2010 Wimbledon Coverage
Day Thirteen Thoughts
- LADIES' SINGLES
- GENTLEMEN'S SINGLES
- LADIES' DOUBLES
- GENTLEMEN'S DOUBLES
- MIXED DOUBLES
The fortnight at the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club concluded on Sunday, with the remainder of the titles on the line decided in final-day play on the worn-down patches of grass that constitute Wimbledon at this point in the tournament. We were blessed with good weather throughout this year despite my daring to risk jinxing the clear skies with my repeated mentions of the fact... the only thing which held up play this year and compacted the schedule being the prevalence of extended-length matches, as was most strikingly demonstrated in the Spartathlon that was the Isner-Mahut match over three days in the first week.
With women's titles decided yesterday, it was time for the men to take to Centre Court to decide their fate. Would it be #2 seed Rafael Nadal, already in the top spot in the world rankings and only distancing himself further from the absurd lows of last season, become the second-youngest man ever to claim an eighth Grand Slam title and keep himself on pace to challenge his perennial nemesis' record haul of Slams? Or would it be the man who cleared the path for Nadal not to face Federer (as well as #3 Novak Djokovic), #12 Tomas Berdych, who would finish his trifecta of upsets and earn his first Grand Slam title?
We didn't need long to find out which answer was correct. Nadal earned two breaks in the first set to take the lead 6-3 in 34 minutes, and from there all it took was solid defense and a pair of openings in Berdych's otherwise solid service game to net the Spaniard number eight. It was a majestic performance by the Spaniard, two hours and thirteen minutes of masterful tennis that left Berdych unable to counter. The 6-3 7-5 6-4 victory hardly flatters the challenge offered by the Czech, though.
Serving better than Nadal (69-59 1st-serve%, 13-5 aces, 0-3 double-faults) and committing fewer unforced errors (17 to 21), it wasn't as though Berdych threw this match away. The man from Mallorca had to claw for every point, Rafa digging deep into his arsenal of southpaw's tricks and finding ways through tight spots to earn his second straight title in contested Wimbledons (discounting his absent 2009 due to injury) against an opponent who is emerging from a late-blossom chrysalis to realize his dormant potential in 2010. Berdych, if he continues this career progression, might just be another foil to emerge on the men's tour.
Yet at just 24 years old (the same age as his vanquished opponent), Nadal is still also in the rise toward the apex of his career... an ominous realization that can only mean that the racqueteers of the ATP are in for a hell of a fight at every major tournament from this dominant lefty. Federer, as evidenced by his form really over the past few years as compared to the run prior, is on the downswing of one of the greatest (if not the greatest) runs by a male in tennis history. It is the moment of passing the torch, really... and we'll see if Federer earns any last credentials to pad his lead and prevent his seemingly-inevitable overtaking on the all-time lists.
The all-time men's Grand Slam record is in Federer's hands currently, sitting at sixteen after his Australian Open win in January. Nadal, now at eight and counting, is nearly five years younger than Federer, and has played twenty fewer Grand Slam tournaments than Federer. All he would need to do is win 40% of his opportunities over the next half-decade to be at the same point Federer is at in his career.
Considering he's won 33% of his career opportunities, which includes the earlier portion of his career as he eased into his prime, it is hardly infeasible to envision Nadal winning two Slams or more a year for the next four or five. And then, where does that leave the discussion as to which of these two men is really the better player of this era? We've got a hell of a dogfight on our hands going onward into tennis' future, the only potential for the derailment of this saga being the creaky knees of the younger protagonist...
We also saw one legend continue in the wheelchair ranks while another one fell by the wayside. Esther Vergeer and Sharon Walraven managed to dominate women's doubles yet again, just as they had looked ready to do at Roland Garros before losing in the final. The duo finished off countrywoman Aniek van Koot and her Belgian partner Annick Sevenans to advance to the final, 6-0 6-3. There they had the opportunity to exact revenge for the French Open loss, facing the same opposition in Daniela di Toro and Lucy Shuker. This time, though, there was no doubt as to who was taking the title. The Dutch duet danced around the court, overwhelming their foes in a 6-2 6-3 championship performance that deservedly conquered Wimbledon.
We expected much the same when Shingo Kunieda and Stephane Houdet took on Robin Ammerlaan and Stefan Olsson in the men's wheelchair final. After all, this was to be the third jewel in the course of Kunieda and Houdet's assault on the wheelchair doubles Grand Slam. They'd taken Melbourne by storm, conquered Paris... and then ended up down and out in London. Ammerlaan, Kunieda's partner for Australian Open titles in 2007 and 2009, and his new partner Olsson proved their undoing. The match went down to the wire, Ammerlaan and Olsson getting a break to go up 6-4 in the first set. The second set went to a tiebreak, neither side ceding the advantage until the match was won in a 7-4 finale that snatched defeat from the jaws of immortality on the Japanese-French tandem.
Other doubles finals included the mixed doubles final, which pitted #1 against #2 for a change. The battle for supremacy for the top seeds on both sides of the draw was won by the lower seed, Leander Paes and Cara Black getting the better of Wesley Moodie and Lisa Raymond in straight sets 6-4 7-6(5). Junior girls' doubles was won by French Open champs Sloane Stephens and Timea Babos, the #4 seed proving they were undervalued by the All-England Club in the seedings when they conquered top-ranked Irina Khromacheva and Elina Svitolina. After dropping the first set in a tiebreak, Babos and Stephens calmed down and heated up. They would earn a brace of breaks in each of the next two sets for the comeback victory, 6-7(7) 6-2 6-2, completing the French/Wimbledon double.
Boys' doubles provided British hearts great joy as, no matter who won, there would be a domestic champion at least in something. In the end it was Liam Broady and Tom Farquharson who won out the day over Lewis Burton and George Morgan. Both teams unseeded and unheralded before the tournament started, they branded their visages into the hearts and minds of countrymen all across the isle with their play. Broady and Farquharson, though, would prove the stronger of the pairs. Their 7-6(4) 6-4 victory penned their name into the annals of history, making them rather than Burton and Morgan the ones to make last year's British-victory-free tournament a bad memory. The boys' singles final, which saw #13 Martin Fucsovics defeat Aussie Benjamin Mitchell 6-4 6-4, would be the last of the championships handed out during the fortnight. It was a fitting conclusion, the future of the sport rounding out things tidily even as the past two weeks yielded nothing but madness throughout the draw...