Who Wowed at Wimbledon?

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Photograph courtesy of Matt4395 via Pixabay

Despite the late start and the shadow of England’s successes in the FIFA World Cup threatening to loom over the contest, Wimbledon this year has been no less enthralling. Once again, it was a great opportunity to observe both the icons of the sport and the young, budding competitors attempting to topple their reign. One such stand-out up-and-comer was Alex De Minaur. Despite an eventual loss to Nadal in the third round, throughout his tournament De Minaur displayed excellent skill and the fearless determination that only those with no history to uphold can wear, culminating in a tense, closely fought match against an accomplished opponent few would expect him to beat. At only nineteen, De Minaur places 80th in the singles world ranking, and appeared to revel in that knowledge as he buoyantly fought off two match points before relinquishing Nadal’s final blow. His bruises, he will feel, are superficial.

Meanwhile, the ladies’ tournament saw Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber take to centre court to battle for what would’ve been Williams’ 8th Wimbledon trophy. In what ultimately became a comfortable contest, 30-year-old Kerber stole the title from 23-time Grand Slam winning Williams after shifting away from her famously defensive game plan. Kerber’s attacking stance forced Williams onto the back foot – pressing her around the court to an unrelenting 6-3 6-3 victory. It was clearly an important game for both women: a delighted Kerber fell to the ground in elation as she secured her first Wimbledon success, and was greeted at her side of the net by the embrace of a disheartened but gracious Williams. Both had only dropped one set each on their way to the final, showing exceptional skill and determinism that merited their place on the international stage.

The first men’s semi-final showcased two literal giants of the sport, Isner and Anderson. Both demonstrated fast and powerful first serves in a game so well matched that it demolished the record for the longest semi-final in Wimbledon, lasting six and a half hours -nearly three of which were spent on the final tie break alone. Anderson played 8 tie breaks across the tournament, winning four and losing four, while Novak Djokovic has only seen two. The second men’s semi-final was the most anticipated game of the tournament, as two of the world’s most decorated male tennis stars looked to secure their place in the final: world number one Rafael Nadal and three-time champion Novak Djokovic. The pair’s 52nd encounter did not disappoint; little was able to separate the two in a 5-hour rivalry befitting of the final itself. Despite an agitated display of emotion in the penultimate set, ultimately Nadal’s five break point misses allowed Djokovic to clinch the remaining place in the final against Anderson, his first major final in two years.

Anderson’s ranking as 5th in the world had little impact on the final, with Djokovic’s experience enabling him to control the game from the outset and take the first two games contentedly with style and little opposition. Djokovic’s excellent returning skill, often quoted as ‘the best in history’ undermined Anderson’s strength in delivering powerful and difficult to return first serves, leading Anderson to only serve four aces two games into the second set. Although he showed moments of promise, particularly in a final flurry in the third set, the South African’s skill and stature on the court was simply not enough to take the trophy from Djokovic, who beat him in 3 straight sets. Anderson appeared to lack the energy to pull back victory and was disappointed following his loss, having played over 20 hours of challenging games to get to the final. Had he grabbed a second wind and stolen the third set as he sought to do, perhaps the game could have been much closer. A fourth Wimbledon victory gives Djokovic 13 Grand Slam titles, taking his ranking to 10th in the world. Despite an impressive comeback after doubts being cast since his displacement from his 223-week number one ranking, Djokovic will feel his performance in this competition does not come close to reflecting the quality of his game, and would look to use this victory to propel himself back into the limelight.