By Ashley Babich
Completing her Golden Slam — winning all four Grand Slam titles and an Olympics gold medal in singles — Serena displayed her best tennis this side of age 30. Serena dismantled her opponents in outright domination (read: beating Maria Sharapova in the gold medal final, 6-0, 6-1, in an hour and three minutes). In addition, Serena’s last three opponents were the last three women to hold the No. 1 ranking. Please, let the Greatest Of All Time talk carry on while Serena continues her supreme level of awesomeness.
(And never far from controversy, chosen or not, Serena stirred the pot with her post-win celebration dance, otherwise known as the Crip Walk. Some see it as an act of pure joy; others take it as a nod to the gang associated with the name.)
Time out. Did I forget to mention that Serena also won an Olympic gold medal in doubles with her sister Venus, their second consecutive gold medal in doubles?
Okay. GOAT talk may resume.
MOST IMPROVED: Andy Murray
For a tennis player who has continuously frustrated his fans, and his nation, with his ability to make it to Grand Slam finals but his inability to win them, Andy Murray finally had his chance to savor victory. Finally! Did I already say that? I mean it.
There has been endless chatter about Murray being the sole hope for Great Britain’s success in the current tennis realm; after figuratively carrying the nation on his back all these years, and being unable to deliver the prize at Wimbledon, Murray literally wore the Union Jack on his back and brought home what some might say is even better than a Wimbledon title: the Olympic gold medal AT Wimbledon.
With an inspiring win over a slightly-flat Roger Federer, Murray got a taste of revenge for the loss to Federer four weeks ago to the day in the Wimbledon final. Considering that Murray had only won ONE set in the FOUR Grand Slam finals he’s reached, the 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Federer speaks volumes. Match point? An ace. #helloconfidence
Understanding that Murray’s chance to win an Olympic medal in London was literally only going to come around once, it is hard not to appreciate what a massive feat this is for him. Joy and tears all around, unless you are a Federer fan, who was denied his chance at a Golden Slam.
MOST LIKELY TO BE SENT TO THE PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE (aka the BRAVO studio): Ryan Harrison
At 20-years-old, Ryan Harrison was the youngest American tennis player on the team, and the one who struggled the most to balance emotion and passion. In his debut match at the Olympics, Harrison threw his racquet to the ground multiple times while losing to Santiago Giraldo 7-5, 6-3. The following day, Harrison apologized to the nation during an interview on BRAVO.
Said Harrison, “My actions were in no way trying to represent the country poorly. I feel terrible. I wish I could take it back. I am sorry to everyone I offended. I hope you can see the improvements from before.”
Harrison is thought by many to have a big role in the future of American tennis, but he is often criticized for his on-court temper. Though, it seems fair to mention that if he had not been representing the USA at the Olympics, a couple of racquet smashes would not have been particularly note-worthy. It will be interesting to see if this incident and resulting apology will have any effect on his future on-court temperament.
BEST DISPLAY OF TWINNING: Bob & Mike Bryan
Twinning! Sorry. Had to.
So, speaking of Golden Slams, the Bryan Brothers completed their own with a 6-4, 7-6 (2) gold medal win over the French duo of Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The jumping and hugging that ensued after their win was full of pure joy, and hinted that this win was sweeter because of its rarity. The Bryan Brothers are approaching a total of 300 weeks as the world’s top-ranked doubles team and have won all four Grand Slams, three of them at least twice! But an Olympic gold medal was the missing piece.
As Bob Bryan said, “There’s no bigger match we’d rather win than that one, Centre Court, Wimbledon, for our country, for each other. We’re 34 years old, and we’ve played tennis since we were 2-years-old. That’s a lot of balls going across the net, and this is it. This is the top of the mountain.”
CUTEST CONGRATULATORY TWEET: Micaela Bryan
Speaking of the joyous Bryan Brothers…. Micaela Bryan, Bob’s 6-month-old daughter, is the star of a very adorable Twitter account and often tweets shout-outs to various players, in addition to her many delightful pictures. After her dad and uncle won their gold medals in doubles, this was tweeted to the world. #aww
— Micaela Bryan (@MicaelaBryan) August 4, 2012
MOST LIKELY TO STEAL THE SPOTLIGHT: Henry Caplan
Unsure who Henry Caplan is? We all were just 48 hours ago! Remember the little boy who appeared as if out of nowhere near Andy Murray’s box and yelled bravely for Murray to turn around and give him a hug? And then proceeded to bury his face in Murray’s shoulder in a way that made hundreds of thousands of people watching collectively say, “awwww” while wiping away tears? (Or was that just me?) I think in that exact moment, most people in the world wanted to give Murray a warm congratulatory hug, and this little 11-year-old just had the guts to ask for it.
