The 130th running of The Championships Wimbledon is done and dusted. Centre Court has been ripped up and is under repair by the trustworthy Wimbledon Groundsman.
But let’s take a look back over this fortnight when records were made, close calls were lamented, and rain caused play on middle Sunday — The People’s Sunday — for only the fourth time in the tournament’s history.
Bright Highlights and Breakthroughs
Marcus Williis, a 25-year-old British teaching professional, became the darling of the world using a sweet love-story and sheer tennis talent to push through Pre-qualification and qualification draws to win his first-ever main draw match — at Wimbledon, nonetheless. He then ended up meeting another beloved tennis figure, Roger Federer, on Centre Court. The drama of sport doesn’t get any better than that. Federer acted and played the ambassador until 4-games all in the third set. He edged up his game and closed the match. Willis was good for tennis, as Roger had said, but winning for the 17-time Grand Slam champion took priority.
Sam Querrey did the impossible to Novak Djokovic, the presumptive 2016 champion for a dozen clearly valid reasons. The American beat him. The match covered two days due to rain, a bother for a good part of the tournament. Djokovic hadn’t lost before a quarterfinal of a slam in 27 appearances. It stung. So much so he hinted he may not play any tournament before the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Sam won yet another match after the Djokovic victory and entered the rarified air of Wimbledon — the quarterfinals. He became the first American to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal in five years; and, he earned his first last-of-eight berth in 38 slam appearances. On Monday, he rose 12 spots in the ATP rankings to No. 29.
Milos Raonic handed Sam his last loss in that quarterfinal. The Canadian’s semifinal win, then, over Roger Federer was a milestone. Raonic became the first Canadian man and the first of what’s called the #NextGen (born in the 1990s) to reach a major final. Raonic did lose to eventual Champion Andy Murray, but the six-foot-six serving phenom cut a new path in the grass, creating hope for his vintage of players.
Andy Murray gave Great Britain its largest cup of medicine by winning his second Wimbledon and third Grand Slam overall. The mercurial Scot who can be difficult to watch as his emotions roil, has become a player for the ages. His defensive style has matured into one peppered with equal amounts of offense. His returns of serve put the fear of the lord in opponents, especially Raonic who lost in three sets and was held to 8 aces. For a country under pressure from so many angles, Murray’s lifeline buoyed hearts if only for a few special moments.
Serena Williams won her 7th Wimbledon title and 22nd Grand Slam singles title, which tied the record set my Steffi Graf. The goal seemed farther away then ever after she was upset in the semifinals of the U. S. Open last fall, and fell in the finals of The Australian Open and Roland Garros. When Williams proclaimed at Wimbledon that she was the toughest mentally, the line was drawn. Even Angelique Kerber, who had slain Williams in Melbourne, could not muster the match of mental equivalent to surpass the true Queen of Centre Court. For her fine efforts, Kerber moved to No. 2 in the world right behind Williams.
It’s hard to mention Serena without mentioning big sister Venus Williams. A short time after Serena won in singles, the two did it in doubles. They earned their 6th crown at The All England Club and 14th overall doubles major, keeping intact a wondrous record of never having been defeated in a doubles final.
Svetlana Kuznetsova returned to the top ten in the WTA rankings yesterday for the first time since she won Roland Garros in 2010. Venus Williams, at 36, rose to No. 7. All rise for Venus. And, Elena Vesnina of Russia landed in the top 25 with her run to the semifinals; in February she was ranked No. 122. And as players go up players go down. Vasek Pospisil tumbled 55 spots, failing to defend points from his quarterfinal run in 2015. The talented Canadian who won Gentlemen’s Doubles alongside Jack Sock in 2014 by beating the best doubles team ever — Bob and Mike Bryan — finds himself much too close to mandatory qualification at his new ranking, No. 99.
ESPN and its Team of Broadcasters
There aren’t many people disparaged as much as the commentators inside the booths of any Grand Slam. This one was no different. ESPN’s Chris Evert maintained a level of banality that stunned the senses.
- “The courts are slightly wet from the water. The air is humid and its heavier.” (on conditions under Centre Court’s roof.)
- “The players are really using their legs, bending down, consciously using their legs to get down for the ball.”
- “When you see that in the men’s … the men have top-spin lobs.”
- “At six feet tall that really helps that serve.” (on six-foot Kiki Bertens)
- “It’s like you can hear the hush.” (on lack of noise on Centre Court)
When Evert paired up with friend and long-time ESPN commentator, Pam Shriver, the declarations went sideways.
- “You can see when the sun’s coming out on Court 1,” Evert said. “You can see umbrellas coming out on Court 1.”
Shriver spoke some doozies of her own, too. Here’s a prize winner.
- “Sometimes you can have chalk come up and wonder if it’s chalk or dirt.”
John McEnroe, though, remains the big question mark. He does bring lots of attention to tennis and his name speaks volumes. But so does he speak volumes, like way too much. His insights can be helpful but for the most part they are part of an age-old repertoire. Here’s one pearl.
- “Federer seems like he’s floating.”
The most egregious error flaunted by John, though, came via his employer, ESPN. It put John in the broadcast booth while a guy he coached, Milos Raonic, played the final. Raonic said he was okay with the decision and ESPN supposedly told McEnroe to confine his comments to the match. You cannot be serious! It’s impossible for the emotive McEnroe. He has never contained himself. Ever. Anywhere. From the time he first showed up on the courts to now.
Tennis executives (ATP and WTA), tournament directors, Grand Slam Committees and ESPN et al better put their heads together about this ethical slip. Although Darrin Cahill coaches Simona Halep, he doesn’t commentate on her matches while she plays one. The boundaries have to be clarified – news should be news. And aren’t there other experienced sport figures that could call a match? The talent pool has to be deep.
For the most part McEnroe was impartial but chatted much too much about Raonic with brother Patrick McEnroe, arguing the good and bad, the happy and sad points. But when a stat about Milos sounded not quite right to John he retaliated strongly, insisting that Milos had not committed the error. The silence and sense of things inside that booth right then seemed palpable … uneasy and unnecessarily so.
As presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has screamed on many occasions … “Get him outta here.”