By Maud Watson
There’s a New Sheriff in Town
And his name is Novak Djokovic. When Djokovic had his winning streak snapped in spectacular fashion by Federer a month ago in Paris, many wondered how the Serb would respond. He ultimately responded in spectacular fashion of his own, fighting his way to his first Wimbledon crown and claiming the No. 1 singles ranking in the process (his win also ended the monopoly Federer and Nadal have enjoyed at Wimbledon since Federer’s first title run in 2003). But this Wimbledon was about more than just reaching the apex of the rankings or earning his first championship at SW19. He also got a few monkeys off his back, as he not only beat Nadal for the fifth consecutive time in 2011, but for the first time he also garnered a victory over the Spaniard in a Grand Slam best-of-five-set match, and a final to boot. He couldn’t have scripted a more emphatic way to solidify his status as the player of 2011, and assuming we don’t see a total collapse from the Serb in the second half of the season, he stands in an excellent position to finish the year as No. 1.
Czech Her Out
With the exception of Brad Gilbert and perhaps a handful of others, you would have been hard pressed to find many people tipping Petra Kvitova to finish the fortnight as Wimbledon champion. Yet that’s exactly what she did, and she did so by playing breathtaking power tennis coupled with some timely changes of pace to earn a routine victory over former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova. But the way she kept Sharapova on her heels was not the most impressive aspect of her victory. Rather, it was the way she handled the stumbling blocks throughout the course of the match. She dropped her serve in the opening game and failed on multiple occasions to sustain any momentum in the second set. But she never let these minor pitfalls get to her, as she powered her way to the title. Perhaps all were a little stunned at how quickly it came, judging by the initial silence in the crowd when she struck her only ace of the match on championship point, but she took everything in stride. She looked like she belonged out there before, during, and after the match, so she seems a safe bet to repeat this experience on multiple occasions in the future.
For this year’s Wimbledon finalists, it was a mixed bag of pros and cons. For Sharapova, just reaching the final after a few injury-hampered years and mediocre results was an achievement in and of itself. But instead of looking the seasoned veteran, she was the one who appeared to be playing in her first major final. The serve continues to be a huge liability, and most troubling of all is her continued lack of a game plan B when A isn’t getting it done (and based on her press conference, she hasn’t grasped the need for this change yet, either). She will have to improve in those departments if she wants to hold the winner’s trophy aloft again. As for Nadal, he gave his fans plenty to cheer about as he made the final for the fifth straight time, but on the same day he lost the final, reports were circulating that he was suffering from a hairline fracture in his left foot. Nadal’s camp has since come out to deny those reports, so how bad that foot is or isn’t, not surprisingly, is shrouded in mystery. But injury aside, the bigger worry for Nadal is the mental block he’s developed against Djokovic. Nadal has admitted as much, chalking his losses up at Indian Wells, Miami, and even Wimbledon to some extent as more mental lapses than anything else. There’s little doubt that Djokovic has gotten inside Nadal’s head (somewhere Roger Federer is smiling), and it was undoubtedly hard for Nadal to lose both the No. 1 ranking and his Wimbledon crown in the space of a single weekend. He should benefit from his extended post-Wimbledon break, and while there will still be question marks surrounding his health for the time being, fans should expect him to be ready for the US Open having hopefully added some tweaks to the game for when he next plays Djokovic.
Double the Delight
Doubles often falls by the wayside, but it’s worth noting that Americans Bob and Mike Bryan had an excellent stay in London. Despite nearly losing in the Round of 16 and semis, the two barely broke a sweat in the final, cruising to the title to claim their eleventh doubles major. Every major win is special, but this one was particularly so, as they tied the Open Era record set by the legendary tandem of the “Woodies.” Don’t expect them to stop there either. They’re almost for certain to shatter the record and may do so as early as the last major of 2011 in Flushing Meadows.
With the possible exception of NBC, many American fans were ecstatic when the All England Club announced that ESPN has signed a 12-year contract to televise the whole of the Wimbledon Championships, starting in 2012. NBC has had the finals of Wimbledon for the last 43 years, and as traditional as their “Breakfast at Wimbledon” broadcast had become, there were many complaints about the tape-delayed coverage that came into play when NBC shared in broadcasting rights. With ESPN now covering the whole fortnight, all of the tennis will be live, with much more of it available on various platforms, which can ultimately only help the sport. The announcement came as the perfect ending to another enthralling year at Wimbledon.