As Caplan told the BBC, “I was hugging my dad and the next moment I was gone. I was down near the royal box area in front of Roger Federer’s family and then I hugged Andy Murray. I just thought I had to be there.”
Caplan says that Murray said to him, “anything for my fans.”
So many levels of adorable. Dare you not to smile.
By Lisa-Marie Burrows
Barely a day has gone by since the doors of SW19 closed and the 2012 Olympic dream for many was over. It was a wonderful week on the grass that brought smiles, laughter, tears, Boris Becker-inspired dives and even a little victory dance that we shall never forget. Here is a look at some of the many surprises, shocks, disappointments and special moments from a very special week in tennis:
A Golden Moment: Andy Murray had walked off Centre Court four weeks earlier in floods of tears, sorrow in his heart and with all of his Grand Slam victory hopes crushed at the hands of Roger Federer, fast-forward four weeks and the results had completely reversed. Andy Murray defeated the 7-time Wimbledon champion in straight sets to win the Olympic gold medal and he looked as though the weight of the world had fallen off his shoulders as he clambered up to his box to celebrate with his team and family – a moment that he, his fans and Great Britain will never forget! As a special tribute to his victory, the Royal Mail have announced that a special first class postage stamp shall be made in honour of his unforgettable achievement at the Games.
A Bitter-Sweet Result: For Roger Federer the only title missing from his illustrious list of achievements is the Olympic gold medal and many had tipped the world No.1 for Olympic success at the tournament in Wimbledon. But alas, it was not meant to be for the Swiss maestro, however, he did not leave empty handed, he walked away with a silver medal and at least now he can say he has won an Olympic medal in the singles event as well as the doubles (he won the gold medal with compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka in Beijing).
Serena Sees Double: There is no doubt in anybody’s mind right now that Serena Williams is once again on top of her game. After being hospitalized with a potentially life-threatening blood clot, she fought against the odds, her body and her critics to claw her way back to the top of her game, in fact all the way to the top of the podium at the Olympics – not once, but twice. Serena enjoyed a phenomenal run through the Olympic tournament to win her first Olympic gold medal and achieve her Career Golden Slam in the singles and then went on to win the gold medal in the doubles with her big sister, Venus. A remarkable achievement for the American. Congratulations Queen Serena!
Disappointment for Djokovic: Novak Djokovic had a dream 2011 and after reaching the top of his game, achieving the world No.1 spot, many expected him to repeat his phenomenal year in 2012. Were they asking too much of Djokovic? Was he asking too much of himself? Who knows? Djokovic has admitted he is feeling tired and at the Olympics he could not find his A-game to win a medal. He won the bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but could not repeat this success in 2012. Djokovic will look for a good run at the Masters Series events before the US Open starts where he will defend his title.
Shock Losses and Early Exits: There were some shock losses at the Olympics, which raised a few eyebrows early on at the start of the tournament. Tomas Berdych and Agnieszka Radwanska delivered two of the biggest surprises as they were knocked out in the opening round of the tournament. Berdych was a Wimbledon finalist in 2010 and after he lost in the opening round of Wimbledon this year, many expected more from him at the Olympics. Radwanska was a finalist at Wimbledon this year and she was surprisingly ousted in the opening round.
We have not had much chance for tennis withdrawals as thankfully this week the players are back in action at the Masters Series events in Toronto and Montreal, Canada.
By Maud Watson
As the tennis portion of the Olympics nears its close, it’s not a bad time to reflect on what this past week has meant in the sport. On the one hand, it’s essentially another event on the calendar featuring many familiar faces playing on a familiar surface, and in the case of the 2012 Olympics, is being contested at a very familiar venue. But the event also has thrown in some curves. Due to qualification rules, some of the sport’s bigger names are absent. It also produced a draw that saw some unusual early matchups, such as A. Radwanska vs. Goerges and Roddick vs. Djokovic. In addition, the Olympics seem to be where you see many of the established stars struggle to find their best early and when it matters most. This is more likely due to wanting to medal for their respective countries and the players recognizing they have very few opportunities to add an Olympic medal to their career records rather than the Olympics themselves being held in higher regard than the slams. Even the governing bodies of the tennis seem unsure of where the Olympics stand in the grand scheme of things. In singles, not only the majors, but the Masters 1000 events are worth more in ranking points, while no points are allocated for the doubles (so as not to punish a double players who comes from a country that can’t field a suitable partner). Looking at all of this, I’m still not convinced professional tennis should be a medal sport in the Olympics the way swimming, gymnastics, and track are, but there’s no denying that being a part of one of the world’s greatest sporting spectacles hasn’t hurt any.
