Sunday, July 3, 2011

Wimbledon: The Finale

For a tournament so steep in tradition, this year's Wimbledon Championships, which notably celebrated its 125th year, was marked by breakthroughs and a general feeling of change and transition. Most of this can be attributed to the crowning of first-time Wimbledon champions, Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova, who fought to claim the most coveted prize in tennis.

For so long, the tennis world has been dominated by two men, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, especially in Wimbledon where they have won the last 8 times. This year, however, Djokovic has defeated everyone, including notching a 9-1 record against Federer and Nadal. With this mindset, Djokovic went into his first Wimbledon final with the belief that not only could he win against Nadal, but that he would. Fortunately for Djokovic, Nadal blinked first in that all-important first set, playing a loose game, giving Djokovic the first set. With that in his pocket, Djokovic played lights out in the 2nd set not giving Nadal an inch in any game and eventually winning it 6-1. To his credit, Nadal upped his own game as well as took advantage of Djokovic's slight dip in concentration in the 3rd to get his own breadstick set. The 4th set was similar to the 1st with both players playing more within themselves and yet again it was Nadal to blink first in the 8th game giving Djokovic a chance to serve for the championships which he promptly did. Win or loss, he would've been ranked #1 tomorrow, but with this win, his 8th title of the year, he has quite literally shaken up the dominance of Nadal and Federer. It's scary to think what else he has in store this year.

The women's final didn't cause a monumental shake up in the women's tour and yet in smaller and indirect ways, it kind of did. First of all, the match really was in the hands of 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova who has had an amazing comeback year, reaching the finals here and the semifinals at the French Open. With her power and experience she was the favorite going to the match. And yet it was Kvitova who outhit and outplayed the former champion. What's more impressive though is how contained and relaxed she seemed playing in the biggest match of her life. After winning the first set, a dip of play might be expected, and there was a slight dip with both players trading breaks a couple of times each. Kvitova though was the more steady of the two and under the watch of her idol Martina Navratilova, she took down Sharapova in straight sets. Similarly to the men, Kvitova was able to breakthrough a tournament that in the past decade had been dominated by two players. For the women it was the Serena and Venus Williams, who both exited in the 4th round this year.

So is there a changing of guards in tennis? Are the era of Nadal, Federer, Serena, and/or Venus over? For the latter three, age is a big factor and they are all getting up there. And yet, I wouldn't be surprised to see them winning 1-2 more major titles. For Nadal, who is still at the top of his game, it's mostly adjusting to this new challenge that Djokovic has given him this year (5 straight losses in 3 different surfaces). Basically, their era of domination is probably over, but underestimate them at your peril.

Elsewhere, top seeds Bob and Mike Bryan claimed their 2nd Wimbledon title, 11th overall, beating 8th seeds Robert Lindstedt/Horia Tecau in Men's Doubles. Second seeds Kveta Peschke/Katarina Srebotnik defeated Sabine Lisicki /Samantha Stosur for the Women's Doubles title. Finally, 9th seed Jurgen Melzer /Iveta Benesova took out 4th seeds Mahesh Bhupathi/Elena Vesnina in straight sets for the Mixed Doubles. And just for old time's sake Martina Hingis/Lindsay Davenport defeated Martina Navratilova/Jana Novotna in the Ladies' Invitation Doubles. Sigh, come back to us.

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