets, the tournament still ended with a final between No. 1 and 2 seeds, where Andy Murray became the first British player to win men’s singles Wimbledon title since Fred Perry in 1936.

I really enjoyed the first week with its upsets. The first upset happened already in the first day when Belgian Steve Darcis defeated the recent French Open champion Rafael Nadal in straight sets. This was already the second early loss for the two-time Wimbledon champion Nadal, last year he lost to Lukas Rosol on the 2nd round. And even when he made Wimbledon finals, he often had some tight first-week matches. Maybe it’s lack of grass court matches, or maybe it’s because the fresh grass is faster making things harder for defensive players like Nadal. This year he really wasn’t well prepared for Wimbledon, he played only one exhibition match on grass before Wimbledon and he had played only one tournament outside clay this year, and that was on a slow hard court. And maybe the knee was troubling him, all we can say is that Darcis played better than Nadal that day. Unfortunately Darcis had to withdraw from his 2nd round match as he injured his shoulder in the match against Nadal.

Wednesday of the first week produced then even more upsets. Women’s 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova was defeated by Portuguese Michelle Larcher de Brito. Sharapova fell multiple times during that match, and slippery courts caused controversy during the first week of the tournament. In the same day as No. 3 seed Sharapova lost, No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka had to withdraw from her 2nd round match because of the knee injury she sustained on the 1st round on the slippery court. There were also many other players who had to retire or withdraw from their matches that day, and slippery surface had caused at least some of those injuries. The grass was obviously unusually slippery as usually there aren’t as many falls at Wimbledon. But also the modern game is to blame. Most of the season is played on hard courts or clay which are easier surfaces for footing. Maybe a longer grass season would help players with their grass movement but it also comes to the playing style. For example, Federer’s game relies less on defending, and you see him hardly ever struggling with his movement on grass.

The biggest upset of that Wednesday, and maybe the whole tournament, was Sergiy Stakhovsky beating seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer. I must say I like and admire Federer. His game is so beautiful and also so effective. And he’s the most successful tennis player ever. And he had reached 36 Grand Slam quarterfinals in a row before Wimbledon so a loss to Stakhovsky would end that streak. Still, I was rooting for Stakhovsky in that match. I’m a bit tired of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray winning almost everything. I like Federer the most of those players, still I want somebody else to succeed for a change. Stakhovsky had a good first set, but after he lost it in the tiebreak, I was afraid he would lose his faith in winning, what happens so often when lower-ranked players play against big names. But Sergiy was able to keep his level high and beat Federer in four sets. It was also nice to see successful serve-and-volley tennis what you don’t see too often on today’s slow surfaces.

The 2nd week wasn’t as great as the first week, at least in my opinion. And that happens often in slams. With the exception of Federer, today’s best players’ game relies a lot on good defence, and we don’t see so many offensive players on the second week of slams. My best memory from the second week is Sabine Lisicki making the women’s final. She is always great on grass and in the four years she had played at Wimbledon, she had beaten three times the reigning French Open champion. And she did it also this year when she beat the reigning French Open and Wimbledon champion Serena Williams. Unfortunately her first Grand Slam final was very difficult for her and she couldn’t win the title. Still, it was great to see Marion Bartoli winning the Wimbledon title. She may not have the most beautiful playing style but she’s an excellent grass-courter, as seen in 2007 when she beat Jelena Jankovic, Serena Williams, and Justine Henin before she lost the final against Venus Williams.

My best memory from men’s second week was Jerzy Janowicz making the semifinal. He maybe didn’t have the most difficult draw as both Federer and Nadal from his draw quarter lost early but he was still able to take a set from the eventual champion Murray. I like his game a lot, he is a tall guy with a lot of power but he has also skills. And he’s the most successful youngster on the ATP at the moment, he has a Masters final and a Grand Slam semifinal unlike Grigor Dimitrov or Bernard Tomic.

Novak Djokovic-Juan Martin Del Potro semifinal was probably the most memorable match of the second week. Djokovic had been very impressive and yet to lose a set before the semifinal. Neither Del Potro had lost a set before the semifinal but he had a knee injury. Still, despite that injury DelPo was able to play on a great level and take the match to the fifth set. But, as great tennis it was, I wouldn’t call it great grass tennis. Classic grass tennis was seen in Federer-Stakhovsky match where Stakhovsky played serve-and-volley game. Djokovic-Del Potro was played mainly from the baseline and I’d call it classic hardcourt tennis. But yeah, players said some years ago that Wimbledon’s grass is nowadays already slower than US Open’s hard courts. So also the game played on Wimbledon’s grass has become more like the game played on hard courts.

Hopefully Del Potro can keep this level for the US Open which he won in 2009. But I’m starting to think Wimbledon has become big-hitting DelPo’s best slam. Last year he had a tight three-setter semifinal against Federer at the Olympics on Wimbledon’s grass and he beat Djokovic in the Olympic bronze match in two sets. But at the hard courts of US Open, Djokovic beat him in straight sets. The US Open’s surface has been slowed down after DelPo’s 2009 title and it’s hard for him to beat well-defending players like Djokovic there. Faster grass courts give him a better chance for that.

The men’s final was a bit anticlimactic for me. Two well-defending baseliners aren’t a classical Wimbledon final line-up. But that’s what you get in today’s tennis with slowed down surfaces. You may like this match-up if you like long rallies but I prefer offensive players going for winners. Of these two guys, I slightly prefer Djokovic’s game and I prefer his personality. But another Wimbledon final loss would have been heartbreaking for Andy. And luckily for him it didn’t happen, and Brits finally got a men’s singles Wimbledon champion, 77 years after Fred Perry.

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