The buzz started back in January that Serena Williams and Andy Roddick were toying with playing mixed doubles at the Olympics, and then that fanned into talk of various American men vying to partner Serena in London. As the moment of truth came however, names like Serena, Roddick, and even Isner were absent from the Mixed Doubles draw. Instead, the U.S. opted to put forth the teams of Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond and Bob Bryan and Liezel Huber. While on paper these two teams lack the star power of a Williams or a Roddick, kudos the United States for using some logic. After the Williams/Bryan debacle in Paris, and the quick exit of Roddick/Isner in the Men’s Doubles, it was a wise decision to field two teams of doubles specialists. Even though Bob and Huber lost, you still had to like both teams’ odds of winning a medal, and after their win at Wimbledon, Mike and Raymond aren’t a bad bet to go all the way.
They say it isn’t all that uncommon for players to feed off of good vibes they get from a tournament venue where they’ve tasted success in the past. Even when they’re floundering about, they somehow find a way to flip the switch and produce some good tennis. That’s exactly what happened to American Sam Querrey in L.A. last weekend. An ocean away from the hullabaloo in London, the native Californian has been looking to steadily raise his ranking as he comes back from injury, and he moved a big step towards that at the tournament he’d won two times previously. He absolutely thumped Berankis in the final, and the win saw him jump 19 places to No. 38 in the rankings. If Querrey can continue to build on that and start to exhibit more of the promise he showed earlier in his career, a seeding at the US Open and a Top 20 ranking are not out of the question.
That’s the name of the network, and that’s the cheer it deserves for its spectacular coverage of Olympic tennis this past week in the United States. NBC has taken a lot of heat (sometimes, rightfully so) for its coverage of the Games, particularly as it relates to those events it broadcasts on taped delay. But as far as the tennis goes, it’s enjoyed coverage similar to that of the majors. While not on NBC itself, it’s been right at home on Bravo – a channel typically on the same tier as the ESPN networks – and is broadcast essentially from when play starts on the two main show courts until done for the day. While the Wimbledon venue has undoubtedly added more clout to the event, hopefully the extensive coverage also represents an increase in both popularity and appreciation for tennis.
The Waiting Game
The biggest absence at the Olympic tennis event has been that of defending Gold Medalist Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard was forced to withdraw from the Games due to knee tendonitis, and now it appears the wait for Rafa’s return will continue. Shortly after pulling out from the Olympics, he announced that he wouldn’t rush his recovery and would therefore let his knees, and not the schedule, dictate when he would return. It seems that the knees are not yet ready to go, as he has opted to withdraw from the Canada Masters in Toronto. While not a surprise, it was a blow to tournament organizers, who have also seen withdraws from Ferrer, Monfils, and Verdasco, with more possibly to follow due to the Toronto event having the unenviable position of falling right after the Olympics. Cincy organizers will be hoping their event avoids a similar fate, and Nadal fans across the globe will be hoping against hope that Rafa is able to compete in the Queen City a little over a week from now.
The history of the tennis competition at the Olympic Games is documented in a new KINDLE ebook “Olympic Tennis: An Historical Snapshot” released by TennisGrandstand, LLC. The book provides readers with a compilation of anecdotes, summaries, scores, medalists and records from all of the Olympic tennis competitions from 1896 to 1924 and from 1988 to 2008. The 2012 Olympic tennis competition will be held at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, the site of the annual Championships at Wimbledon, where Roger Federer and Serena Williams just claimed singles titles.
“Olympic Tennis: An Historical Snapshot” serves as an excellent “program-like” guide for spectators planning to attend the Olympic tennis competition, where Federer, Williams, Novak Djokovic, Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal, Victroria Azarenka, Andy Murray and Agnieszka Radwanska are among the favorites. Readers will learn of such interesting facts as which U.S. President had medal-winning relatives in the tennis competition, what tennis player has played in the most Olympic tennis events, what were the longest – and shortest – matches ever played in the Olympic tennis competition and much more information include an Olympic tennis record book and a day-by-day summary of Olympic tennis happenings through the years.
