Novak Djokovic is eating the Centre Court grass whilst lil Stefan looks on and claps, and that can only mean one thing – Wimbledon is over for another year, and you’re gonna get to hear everything I thought about it. (I think that’s actually two things) (lol soz)
I’m sure we’re all well versed in this now, but I did this for both the French Open and Australian Open this year, inspired by Jon Wertheim’s fifty parting thoughts from Slams, and it’s something I’m obvs gonna keep doing now. As I always say, have a bit of a different perspective on tennis from a nineteen year old fashion blogger who literally cannot play tennis to save her life.
It’s 2016 again. Angie Kerber and Novak Djokovic are your ladies and men’s singles champions this year. Sound familiar? It’s nice to see two people who did so well in 2016 but struggled in 2017 finally get to lift a Slam trophy again. After Angie’s Hall of Fame 2016, she struggled a lot in 2017. Like, a lot. On the very first day of this year I tweeted that number one in the world didn’t suit her, number 21 did. Actually, reading back on my AO parting thoughts I actually declared that Kerber was back as one of my thoughts, and if other people didn’t already think that then they definitely will now. Different players deal with the number one rankings differently and, for Angie, it was overwhelming. When she’s a bit more under the radar and doesn’t have as much pressure put onto her she really achieves, and that’s exactly what we saw here. With everyone’s eyes on Serena in the final, Kerber put her head down, lifted her level to new heights and won the title. She now has three out of the four slams and has achieved that in under three years, anyone could retire happily with those under their belt.
Novak’s comeback, unlike Kerber’s, was of course injury related. Aside from that though, it seemed to everyone like Djokovic had a mental lapse too. He openly admitted that he’d lost a lot of confidence and struggled during his time away from the tour thanks to his elbow injury. His comeback has been full of ups and downs – doing quite well in Australia before losing to Chung in straight sets, losing in the first round at both Indian Wells and Miami, having a decent clay season but never quite managing to go all the way – he even declared after his tough loss at Roland Garros that he might not even play the grass season. I spoke about that in my French Open parting thoughts, I thought it was a wild claim he’d made in the heat of the moment and that he had every right to, he’s only human and don’t we all run our mouths off when we’re upset or angry? I’m so glad it was just a wild claim because the grass season has been the pivotal moment in his comeback. It’s been the shift from him coming back, to him officially being back. He was the runner up in Queen’s, having had a match point, and has now won Wimbledon over two years after winning his last Grand Slam. I say this all the time when I speak about Djokovic but I only started watching tennis when Djokovic was unbeatable, and people were questioning Federer and Nadal were over, so for me it’s wonderful to see Novak back to his best again.
Serena. Need I say more? This was Serena’s fourth tournament back from pregnancy and not just any pregnancy, the woman nearly died after her difficult delivery. Indian Wells and Miami barely even count as tournaments in her comeback to me, so you could call this her second proper tournament back. Whether you count Wimbledon 2018 as Serena’s fourth or second tournament back, her reaching the final was ridiculous and only something that she’d be able to do.
I urge everyone to watch her documentary series, Being Serena. If you’re in the UK, pay for a month of Eurosport Player and then cancel your subscription before you get charged again. That’s how I did it, and I can see myself doing the same in a couple months time purely to rewatch her series. You’ll never truly understand the severity of what she went through during the delivery of Alexis Olympia unless you watch that, nor will you ever truly understand just how much work she puts in to be the best of the best. The series is incredibly humbling and shows that Serena is no different than any other woman becoming a mum, something she’s always been keen to say in her interviews and press conferences this fortnight. What I love about Serena is that she used everyone’s focus on her being a mother returning to tennis to show mums all over the world that you could do anything you wanted alongside being a mother. She always re-enforced that if she could do it, anyone could. She also always re-enforced that you also don’t have to be a working mum and that being a stay-at-home mum is a huge job in itself so choosing not to go back to work is nothing to be ashamed of. Of course these are things we all already know but there are always going to be people in the world who are closed-minded and will either overtly or covertly express their disdain for mums who choose not to go back for work, or their view that mums shouldn’t go back to work, and having someone like Serena Williams, the greatest of all time, showing and telling you that it’s ok is nice for women everywhere to hear.
