Monday, July 16, 2018

Wimbledon 2018

Wimbledon was incredibly interesting for many reasons. First, it marks the return of Novak Djokovic at the pinnacle of the tennis world, beating Kevin Anderson in straight sets in the final to claim his fourth Wimbledon title and his 13th Grand Slam singles title. He is now just one short of Pete Sampras' 14 majors, which is amazing because many thought that 14 would be an impossible record to break in our lifetimes. Now, both Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal have gone past that mark and Novak is knocking on the door.

Second, this Wimbledon featured the tightest and most competitive set of quarterfinals and semifinals on the men's side that I can recall. All four quarterfinal matches went 4 or 5 sets. As if that wasn't enough, both semifinals not only went 5 sets, they went beyond regulation. Novak beat Rafa 10-8 in the 5th while Kevin Anderson beat John Isner 26-24 (!!!) in the 5th set of a match that lasted more than 6 hours. The final was a bit anticlimactic but the quarterfinals and semifinals provided so much drama and excitement to make this major a very memorable one.

Third, the women's final also featured some amazing comebacks. After getting to the finals of 3 of the 4 majors in 2016, Angelique Kerber couldn't get beyond the semis in 6 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments - and in fact she didn't get past the 1st week at all the majors last year - and now, she overcame 7-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams in a rematch of the 2016 final which Serena won. Serena's run to the finals was also impressive and inspiring considering that this is only her 4th tournament back from giving birth (and it was a difficult birth for her too). Many people, including me, were expecting Serena to win but I guess she just didn't quite have the level of consistency that she needed to have. I guess that nerves and pressure were also a factor, since a win would have allowed her to tie the all-time Grand Slam record of 24 titles held by the legendary Margaret Court. Here's an interesting stat: Angelique Kerber becomes only the second woman in history to beat Serena Williams twice in major finals. Amazing.

Fourth, Kevin Anderson. He reached his 2nd major final but his path was not easy by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it was so close to ending a couple of rounds earlier. When Roger Federer was up 2 sets to 0 and had a match point during their quarterfinal, I thought the match would be over. A few hours later, Kevin provided the biggest shock of the tournament by coming back from 0-2 and match point down to beat Roger 13-11 in the 5th set. As if that wasn't enough, his semifinal against John Isner ran all the way up to 26-24 in the 5th set in the longest semifinal and the second longest match at Wimbledon. In both cases, he was actually serving second in the final set, which is often viewed as a disadvantage mentally because the player is always playing catch-up and as such is always under just a bit more pressure. Kevin also now holds another record: he has played more games in a single Wimbledon - 332 - than anyone else in history.

Still on Kevin, one of the most memorable points of the tournament came at the 49th game of the 5th set when Kevin fell to the ground after getting jammed by Isner's serve, picked up the racquet with his left (read: non-dominant) hand and hit a decent deep return that prevented Isner from attacking him. He eventually won that point. That he was able to do this after more than 6 hours of play is just mind-blowing. Check it out here.

video uploaded in youtube by Wimbledon

Fifth, I'm really happy that Rafa Nadal got to the semifinals. After getting to the final in 2011, he couldn't get beyond the 4th round in Wimbledon in the years that followed. That is, until this year. With Federer losing in the quarterfinals and Rafa getting to the semis, he increases his led at the top of the ATP rankings. I think he might remain at the top at least until the US Open. Cool.

Now, on both the men's and women's tour, we have different champions at each of the majors. Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, and Novak Djokovic won on the men's side and Caroline Wozniacki, Simona Halep, and Angelique Kerber won on the women's side. Will this trend continue at the US Open? We'll find out in a couple of months.

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