By any standard, it has been an amazing ten days at Wimbledon. Many of the top seeds fell only to be replaced by a number of attractive rising stars. Names like Janowicz and Lisicki had previously not exactly been household names, but both have dispatched big names to reach the business end of the tournament. No Federer, no Nadal, no Williams, no Azarenka and no Sharapova left in the pack – a revolution in the making.
While the ladies’ final may not have the pulling power of previous year’s finals, the contest between Bartoli who has already been in a Wimbledon final and the new ‘darling’ of the Centre Court, Sabine Lisicki should be an intriguing one. The first German to reach a Wimbledon final since Steffi Graf in 1999, Lisicki stands on the cusp of history and in her opponent, she encounters a player who is well within her capacity to beat. Bartoli faced a somewhat neutered Flipkens in the semis, coming on the back of her epic win against Kvitova in the quarters. By contrast, Lisicki came through a tough and exciting semi against fourth seed, Radwanska, taking the third set 9-7. With a day’s rest, the extra energy expended by Lisicki against Radwanska is unlikely to weigh on her in the final and may have had the positive benefit of ‘blooding’ her for the battle.
This year’s women’s final comes at the end of a week in which women’s tennis has been celebrating the 40th anniversary of the founding of the WTA. Owing its origins to Billie-Jean King and a number of other determined women at the time, the present depth of talent on the women’s tour and the parity of respect (and prize money) achieved are a solid testament to the efforts of those founding sisters.
With the early demise of Federer and Nadal shortly followed by Tsonga and Cilic, the men’s draw was in major upheaval. It was thought to have benefited Andy Murray, also in that side of the draw. In fact, Murray has not had it that easy as witnessed particularly by his five-set escape against Verdasco in the quarters. Many are saying that this match was the wake-up call Murray needed, as he had not been firing on all cylinders up until then. His pre-match comments about the ability and potential of his tall Pole semis opponent, Janowicz, gave no indication of complacency or over-confidence. One would also imagine that after his narrow scrape through against Verdasco, his coach and mentor, Ivan Lendl, would have had some sage advice to dispense.
In the first men’s semis, Djokovic ultimately proved too resilient for Del Potro in an epic match (the longest semi in Wimbledon history). Many doubted the capacity of Del Potro to fight on into a long fifth set after his knee injury in his match against Ferrer, but he did not disappoint the Centre Court crowd. The knee did not appear to figure at all and it was Djokovic who found his footing tricky with a number of falls during the match. Winning the second and fourth sets, he lost narrowly in the fifth set by 7-5 against a Djokovic steeled to close out the match.
So often in the match, it was the Argentinian who dictated the pace of play, not the World No.1. Mobility, thought to be a problem for the 6’7” Del Potro, proved not to be a factor in a match that saw intense rallies back and forth across the court. With his explosive forehand and equally strong serve, Del Potro at times seemed to be the superior player. The match score in the end was a tight 7-5, 4-6, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3. Djokovic certainly earned his place in the final and may look back favourably on this encounter as a good test in advance of his match against Murray.
The Murray/Janowicz semi had the Centre Court crowd on the edge of their seats as they watched their hero face a real contest. A hint of the Pole being slightly underestimated was evident from the atmosphere of the crowd at the beginning, but this was soon dispelled. Losing the first set to a virtuoso performance from Janowicz which combined big serves, power drives and deft drop shots, Murray redeemed himself by winning the next two when a decision was made controversially to suspend play to allow for the roof to be closed. Murray, all pumped up at two sets to one, was not a happy camper and made his annoyance known to the referee. Coming back after the break, Murray resumed his dominance quickly with an early break of serve, eventually winning the fourth set 6-3 and with it the match.
Despite all the upsets and dramas in the draw this year, Sunday is now all set for the men’s final that the seeding committee had anticipated The pressure on Andy Murray will be out of the ordinary as he attempts to win his first Wimbledon title and become the first British winner since 1937. It is a match, taking into account all the circumstances, which is too close to call. Will the crowd be the decisive factor? In head to heads, Djokovic leads by 11-7, but in tour finals, the contest is much closer at 4-4. Djokovic leads by 2-1 in Grand Slam finals head-to-heads. These stats, however, may prove irrelevant on an occasion as intense and momentous as a Wimbledon final.
5 July 2013