I digress. Back to the tennis – Serena played herself into this tournament. She came out playing a game already good enough to beat most but as she got deeper into the tournament, she got better and better and better. Even though her level did drop a bit in the final it was a matter of Angie playing too good and winning the match, not Serena playing badly and losing the match. For someone who barely served at all before the tournament started thanks to a pec injury she got in France, forcing her to pull out of Roland Garros, around half of her first serves all tournament were unreturned, she hit aces over 120mph and been very impressive with holding serve for the entirety of the fortnight. There was also the seeding debate, with Serena being seeded 25th by the All England Club, pushing Dominika Cibulkova out of the seedings (side note: I don’t think Dominika would’ve done anywhere near as well as she did this fortnight had she not lost her seeding, it made her so determined to prove a point that she made it all the way to the QFs before losing to Jelena Ostapenko, an admirable run that may not have happened had she been seeded 32nd) and, having heard their logic from Tim Henman, it was a pretty good decision. Serena has now risen to world number 28, meaning she can be seeded at the US Open without them having to make an exception, although the USTA are changing their rules to accommodate mothers returning to tour anyway, but this raises a new question RE seeding Serena. Will they leave her as 28 because it’s where she is in the real life rankings, or will they seed her higher because it’s still less than a year since she returned to tour from pregnancy and her level is clearly much higher than a 28-ranked player? Let’s not forget that she gave birth to Olympia during last year’s US Open so it won’t even be a year since she gave birth when the final Slam of the year starts. Whatever Serena’s ranking or seeding, this fortnight she has shown exactly why she is the greatest of all time, and she can’t not be the favourite heading into the US Open now.
Freaky Friday: the men’s semi finals edition. On men’s semi finals day, the second Friday of the tournament, we saw two matches that went on to become the two longest semi finals in Wimbledon history. John Isner and Kevin Anderson played a 6 hour 36 minute match, that Kevin Anderson won 7-6 6-7 6-7 6-4 26-24. Yep, you read that right, 26-24. The final set consisted of fifty games and lasted 175 minutes alone. This raised all sorts of questions about having a tiebreak in the final set of a Grand Slam, some people opting for the tradition 6-6 tiebreak, some saying that a compromise of a tiebreak at 12-12 would work, allowing for the drama of extra games but not so many extra games that the players were exhausted both mentally and physically after.
This meant that Nadal and Djokovic came out to play their own semi final at around 8PM on Friday. With these two having arguably the best rivalry among active players on the ATP tour, it was inevitable that their match would be highly competitive, and long af. The All England Club have an 11PM curfew, something to do with the local council and the fact that it’s unfair on the neighbours to have play go on so late, so everyone worried that the match wouldn’t finish before curfew and that it’d have to resume the next day. The key issue here was that the next day just so happened to be ladies finals day. The curfew is one issue in itself and, being totally honest, it’s just laughable that a shitty little local council have the power to stop two of the best players this sport has ever seen from finishing off their Grand Slam semi final match. The bigger issue was that the match had to be carried on overnight and pushed the ladies final out of the way. Initially scheduled for 2PM Saturday, as all ladies finals at Wimbledon are, the resumption of Rafa and Novak was scheduled for 1PM with the women ‘not before 2PM’. As if Rafa and Novak would finish their match, gather their things, walk off court, there would be a break and the court would be prepared for the ladies final all in one hour. The fact that a women’s Grand Slam final was not prioritised and was given a ‘not before’ time does women’s tennis a disservice and isn’t the best advertisement for women’s tennis. A lot of people were mad about it, I was raging. On Friday night when it was announced that the men’s semi final would be pushing the women’s final out of the way I was fuming. And that’s an understatement. Now, we all know me, I’m as overdramatic as they come. After sleeping on it and really thinking about it, there was no other solution. It was, as Serena put it in her press conference, a ‘necessary evil‘. Placing the men’s semi final resumption after the women’s final meant that whoever won the semi would have less than 24 hours to recover before their own Slam final the following day, putting them at an extreme disadvantage. Playing the men’s semi final resumption earlier than 1PM on the Saturday wouldn’t have given Rafa and Novak enough time to recover from the night before, they came off court after 11PM and by the time they would’ve finished up business at the Club for the night and gone home to bed it would’ve been well past midnight, they then would’ve needed to sleep, get up, prep, train and starting any earlier than 1PM wouldn’t have given them enough time for all o that to happen properly. It had to happen the way it happened and it’s a great shame but this means that we have a springboard to make changes to prevent this happening in the future. Maybe the men’s semi finals on the Friday should’ve started earlier than 1PM and Rafa and Novak should’ve been scheduled before Kevin and John. Maybe we do need a deciding set tiebreak. That day might’ve been a crazy one but it’s hopefully a turning point in tennis and will get Wimbledon, and all of the Slams, thinking about some of their rules.
