Another Wimbledon has come and gone. Finals weekend was certainly unique and memorable. Here are four things we learned.
It is time for final set tiebreaks: As a writer, it is never fun to simply tag along with an opinion that has suddenly become trendy. However, this is really the only conclusion that can be drawn after this year’s Wimbledon.
Wimbledon is one of three majors that does not play a tiebreak in deciding sets. This year more than any other, that drastically changed the event. Starting with the obvious, be human body is simply not meant to play a more than four hour match with Roger Federer, then follow that up with a semifinal that lasted over six hours.
Kevin Anderson did a remarkable job to win those matches 13-11 and 26-24 in the fifth, but was an unsurprisingly easy kill for Novak Djokovic in the final. The lack of a final set tiebreak adversely affected the quality of the final. However, getting there also put Anderson in a dangerous position as far as the amount of physical exertion he had to use over a 48 hour time frame. Regardless of how well conditioned an athlete may be, no one’s body can be adequately prepared for what Anderson had to go through. Simona Halep had to be hospitalized following a loosely similar run at the Australian Open earlier this year. Everybody wants to see players leave it all out there, but no one wants to see a human being forced in a position that is dangerous to their health. This event crossed that fine line.
The length of the Anderson and John Isner semifinal also created a scheduling nightmare for the event. The semifinal between Djokovic and Rafael Nadal had to be played over two days and finished on Saturday. This meant the ladies final was delayed by more than two hours. It also meant that the ladies doubles final had to be moved off of Centre Court. Doubles players do not get the chance to play on the main courts or in front of full crowds very often. A Wimbledon final certainly should be and usually is an exception to that. Unfortunately, it was not this year and that is a shame.
Considering a tiebreak goes to the first player to win seven points by two, there are always going to be some people who think that it is a cheap way to decide a close tennis match. There is some truth to that. Thus, instituting a tiebreak at 12 all in deciding sets of all men’s and women’s Grand Slam matches is a suitable compromise.
The next Grand Slam where the lack of final set tiebreaks is an issue is the 2019 Australian Open. So, there is plenty of time to make this rule change. Moreover, even if there was one before, there is no longer a good enough reason not to.
Serena still has work to do: Considering that by her own admission she could not walk to her mailbox nine months ago, the fact that Serena Williams found herself in the finals of Wimbledon in just her fourth event back since having her daughter is nothing short of remarkable.
However, when she got there, Angelique Kerber was waiting. Williams was fortunate in that she only faced players who just wanted to exchange haymakers with her from the baseline on her way to the final. That has never worked against the 23-time major champion and never will. Kerber was smart enough to just be content playing defense and letting a still somewhat out of shape Williams hit herself out. Kerber committed just five total unforced errors in convincing straight sets to claim her third career major title.
The final was only one match and not many players are capable of defending the Williams power as well as Kerber. Still, the book on Serena has always been the more you make her run, the better chance you have. That has never been truer than it is right now. Williams needs to get a lot fitter to sure up her chances at securing major title number 24 at the U.S. Open in early fall.
Djokovic is all the way back: The Serb claimed his 13th major and fourth Wimbledon title by beating Anderson in the final. His two day 10-8 in the fifth set semifinal win was the big one though. That was the moment where it became clear to everyone that Novak Djokovic was his old self again.
After missing the second half of last year with an elbow injury and bottoming out with two awful losses in March, Djokovic started to move well and appear pain-free on the court again during the clay season.
Once on the grass, it all clicked. His groundstrokes and movement were once again explosive. Also, the incredible flexibility that allows him to get to so many balls fully returned. Apart from Roger Federer, he had to go through the very best the game has to offer to you reclaim his spot near the top. Federer and Nadal have company again. Unbelievably, it is the same guy who crashed their party at the top more than a decade ago. It is truly amazing that no new faces have emerged as consistent threats to the all-time greats at big events. The more the so-called next generation gets talked about, the more the current generation reminds us that they are not going anywhere yet.
Azarenka gets a possible spark: Former World No. 1 and two-time major champion Victoria Azarenka has childbirth and a custody battle behind her, but it has been a disappointing full-time return to the tour this year. Her ranking is still stuck in the 80s and she has only reached one semifinal.
However, she reached the mixed doubles final at Wimbledon with Andy Murray’s older brother Jamie, after bowing out in the second round of singles. Her backhand is still really good and she served a bit bigger than we normally see on the singles court. In any sport, winning breeds winning. It is not unusual at all for double success to carry over into singles. This mixed doubles run is an important building block for the Belarusian as the North American hardcourt summer looms, a stretch of the calendar where she has always performed well.