Monday, July 9, 2012

Post Wimbledon Thoughts

Federer's Wizardry Prevails
My vocabulary cringes in anticipation of failure! How could I possibly describe that magnificent, virtuoso piece of artistry that Roger Federer treated the tennis world to yesterday. I have not seen every tennis match that has ever been played, so I cannot say that Roger Federer’s performance in the Wimbledon Final was the greatest performance ever, but I can say that it was the finest display of tennis that I have seen, bar none, in my 40-plus years of watching the game.

In baseball I think they check bats to make sure they aren’t corked. In golf they verify that clubs are conforming. Somebody needs to check Roger’s racquet, cuz he sure twirled that thing like it was a magic wand. Most will talk about his tying the most wins in history, and regaining No.1. It was Roger’s artistry that captivated me.

Surely there have been players who have displayed similar effortless power, and there must have been players who have glided as gracefully across the Wimbledon lawns. And without doubt there have been those with maestro’s magic and surgeon’s precision. But has there ever been one to parade them all simultaneously with such seeming ease as did Federer yesterday? I’d have to see it myself to believe it.

Okay, there have been cleaner matches played; after all, Roger did sprinkle 38 unforced errors amidst the deluge of winners that cascaded from his wand…uh, I mean racquet His winner count? That would be 62, the highest single match total in the 26 matches played by the four Semifinalists over the fortnight.

Andy Murray
To put it in perspective, Ivo Karlovic, with his 17 aces (which factor into winner counts), recorded 58 winners in four sets against Murray. Roger dropped 14 more winners than the average against Murray in the other four-setters he played during the event. If you just look at Murray's four-setters without Ivo’s bombs thrown in, then Roger’s tally goes up to 17 more winners than others have hit against Murray on average in four sets.

But those are just numbers and they can’t do Roger’s genius justice. You would have to have seen the point culminating in the drop volley to claim the second set. You would have to have seen, with Murray serving at 1-2, 30-0 in the third, the -how do you describe this- run around, inside out, slice, angled forehand that nosedived inside the service box and off the court for a winner. That had to be one of the sickest (as in, how in da...) shots of all time!

Hopefully you did see it all and therefore understand why I say that, though Nadal and Djokovic may beat Federer 100 times more, Roger is the greatest wielder of a tennis racquet I have ever seen. I could go on for several pages, but perhaps you get the drift. It was the best, most complete display of tennis I have seen from Roger Federer or anyone…ever! Thirty is the new twenty?

Serena Snatches Fifth Title
But there was more than Roger Federer this past weekend at the All England Club. Serena Williams, another who crossed the 30-line, amazed again, but in ways different from Federer. Serena is grit rather than grace, and her power may cause some to overlook her precision. Serena may have more mental lapses than Rafael Nadal during a match, but she is every bit as game, gives every bit as much effort on every point.

Serena has surely been the most dominant player on the WTA Tour for over a decade now, but if Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf had graves, I know they would have turned over in them when Chris Evert said, on the air, that Serena Williams might be the greatest women’s tennis player of all time. Serena can certainly be in the conversation about greatest women players of all time, but Steffi and Martina have done things that no other tennis players, male or female, have done.

But that’s really not the point. What is important is that Serena, when she is playing as she is capable of playing, is the best woman player on the planet now. Remember my writing above about Ivo Karlovic’s 17 aces and 58 winners in four sets? Well, Serena delivered the same in three sets. She served more aces than any other player, male or female, at Wimbledon, and her average winners per match count was right up there with the Men’s Semifinalists.

Agnieszka Radwanska
But you have to give Aga Radwanska a ton of credit. It looked as though she was going to dine on a bagel during breakfast at Wimbledon in that first set, but she dug in and got one game in the set, and battled tooth and nail the rest of the way. I am in no way surprised that Aga gave Serena all she wanted in that second set, but if you look at the numbers, between the first and second sets, there are pretty similar. It was set No.3 where Serena stepped up her return game and cleaned up the winner to unforced error ratio (20/7).

As I suggested before the match, it really was all about Serena and how she played. If she brought her A-game, it was all hers. If she didn’t, then Aga had a chance. In the end, the cream rose and Serena pulled off another double (singles and doubles titles) at Wimbledon.

In Sum
All in all, I am amazed that the tennis continues to get better and better year after year, even when I think there’s no way it could. I can’t imagine the US Open topping what we’ve seen already this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am. Game, set, match…T. A.

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