The actual tennis played in those matches though. I can’t not talk about the rally in the Anderson-Isner match in which Anderson fell on his back, got up, hit a forehand left-handed when he is right-handed, kept it in play, won the point and then won that game to break Isner’s serve, go up *25-24 in the deciding set and close out that match to finally end it. And Rafa and Novak. Oh my god. Rafa and Novak. Their rivalry is something so incredibly special, the rallies they play, the shots they make, the way they win their points. It’s something else. It was also the big four Slam match to quench our thirst after a drought that saw no big four matches in any Grand Slams since the magical 2017 Australian Open final between Roger and Rafa. After all of the madness that came from the men’s semi finals on Friday, it’s no coincidence that it also happened to be Friday the 13th.
Roger Federer in Uniqlo. And also, Roger Federer in general. At the start of a Grand Slam, I start a list in my phone notes of notable things that happen each day so I can go back at the end of the tournament and pick out things that are still key moments and worth talking about in these blog posts. The truth is, I get about three days in before I stop, and then at the end of the tournament I think about all the points I remember off the top of my head because my short-term memory is awful so if I remember it then it’s gotta be pretty good. For the first day of the tournament I wrote one point and one point only, ‘FEDERER IN UNIQLO!!!!’ And, whilst it seems like the most small and petty thing ever, it was actually a pretty big deal. Rumours started circulating during the French Open men’s final that Federer signed with Uniqlo to be sponsored by them for something ridiculous like 30 million a year for ten years – not sure if that was in dollars or euros. Federer then played his warm-up grass tournaments wearing Nike but admitted that his Nike contract had ended a few months ago and he was negotiating deals at the moment. And then he came out onto Centre Court on day one, playing the first match on CC of the tournament as tradition allows for the men’s winner of the previous year to do, dressed in Uniqlo. It was huge. Federer has been with Nike for his entire career and, let’s be real, his career isn’t going to continue for as many years as it’s already been going. He won’t play for another twenty years, he might for another five at the most. To get so close to the end of your career and be unable to stay with Nike for that entire career is a lil sad but if they weren’t going to invest in him the way they should’ve, I don’t blame him for making the move to Uniqlo. I actually don’t know where I got this from but everyone has been saying it was a matter of Nike not wanting to pay him as much as he deserved or as much as Uniqlo offered and I’m actually shocked that they didn’t. It’s their loss, he is one of the most marketable active athletes in the world.
On the in general part, Federer cruised exactly the way we expected him to for most of the tournament. He didn’t drop a set until the third (and fourth, and fifth) set of his match against Kevin Anderson so we all thought that this was Federer flying to another Wimbledon title. When he was two sets and a match point up on KAnderz in the quarter finals, you wouldn’t have been stupid to assume that this was another straight sets win for Federer and that he’d breeze his way to the final until he came up against likely Rafael Nadal and would maybe drop a set, maybe even lost the match. I’m not quite sure what happened to Fed in that quarter final, but from being two sets and a match point up he went on to lose 6-2 7-6 5-7 4-6 11-13 to Kevin. It was bizarre. I have never used that word in my life but there is no other word to describe it. Federer himself said it was just one of those days, that he couldn’t play the points he wanted, that being on Court One instead of Centre (the first time since 2015 he didn’t play a match on Centre might I add) didn’t make any difference. Federer didn’t have the flawless grass season he did last year anyway. Wimbledon aside, he lost in the Halle final to Borna Coric and, even though he won Stuttgart, he was very very close to being knocked out by Nick Kyrgios in the semi finals there too. Now, we can’t expect Federer to repeat the miracle year that he did in 2017 but there are some small worries and questions surrounding him as of right now, here’s hoping those are addressed in time for the American summer hard court swing and he makes us look stupid for ever doubting him.