The book is available for American readers here for a price of $2.99:
For residents of the United Kingdom, the book can be downloaded here: http://www.mailermailer.com/rd?http://www.amazon.co.uk/Olympic-Tennis-Historical-Snapshot-ebook/dp/B008EOXW40/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1342542285&sr=8-3
TennisGrandstand, LLC is a publishing company that runs the popular tennis websites www.TennisGrandstand.com and www.WorldTennisMagazine.com. It has also published the book “The Yoga Guide To Diet and Peace of Mind,” available here: http://www.mailermailer.com/rd?http://www.amazon.com/Yoga-Guide-Diet-Peace-ebook/dp/B008AYME0C/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1342541363&sr=1-1&keywords=yoga+diet+peace+of+mind
It was 10 years ago on September 27, 2000 that Roger Federer concluded his participation at the Sydney Olympic Games when he was defeated by unheralded Arnaud DiPasquale of France 7-6 (5), 6-7 (7), 6-3 in the bronze medal match in men’s singles.
Despite losing this important match – the only time Federer has been this close to winning and Olympic medal in singles (he did win Olympic gold in 2008 in doubles) – the 2000 Olympic Games was a pivotal point in Federer’s life. It was at these Sydney Games 10 years ago this week where Federer and his now wife Mirka met and became a couple. Rene Stauffer, in his book ROGER FEDERER: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com), describes Federer and his “Olympic Experiences” in this exclusive book excerpt.
The Swiss Olympic tennis team was in shatters at the start of the Sydney Games. Martina Hingis and Patty Schnyder both withdrew from the women’s competition at the last minute. Marc Rosset, the 1992 Olympic champion was also a late withdrawal, costing Federer an opportunity to play Olympic doubles. The Swiss Olympic Committee was furious. Tennis players were depicted as pampered and spoiled athletes who didn’t appreciate the true value of the Olympic Games.
The Swiss tennis team shared living quarters, socialized and dined with fellow Olympians from the Swiss archery, judo and wrestling teams in the Olympic Village, where Federer had the privilege of occupying a single room.
“That was the best event I ever attended,” Federer said years later as he embellished his long-time fascination of the Olympic Games. The contrast to the monotony of life in the hotels could hardly be bigger. The Opening Ceremonies, the interaction with athletes from other sports, the atmosphere in the Olympic Village and the feeling of belonging also made an impression on Mirka Vavrinec, a member of Switzerland’s women’s Olympic tennis team. “The Olympics are fantastic, unbelievably beautiful, unparalleled,” Vavrinec gushed of the Olympic experience courtside following a practice session. She also had nice things to say about Federer, the youthful star of the Swiss team, who was three years her junior—“I had no idea he was so funny.”
Mirka was born an only child in Bojnice, in the Slovakian part of Czechoslovakia in 1978. Her parents fled the Communist country with her when she was two-years-old to make a new life for themselves in the Swiss border city of Kreuzlingen on Lake Constance. Her father, Miroslav, a former javelin thrower, and his wife, Drahomira, ran a jewelry shop. In the fall of 1987, when Mirka was nine, Miroslav took his family to nearby Filderstadt, Germany where Martina Navratilova happened to be competing in a WTA Tour event.
The Czech-born Navratilova dominated women’s tennis and, like the Vavrinecs, defected from Czechoslovakia. When in Filderstadt, she warmly greeted the Vavrinec family. “We got to stay a few days with her,” Mirka said of the trip. Navratilova asked her if she played tennis. Mirka said no, “I do ballet.” The eight-time Wimbledon champion (she would go on to win her ninth title in 1990) advised her to try tennis. She said that Mirka’s good physique
and athletic talent would serve her well on the tennis courts. Navratilova put out feelers and asked the former top Czech player living in Switzerland, Jiri Granat, if he could test and coach the girl.
Navratilova’s instincts were correct. Mirka immediately showcased great skills with a tennis racquet. But not only that, she also had grit and endurance. Tennis instructor Murat Gürler, who tutored her in her early years, recalled that she was “completely into it” when it came to tennis. Mirka told the Swiss tennis magazine Smash in 1994, after winning the Swiss juniors’ title for 18-year-olds at the age of 15, “Tennis is my life, but it certainly can’t be easy to work with me because I can be really stubborn.”
Her ambition and her uncompromising nature were tremendous. In 1993, following a tournament in the city of Maribor in Slovenia, she convinced her coach to take her to a tournament in Croatia. The trip required travel through a part of Croatia where there was still fighting in the Balkan civil war. The two passed through destroyed villages, tanks and burned cars. She was afraid, but her ambition was greater.
