Serena Williams defeats Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-3 to win 7th Wimbledon, 22nd Career Grand Slam
The final score is definitely misleading. It was the most well played women’s final I have watched in recent memory. It was a clean tennis match with few unforced errors and plenty of great shots and long rallies. Kerber stunned Serena at the beginning of the year in the Australian Open Finals. She did everything she needed to do to beat Serena again at Wimbledon on Centre Court. Kerber is arguably the best female returner today. She returned phenomenally in the match by getting to balls that perhaps only she, maybe Serena, can even get to and hit amazing shots with unique, great angles. She forced Serena to hit 2-3 more shots per rally than normal, get into long rallies [handful of epic points which included a 21 hit rally), and move her feet. It is exactly the type of play Roberta Vinci utilized to cause Serena to self-destruct in last year’s U.S. Open Finals and Kerber mastered to beat Serena in this year’s Australian Open. Even though Kerber’s weakness is her serve, she served very well and was only broken twice. However, two times was two too many when Serena is playing her A game. As Serena demonstrated in the Wimbledon Final, she is still significantly heads and shoulders better than any other player in the women’s game. Kerber’s performance in the match was probably good enough to beat any other women in the field, other than Serena, easily. In fact, it would have been enough to beat Serena if she only had her B game. However; if Serena plays her best, her opponent simply has no chance. Of course, she has the best serve in the history of the women’s game. She had one of her best serving performances ever. She only faced one break point the entire match and won nearly 90% of her first serve points. The break opportunity for Kerber finally occurred late in the second set. In response, Serena promptly unleashed two unhittable aces to force deuce then get the advantage before holding again. Kerber could only throw up her hands in disbelief and frustration. When Serena broke Kerber in the second set to go up 5-3 and serve for the championship, she fired off 4 unreturnable serves that were either aces or quick winners. Despite Serena’s tremendous success in recent years, she usually has a moment in a match where she falls into a lull and loses her game for a stretch. There was no such moment against Kerber. Serena played her best for the entire match. It is also a testament to the competitive spirit that she upped her focus and game against Kerber after getting beat by her in the Australian Open. I cannot remember the last time an opponent beat Serena in a big match then beat her again in the next big match.
By winning Wimbledon, Serena dispels any ridiculous notion that she is slowing down. She is a victim of her own success. Making all three Major finals and winning Wimbledon would normally be a great season for any player. For Serena, it was maybe disappointing that she did not win 2 already this year. Honestly, I thought she would struggle a lot more in the first two Majors after the mental and emotional strain of chasing and failing to capture the Calendar Grand Slam then getting hurt in the U.S. Open last year and not playing much heading into the Australian Open. She exceeded my expectations by just getting to the Finals of the Australian and French Opens. In addition, getting to 22 career Grand Slams should release a lot of pressure she has. After losing in the U.S. Open, she was adamant that she does not feel pressure. She has superhuman abilities but she is still very much human. Pressure causes sluggish movement and unforced errors. Serena displayed both in her last three Grand Slam losses. Retrospectively after winning the2014 U.S. Open, she admitted that she felt the pressure of winning her 18th career Grand Slam to tie Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. Accordingly, it took her 4 tries to get to 18. She quickly won three straight to get to 21. Similarly, it took her 4 attempts to win number 22 to tie Steffi Graf. While I am sure Serena would like to tie or break Margaret Court’s 24 Grand Slams, I doubt she will feel the same pressure of 18 or 22. Quite simply, 22 is the magic number because it is the record during the Open Era. Margaret Court was the best player in her time but it was much easier for her to win Majors. The field was not deep. In addition, she won the Australian Open 11 times when the other best female players did not make their way Down Under to play. Court is also Australian so she was home and had home court advantage. By tying Graf at 22, I agree with the thought that Serena has accomplished enough to be considered the greatest women’s tennis player of all-time. After the match, Chris Evert made a very insightful comment about Serena’s place in history when she was asked as part of the telecast by co-host Chris Fowler. Evert commented that she has already said that Serena is the best female player the sport has ever produced and probably has the greatest accomplishments to match now too. With each additional Major Serena potentially wins going forward, she solidifies the case.