In a tournament where none of the top ten women’s seeds made it to the quarter finals, we ended up with multiple-Slam winners in the final anyway. The top ten seeds went down like flies over the course of the first week and the start of the second week (is that the saying? it sounds wrong). To me, this speaks for the depth in the women’s field. Everyone is good. It’s not like the men’s game where the big five are basically untouchable in a Grand Slam when healthy and then everyone else is just battling it out until they inevitably lose to either Roger, Rafa, Andy, Novak or Stan. The women are all strong, it’s more of a level playing field. It was the first time that none of the top ten seeds made it to the QFs though, and it does raise some questions about the top ten – how can it not? I don’t really know what to make of it or what to say about each individual player in the top ten in regards to their early losses. It’s disappointing, there’s no doubt about that, but I can’t sit here and analyse each of them and their losses individually right now. The point I do want to make is that, despite all of this, Serena Williams and Angie Kerber made it to the final. Serena, a 23x Slam champion and, ykno, the GOAT. Kerber, a 2x (now 3x!!) Slam champion. Both of them former #1s. That’s a pretty good final if you ask me. And really, despite all the top ten upsets, would you trade seeing Angie and Serena’s respective comebacks culminating in that final for a Kvitova-Sloane final? I wouldn’t.
Kevin Anderson has backed up his impressive 2017. He beat Roger Federer from two sets and a match point down, he won a six and a half hour epic against John Isner and he made his second Grand Slam final in under a year. It’s a shame that he was obviously exhausted in the final and couldn’t play at the level he had in those previous matches but the important thing is that he’s come away with a whole load of new fans and proving what a good player he is. For the casual tennis fan who only watches during Wimbledon, they will now have KAnderz on their radar. While I’m talking about Kevin this also gives me the perfect excuse to talk about his dog, Lady Kady, who has her own Instagram account and who I love so. much. I’ve been following her for months and liking every single photo and replying to stories and commenting and tweeting about how much I love her. I also got to meet Kevin’s lovely wife and Lady Kady’s mum Kelsey when I went to Wimbledon last week who is such a ray of sunshine and was having the time of her life on the Pimm’s. Their whole lil family really deserved to have such a great tournament.
A lot of the players being labelled as the ones to fill the shoes of the big five when they eventually retire have disappointed again. I don’t want to slag any of these players off because all of them are personal favourites of mine and I always follow them in every tournament they play and, like, who am I to judge someone else as a tennis player. Me. The girl who can’t even return a ball when it comes my way because I miss every single time. A lot of us expected good things from the likes of Dimitrov, Cilic, Lil Zverev, Kyrgios, Thiem and, after his Halle win over Federer, Coric too. All of these people lost (or, in Thiem’s case, retired) matches that, on paper, they should’ve won. And ok, I’ll excuse Dimitrov because he was beaten by Stan Wawrinka who, despite being ranked something like 271 when the fortnight started, is a three time Slam champion and former world number three. The thing is, these players still have a long long way to go if they’re ever going to live up to their full potential and take over once the big five retire. Of course there’s a lot of blame to be given to us for putting this type of pressure on them and having these expectations but, after seeing that Rafa Novak semi final, it is clear that no other players on the ATP tour outside of the big five have a level that high, especially not over five sets. Saying that these players disappointed is harsh and a bit far, and depending on your expectations they may not have disappointed you, but when you look at where they are compared to where the best in the game are, they’re a long way off. They can’t even win the earlier round matches they’re expected to win in order to come up against any of the big five and prove themselves yet, so they’re just a long way off. Tennis players are retiring way later than they used to, so these younger ones have plenty of time to improve, but it’s just a shame that they can’t even win their earlier round matches in order to prove themselves in later rounds. Especially with a player like Kyrgios, who actually raises his level when he plays the big five and can easily beat them – he just needed to get there first in order to do it and couldn’t although, in his case, losing to Nishikori isn’t anything to be ashamed of.