Mirka ranked among the top 300 in the world by the time she was 17. A protracted heel injury in 1996 kept her off the circuit for months, causing her ranking to fall over 300 places. She valiantly fought back to No. 262 in the rankings by the end of 1997 and looked euphorically to the future. “I really want to place in the top 30 in the world rankings,” she said.
Mirka meanwhile obtained a Swiss passport. The only connections she still had to her native land were a few relatives still living in Slovakia as well as the confused mix of German and Slovakian spoken at home. She maintained loose ties to Navratilova and was fortunate to find a patron, the Swiss industrialist Walter Ruf, who helped her to survive financially on the women’s tennis circuit.
Thanks to her ambition and her endurance—as well as to her backhand that some even considered the best in the world—Mirka cracked the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time in 2000. She luckily received a wildcard
entry to play at the Olympic Games in Sydney, even though her ranking did not qualify her to play.
While Mirka won only two games in her first-round match against eventual silver medalist Elena Dementieva of Russia, Federer began to rack up victory after victory. Benefiting from an Olympic men’s field without Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, and upset losses by US Open champion Marat Safin, Tim Henman and Michael Chang in his half of the draw, Federer won four straight matches and found himself in the semifinals. It was his best result of his career to date and surprisingly, it came at an outdoor event
At age 19, Federer was in position to become the youngest Olympic gold medalist in modern tennis. However, he played cautiously against the German Tommy Haas, ranked No. 48 (12 places behind Federer) in the semifinals and decisively lost. He did, however, still have a chance to win the bronze medal, but instead of registering a lifetime achievement of winning an Olympic medal, Federer suffered one of his greatest disappointments, losing to Arnaud DiPasquale of France, ranked No. 61 in the world. Despite being up 3-0 in the first-set tie-break, Federer lost seven of the next nine points to lose the tie-break 7-5. In the second set, Federer fought off a match point in the tie-break at 6-7 and won the tie-break two points later. Federer broke DiPasquale, who began suffering from cramps, to take a 2-1 lead in the final set, but the Frenchmen rallied to win the two-and-half-hour match 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 6-3.
“Considering how the match was going, I should never have lost,” Federer said, hardly able to hold back the tears. “I really wanted to be standing on the podium. Now I have nothing to take home except my pride.” But Federer, who had recently said “I would choose tennis over a girlfriend” would leave Sydney with more than his pride. His friendship with Mirka blossomed into romance. Mirka said at first she wasn’t aware that he had taken a romantic interest in her. “He didn’t kiss me until the last day of the Olympic Games,” she admitted.
They parted ways for now. She followed the women’s tour to Japan and then to Europe. However, the relationship became more intense over the next few months. The public still had to wait a long time until stories and official pictures of the new “dream couple” surfaced. When a newspaper disregarded Federer’s request to please keep his new relationship under wraps, he reacted angrily. “I don’t think that this has to come out in public,” he complained. “I spoke with my girlfriend and she didn’t want this exposed either, because then we would both just have to talk about our relationship and not about our tennis anymore.”
Mirka’s career, however, didn’t work out as hoped. She managed to reach the third round of a Grand Slam tournament at the 2001 US Open, losing to future world No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne, but the price she had to pay for her victories was high. Like her Swiss colleague, Martina Hingis, Mirka encountered problems with her feet—despite several operations and rest. Her career-high ranking was achieved on Sept. 10, 2001 when she ranked No.
76 in the world, but a torn ligament in her right foot prevented her from further improving and forced her into a hiatus that lasted for months. The 2001 US Open was her last great success on the tennis tour—with the exception of the Hopman Cup in Perth in January of 2002 where she was able to celebrate a victory over Argentina alongside her boyfriend. Shortly afterwards, at the age of 24, she played her last match on the WTA Tour in Budapest. She was forced to have another operation and was once again on crutches. It was still quite some time until she finally realized that her career was really finished. Her record as a professional concluded with 202 victories and 159 defeats—including the lower-level challenger and satellite events—with overall earnings of $260,832.
The abrupt and premature end of her career cast her into a depression. “It’s not easy when you do something you like your entire life and then have to quit it from one day to the next,” she said later in an interview at Wimbledon. “I fell into a deep hole. The most difficult part was when I was home for eight months and couldn’t do anything. I had a lot of time to think and watch tennis on television. Roger was my greatest support back then. He gave my tennis life back to me. When he wins, it’s as if I win as well.”