How many more Grand Slams can Serena win? I have no idea any more. In 2013, I thought she might get to 20 (http://rookerville.com/2013/06/10/instant-coffee-serena-and-rafa-take-the-french-open). She has blown by that number already and has showed no signs of slowing down. On the other hand, she has already accomplished more after the age of 30 than anyone could have ever thought possible. She has already tripled the number of Grand Slam titles (9) any other female player has ever won after turning 30. Tennis is a young player’s game. It makes Serena’s recent accomplishments that much more unbelievable and frankly impossible. Nevertheless, Father Time is undefeated. Even Serena’s skills will regress at some point. Luck, a few bounces here and there, and staying healthy will be factors. More importantly, a couple of players have emerged that can challenge Serena and at least force her to player her best to win. Kerber has clearly shown she is a legitimate obstacle in the way. In addition, Garbiñe Murguruza is primed to be the next great tennis star after beating Serena in the French and playing her competitively in last year’s Wimbledon Final. She had a disappointing showing at this Wimbledon losing in the second round but I will chalk it up to a hangover after winning her first Grand Slam. I fully expect her to win multiple Majors and be a star. For all these reasons, we should not take Serena winning for granted. It is not as easy or guaranteed as she seems to make it look. We should just sit back and enjoy the rest of her sensational career.
As a side note, Serena was also able to find the energy to take the court again a few hours after winning the singles title and team with her sister, Venus, to win the doubles title too. Amazing.
Andy Murray Defeats Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6(7-3), 7-6 (7-2) to Win 2nd Career Wimbledon
Andy Murray finally got an “easy” Grand Slam Final. When I say easy, I mean one that is not against Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic. Coming into the Wimbledon Final, Murray was 2-8 in Grand Slam Finals but all 10 Finals were against Federer or Djokovic. His two Grand Slam wins were the 2012 U.S. Open and 2013 Wimbledon when he beat Djokovic both times. In addition to not having to face either of those opponents, he did not have the added pressure of trying to end the British drought of male player’s winning Wimbledon in front of the home crowd on Centre Court as he did in the 2012 Final when he lost against Federer and in the 2013 Final when he beat Djokovic. The final against Raonic was pretty straightforward. Raonic is a tall 6’5”, overpowering player who needs to win quick points. The size is a double edged sword. While he has a great service game that is difficult to break, his movement is not as great and he is susceptible to losing long rallies. He took a step forward in his game by heeding the advice of new consultant, John McEnroe, in going to the net more to end points quicker. It was the biggest win of his career when he defeated Federer in the Semi-Finals down 2 sets to 1 to finally get to a Grand Slam Final. However, Murray is one of the best returners ever. Currently, he is second only to Djokovic. As a result, Raonic’s new tactics were probably not going to work against Murray if he is playing well and… Murray played well. Raonic had 154 aces heading into the Final and only had 8 against Murray. In addition, Murray got to a lot of balls to extend rallies and make Raonic move. While Raonic hung with Murray for most of the match, it was never a serious thought that he could win the match.
Murray might be the unluckiest tennis player of all-time. He had the misfortune of playing in the same era that featured arguably the best 1, 2, and 3 best players of All-Time: Federer, Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal. If he had played in any other era, he might have won 6 or 7 Majors instead of the 3 he holds. Nevertheless, he has had a great career. Winning Wimbledon twice, with the added pressure of being British, the U.S. Open, and an Olympic Gold Medal is still a great career and it is not over. I doubt he will rail off a bunch of Majors now. He is already 29 and has never been that kind of consistent, prolific winner. Nevertheless, I can definitely see him winning 1 or 2 more Grand Slams before his career is over. It is obvious that Murray can never be ranked among the greatest handful of players ever because he could not come close to matching the brilliance of the three best players of his time, which are among that upper echelon of All-Time greats. Nevertheless, I think he can be comfortably be placed in the second tier immediately following Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver, etc. Historically, this second Wimbledon win means that much to his career.