Long live the big four (or big five if you’re me and you want justice for Stanislas Wawrinka). I’ve already spoken about the Rafa Novak semi final and how it was the first big four Slam match since the 2017 Australian Open final. It was also the first big five Slam match since the 2017 French Open, so we’ve been deprived of a match between any of them at Grand Slam level in over a year. The Nadal Djokovic epic reminded us exactly why we love seeing these guys play each other on the biggest stages at the biggest tournaments so much. A five setter lasting over five hours across two days with insane, long rallies and a 10-8 fifth set. Neither one of them was going down without a fight, both of them brought their best tennis. After the match, Nadal was happy to admit that there was nothing more he could’ve done, that he was playing his best, and it was just Djokovic that won and he happily accepted it. The respect between these guys at the top is incredible, you can see they value the rivalries and they know they wouldn’t be the players they are now without them. I mean, let’s talk about the Strokes of Genius documentary that aired on the BBC during middle Sunday and aired earlier in America on Tennis Channel. A documentary made about one match from one of the big five rivalries. Sure, it mentioned lots of their other matches and their rivalry as a whole, but imagine having a rivalry so exceptional that you can have a whole documentary that’s about two hours long about one match out of the 38 you’ve played against each other. And now, with three out of four Slams already done for the year, each of them have been won by a member of the big four. Roger got Australia, Rafa got RG, Novak got Wimbledon. Now we just need Andy to get the US Open and we’ll have a full house. Four for four. The best in the game all back to their best. We are so lucky to be alive during this era of men’s tennis and we need to see so many more Slam matches between these five whilst we still can. Waiting over a year for it to happen again isn’t what we want.
Andy Murray is a good commentator. And a huge Novak Djokovic fan. Andy was greatly missed this fortnight but he did make an appearance twice in the second week – once as a pundit in the BBC studio and once as a commentator for the Nadal del Potro quarter final match for the BBC. And he was amazing. Andy Murray is so insightful about both men’s and women’s tennis, he whips out accurate statistics the way a GCSE English student whips out lines of Shakespeare they’ve memorised (is this even a good analogy? I’m actually too old for this now. apparently they don’t get the books given to them in eng lit gcse now but ~back in my day~ we did), he picks apart players’ games and analyses them impressively. Hearing him commentate a match against two players that have been great rivals to him in his career, that he’s played lots before and will still play lots again in the future brought a perspective we never really get in tennis commentary and I bloody loved it. He also showed a lot of support for his long-time friend and greatest rival, Novak Djokovic. He defended Novak’s behaviour in his match against Kyle Edmund (I didn’t see anything wrong with it myself but everyone else was talking about it for some reason) so fiercely, he outright said that Novak could definitely beat both Rafa and Roger, and win the title. And he wasn’t wrong. He beat Rafa, he couldn’t beat Roger because KAnderz did that for him, he won the title. Maybe we should listen to Andy Murray before placing our bets. As much as I love him commentating though, I hope he doesn’t have to do it again for a long time because he’s busy actually playing matches and winning tournaments.
It was the tournament of upsets but a lot of players still stepped up and impressed. Daria Kasatkina got to the quarter finals, losing to the eventual champion Kerber, and played impressively in every match. That Kerber Kasatkina QF was one of the matches of the tournament. Even though Stan Wawrinka failed to back up his huge defeat of Grigor Dimitrov from 1-6 down in the first round, that match alone was so impressive and would’ve done wonders for Stan’s confidence amidst his comeback from injury. Jelena Ostapenko made the QF for a second straight year and went one better, going to the semis before losing to Kerber. I’ve already spoken a lot about Rafa but he got past the fourth round for the first time since 2011, a big win in itself, he then beat del Potro in a crazy impressive five set match that was also one of the best matches of the tournament, final-worthy, and played even better against Djokovic in their semi final, just losing when he found himself *0-40 8-9 down in the fifth. del Potro was just as impressive for the same reasons, he got through some tough matches and even when he lost it was in a high quality, tight five setter against an on-fire Rafa. Kyle Edmund did the best he’s ever done here and losing to eventual champion Novak Djokovic is nothing to be ashamed of. Donna Vekic really impressed me, she’s been getting better and better in the last year and really showed it when she beat reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens who was coming here off the back of reaching the finals at Roland Garros. Cibulkova, as mentioned, really stepped it up to prove herself after being knocked out of the seedings by Serena. Bencic, who has barely played all year after sustaining an injury when she was just starting to do well, impressed and made it to the second week before losing to eventual champion Kerber (a lot of these gals lost to eventual champion Kerber, didn’t they). For all of the upsets in both the men’s and women’s sides, there were still plenty of players left who had formidable runs and big wins.
Ok, I can’t do this any more. When I started, Djokovic was eating the grass after his win. Now we’re an hour away from Love Island and, ykno, priorities. Also, it’s kinda funny to look back at my players to watch at Wimbledon post with hindsight, but I didn’t wanna make a whole point out of that one, so I’ll throw it in now.
Six weeks til the US Open! x