Final Thoughts on Wimbledon 2016

Another fortnight is in the books at Wimbledon, and this year’s tournament brought a number of memorable matches and storylines. From its rainy start to its historic end, Wimbledon lived up to its storied image — both capturing our imaginations and setting the stage for the rest of the tennis year.

These are heady days for tennis, with history being made at every turn. There’s history, and there’s HISTORY, though, and Serena Williams’ 22nd Grand Slam fits into the latter category. She persevered past a determined, and in form Angelique Kerber to win the titles. Her latest run at the top may be the most impressive in her stratospheric career: Serena has played in 7 of the past 8 Slam finals, winning 5. What’s even more amazing is that, at a stage in her career where age and her increasing celebrity would have pushed others off the court, she only seems to be getting stronger. She has a real shot at surpassing Margaret Court at the top of the list, though she will likely savor this one for a while before moving on to the next one.

Andy Murray has had the misfortune of playing alongside the greatest trio to play men’s tennis at the same time, but today, he was the last man standing. He hasn’t been able to control his own destiny in prior Slam finals, where he’s been buffeted by the force of his opponents’ form. It will be interesting to see whether this win will propel him into a more dominant phase with respect to the members of the Big Three. A not-unrelated phenomenon will be how Novak Djokovic reacts to his early loss at SW19. It’s hard to imagine much derailing the Serb these days, but we said the same thing after 2011, and 2012 was the first year since 2003 where there were four different Slam titlists on the ATP tour (it happened again in 2014). It makes for an intriguing summer, that’s for sure.

Not only did Venus Williams show incredible form over the past two weeks, she provided some of the most inspirational and motivational quotes of the fortnight. Venus’ joy at her return to the semifinals was matched by our joy on hearing her pearls of wisdom. She’s become the moral leader of the tour, as well as its slightly absentminded, but wise older sister. May she really go on for infinity.

It’s hard to overachieve and disappoint at the same time, but that’s where Roger Federer left the tournament. He was more durable than expected, with his run to the semis, and especially his come from behind win against Marin Cilic, but cracked at key points in a match he should have won against Milos Raonic, to lose his first semifinal ever at Wimbledon. It’s funny, Federer’s decline seems to have begun in 2008, but his career since that point is still a Hall of Fame career that eclipses all but a few. In 2008, no one would have expected him to be playing and contending eight years later, but he continues to redefine longevity, as he has so many other aspects of the sport. Was this his last chance to win number 18? Say that at your peril — if the body holds up, Federer can never be counted out.

Many of us have taken shots at Milos Raonic for his, er, mechanical style of play. But there’s no doubting the kid’s heart. With his serve, and his commitment, and, perhaps most importantly, his age, it’s hard to imagine him not winning at least one Slam before he retires. After all, the Big Four will have to retire sometime — we think, and Raonic certainly has put himself in the best position he can to win Slams. Sure, he lacks the easy movement and natural ball striking ability of many of his peers, but when his serve and forehand are firing, he should be able to get to the business end of tournaments on a regular basis. However, if he’s in coach-collecting mode, he might want to consider adding a movement expert to the team. That said, he acquitted himself well to reach his first Slam final, and his palpable disappointment in his performance on Sunday will only fuel him to work harder.

That said, with all due respect to the gentlemen, the matches of the tournament were largely contested on the ladies’ side — whether it was Radwanska and Konjuh or Radwanska and Cibulkova, or even the deceptively straight setted Kerber-Halep quarterfinal, the consistent quality from the WTA was outstanding this fortnight. It’s a shame that WTA players are still forced to answer questions about their relative worth, and to contend with unfavorable court assignments compared to their male peers on the ATP tour.

Where does that leave us now? With more questions to fuel the jam packed back end of the season. The hardest and easiest thing about tennis is that the calendar is relentless, not allowing much time to bask in glory or wallow in sorrow. Will Murray and Serena continue their form? How will Novak rebound? Will we see a last stand from Federer or Nadal? How about Kerber and Muguruza — will they continue to push at Serena? Before long, the cast of characters will (mostly) decamp to Brazil for the Olympics, and then to the North American hard courts for the U.S. Open, and we’ll get answers to these questions and more — and I’m looking forward to it.

One Response

  1. Patrick of La Verne
    Patrick of La Verne July 11, 2016 at 12:02 am |

    Nice summary of the fortnight, Anusha.

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