Wimbledon: Rain, sweat and tears

As a huge football fan who also follows tennis with a keen eye, the smooth transition between the Euros and Wimbledon ensured that those who share my interest never went a day without live big-tournament sport over an entire month. Now that both have finished, there exists a huge void and nothing around the corner to look forward to- or so I thought. Filled with this void (yep, that makes sense- don’t question it), I did some research online and it came to my attention that there is in fact an ‘Olympic Championships’ taking place in only a matter of weeks.

The tournament apparently involves athletes from around the world competing in numerous sports, with Britain being represented by a woman called ‘Jennifer Ennis’ in all events. I am unsure as to how the scoring system works but I imagine it will follow a similar method to the Eurovision Song Contest, with political allegiances counting for more than actual performance. As a Londoner, I was even more shocked to find that the tournament is taking place in this very city! I very much look forward to it, and I have even scrapped my plans to cover the darts and greyhound racing to instead concentrate my blog on the Olympics in the near future. For the moment though, it’s time to reflect on a record-smashing Wimbledon that nearly came close to to immortalising Andy Murray and mortalising the tennis singularity that is Roger Federer.

The first record of interest involved the fastest ‘golden set’ ever at a major championship, produced by Yaroslava Shvedova who won a set without dropping a single point in just 15 minutes, winning 6-3 (I think). At pretty much exactly the same time, on the same court in fact, Sara Errani broke the record for losing the fastest set without winning a single point at a major championship. Both great achievements, both involving a remarkable level of consistency.

Rafa Nadal’s loss to the Czech Lukas Rosol in only the second round caused the largest upset of the tournament, equalling the Largest Upset record at Wimbledon. This is not to be confused with the Most Upset record, which was later broken by a tearful Murray as Sue Barker shoved her microphone in his face after losing the final.

In the women’s draw Serena Williams completed a tumultuous year by sailing through to the final, where she met the ever-improving Agniezka Radwanska. The Pole did manage to crow-bar one set away from the most powerful female tennis player of all time, but ultimately Williams took the huge serving platter trophy with a 6-1, 5-7, 6-1 victory, racking up an incredible fifth Wimbledon title. In doing so she became the first tennis player to win a major tournament with a pineapple on her head. ‘She’s got a pineapple on her head, she’s got a pineapple on her head…’ Anyone? No, ok. Bloody gentry tennis crowd. (If you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, please Google ‘Jason Lee pineapple song’).

So close yet so far, so far: Murray vs Federer match analysis

With Nadal’s shock early exit, the top half of the male draw suddenly looked promisingly surmountable for Murray. Despite having to face top class competition from David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter and semi-final respectively, Murray proved his class by beating both in four sets, becoming the first British player to reach the final in 74 years. Federer had survived an early scare against the 29th seed Julien Benneteau to reach the semi-final against defending champion Novak Djokovic. With the opportunity to equal Pete Sampras’ record of seven Wimbledon titles and break the same man’s record for most number of weeks as world number one in sight, Federer set his racquet to genius and outclassed Djokovic, winning convincingly in four sets.

My father had won the Wimbledon ticket lottery this year, gaining two centre court tickets for the men’s final, and he very kindly invited me as his +1. The spectacle proved nothing short of extraordinary. We were able to enjoy the full Wimbledon experience; rain and walking past a sea of umbrella-laden Murray mount spectators, the closing of the roof, celebrities pretending to like tennis and breath-taking play.

Murray started the match the stronger, breaking Federer’s serve in the very first game. He went on to take the first set 6-4, but rain stopped play at the beginning of the second set. As I watched the huge roof slowly close like a drawn out scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, stewards hurriedly wiped the royal box dry and changed their fluffy cushions. Unfortunately for Murray fans, Federer stepped up his game after the restart – most noticeably his forehand- just as Murray’s first serve waned. At one point Murray was firing 135mph first serves backed up by shallow 85mph second serves; and as ever Federer was more than equipped to capitalise on Murray’s major weakness. Federer took the next two sets with relative ease and showed no signs of letting up.

Federer broke at 2-2 in the fourth set and from there Murray never looked likely to break back. At 4-3 and 15-30, Murray did miss one guilt-edged opportunity to create two break points, but instead hit his forehand long and lost the game. Winning the final set 6-4, Federer really displayed his ability to perform at his absolute apex when it really matters. For his part, Murray was by no means totally out-classed. As the saying goes, it takes two to tennis (ah, that’s awful) and Murray showed a level of skill throughout the match that surely would have gained him at least one grand slam by now were he not playing during the era of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.

One clear difference between the players was in their body language. As always, Federer exuded consistent calm throughout the game while Murray’s shoulders noticeably dropped between points after the first set. When a comedian in the crowd shouted some unfunny nonsense just as Federer was about to serve, he simply stopped, waited and returned to his routine. When the same thing happened with Murray, he stopped, looked round his shoulder in the direction of the shout, gave a look known only as the ‘Murray’, huffed for a few seconds and eventually returned to his serve, which he missed.

Ultimately, the game was decided by an absolute tennis genius who would have beaten anyone in the history of the game on Sunday, and it was an absolute pleasure to witness. Murray said himself afterwards ‘I’m getting closer…’ and it does seem likely that before his career is over he will win at least one major championship, including Wimbledon. Overall he handled the pressure exerted by the British media very well and does appear to be maturing every year. Unlike Henman, Murray doesn’t really utilise the crowd, only very rarely interacting with them to stoke up support, but to me this displays the kind of self-motivation that ultimately wins you tournaments rather than a lack of passion. The raw emotion he showed after the game provided further proof of his desire.

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