Novak Djokovic’s Early Exit
Heading into Wimbledon, Djokovic appeared to be an unstoppable freight train. He won the last 4 Grand Slams consecutively, which included his first career French Open title, and the last 6 out of 8 Grand Slams. As much as Serena is heads and shoulders above the rest of the women’s field, Djokovic is similarly beyond the rest of the men’s field. By winning the first two Majors of this year, he had the opportunity to achieve the Calendar Slam that eluded Serena last year. As a result, Djokovic’s third round loss to American Sam Querry in 4 sets was definitely the upset of the tournament. It was one of the biggest upsets in tennis history. Could Djokovic finally be slowing down? I have often pointed to the age of 29 as when tennis players hit the invisible wall and face the back end of their careers. It can happen suddenly too. From the beginning of 2009 through the 2010 Australian Open, Roger Federer still made every Major Final and won the Australian Open as well of 3 of the last 4 Grand Slams. Then, he shockingly only made it to the French Open and Wimbledon Quarterfinals. His career has never been the same since then. He has only won one more Major, the 2012 Wimbledon. I would not go as far as definitely saying Djokovic faces the same steep decline. With the pressure of the Calendar Slam beginning to manifest, it is a mitigating factor. More importantly, he was also just due to lose a Grand Slam match in a stunning upset. Nevertheless, age has to be a consideration now. I will wait to see how he performs the next year but we might be looking back and pointing to this Wimbledon as the turning point in his dominance.
Roger Federer’s Last Stand?
Federer played the match of the tournament when he rallied from 2 sets down and defeated Marin Cilic in the Quarterfinals. Cilic dominated Federer in the Semi-Finals of the 2014 U.S. Open. It looked like a repeat performance in Wimbledon. Nevertheless, Federer showed the heart of a champion and fought back. After saving 3 match points and winning an epic fourth set, the momentum shifted and he relatively easily took the 5th set to complete the comeback. Of course, he is not young anymore and well past his prime. For this reason, the five sets greatly diminished his chances of winning the whole tournament. Despite dropping the first set of the Semi-Final against Milos Raonic, Federer took the next two sets to put himself in position to return to the Finals. In the 4th set, Federer had a chance to break Raonic to serve for the match. Unfortunately, he did not convert. More shockingly, Raonic broke him to avoid a tiebreaker in the fourth and force a fifth set even though Federer was up 40-0 in the service game. In addition, Federer inexplicably double faulted twice in a row up 40-15. Afterwards, it was clear Federer was out of gas and Raonic completed his comeback. It was heartbreaking for Federer as he was so close to winning the match as he said himself. It is also probably his last, best chance to win another Grand Slam. As a Federer fan, I really wanted to see him win this one. Nevertheless, he played brilliantly especially considering he had major surgery after this year’s Australian Open and missed the French Open to break his streak of playing in 65 consecutive Grand Slams. If Djokovic was not in his prime the last two years and dominating the sport as well as any player ever has, Federer probably would have won at least 2 of the 3 Grand Slam Finals (2 Wimbledon and 1 U.S Open) that he lost to Djokovic. It would have pushed his Career Grand Slam win total to a ridiculous and probably insurmountable 19 or 20. Ironically, Djokovic has denied an older Federer the same way Federer denied a young Djokovic. At this point, I would be shocked if Federer wins another Grand Slam. His Semi-Final loss at Wimbledon is not that concerning to me. He was not as his healthiest and playing a 6’6” player then another 6’5” player, who both have overpowering serves and forehands, was a very difficult task. Again, he was on the brink of beating both of them. However, it worries me that his body may finally be breaking down. Federer has shown remarkable durability in his career. The fact that he finally suffered a major injury at this age should not be overlooked. His body has already endured a lot of tennis. Nevertheless, he has aged as well as any player outside of Serena. More importantly, he loves to play. He can still play amazing tennis and thrill us. As a result, I will continue to enjoy watching him the rest of his career even if he does not lift another Major trophy.