Rafa Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic could not afford to take 6 months off without any consequences. Roger Federer is the most universally loved hero for the finest fairy tale.
WIMBLEDON – Since the Olympics were born in ancient Greece, sports fans have always loved to celebrate their heroes. Thousands of years later, things haven’t changed. At Wimbledon – the most prestigious sports temple – tennis is celebrating its most beloved hero. On Sunday Roger Federer captured his 8th Wimbledon title in a magnificent fairy tale.
Besides Federer, tennis can count on other popular champions, such as Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, but none of them seem to unanimously enjoy the same respect as Roger when it comes to their rivals’ biggest fans. Sometimes I wonder if Roger could be granted an honorary passport in the 196 countries that populate our planet. Everywhere he plays or whoever he faces across the net, most of the crowd’s support is always for him, which is something that doesn’t happen in other sports. Perhaps the Ferrari brand might enjoy similar support around the world, but a single athlete with such unanimous support is truly unique.
Roger’s extraordinary and miraculous 2017 season isn’t anything that could have been predicted. After a six-month hiatus from the game, he started the year seeded No. 17 at the Australian Open in January. For the first time in 15 years, he wasn’t included in the top 16 seeds.
After winning in Melbourne, Indian Wells and Miami, Roger took another ten-week break skipping the entire clay-court season. Rafa Nadal admitted that he couldn’t afford to take such long breaks from the sport and come back as if nothing happened.
Roger won 5 out of 7 tournaments in 2017, and the losses to Donskoy in Dubai and Haas in Stuttgart materialized after he squandered a match point. He captured two Slams, two Masters 1000 and the grass-court event in Halle for the ninth time. He really couldn’t have played any better.
Roger’s Wimbledon title materialized without dropping a set, 41 years after Bjorn Borg managed to accomplish the same feat.
“Creating history here at Wimbledon means a lot to me. Wimbledon has always been my favorite tournament, all my heroes triumphed on these lawns. I became a better player thanks to them,” Roger said in his post-match press conference.
This year’s tournament provided us with only one great men’s match (Muller-Nadal) and one and a half women’s match (Muguruza-Kerber and the first set of Muguruza-Venus). The tournament exposed the currently shaky psychological and physical conditions of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, and showed the poor form of Juan Martin Del Potro, who is a shadow of the player that we admired at last year’s Olympics and Davis Cup. The Argentinian’s two handed-backhand is still non-existent.
Except for the two finalists and the young Ostapenko, no other female player is worth mentioning. Women’s tennis is certainly missing Serena Williams, even if Muguruza could become one of the leading players in the future. Garbine is only 23 years-old and has already won two Slams, if she plays until 36 years of age like Federer, she will have plenty of time to break a few interesting records.
Roger won his Wimbledon titles at 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 30 and 35 years of age. In my opinion, Muguruza (1993), Kvitova (1990) and Ostapenko (1997) are the players with more chances to enhance the record books of our sport.
Federer will be the big favorite at the next US Open with a realistic chance at Grand Slam title No. 20 and a shot at the No. 1 ranking. He is currently No. 3 in the ATP rankings and No. 2 in the Race to London, trailing Rafael Nadal by only 550 points. The two legendary rivals have captured the first three majors of the year, which was unthinkable in 2016 when Novak Djokovic dominated the first semester and Andy Murray ruled the second.
Marin Cilic was very unlucky during Sunday’s final: a terrible blister under his left foot deeply affected his performance. The Croatian could have been a dangerous opponent for Roger, after the Swiss overcame the challenge presented in the semifinal by Tomas Berdych. The Czech was the only opponent to push Roger to two tie-breaks throughout the tournament.
Federer never seemed to play under pressure and always looked calm and serene during the entire fortnight. Roger rightly attributed his calmness and composure to his wife Mirka, who masterfully manages his travels, family, parents, two coaches and physio. The entire crew stayed in two mega-apartments at Wimbledon for the whole two weeks.
(Article translation provided by T&L Global – Translation & Language Solutions – www.t-lglobal.com)
Intriguing Team-Ups Lure Eyes Doubles’ Way. Will They Stay For The Problems, Too?
Will the recent surge in high-profile double partnerships have any impact on the long term future of the discipline?
In one of his press conferences at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Andy Murray said he would not be playing the US Open. His announcement came a day or so after his initial declaration that he would be playing only the two doubles events in the final Major of the season. A few things came out of Murray’s remarks. The first and the obvious was that the former world no. 1 was ready to give it his all (yet again) to play singles. The second, the understated aspect, was that doubles while seeming easy vis-à-vis singles required just as much focus, if not more. Then, there was a third.
In tennis’ continuity though, the relevance of the doubles game is not a recent epiphany. However, the last few tournaments of the 2019 season that featured some eclectic partnerships – Stefanos Tsitispas and Nick Kyrgios, Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez, the Pliskova twins, Andy and Jamie Murray, and so on – has made doubles slightly more prominent than singles.
Singles has become monotonous with the same set of players making it to the final rounds. On the other hand, doubles has brought in more verve to the existing status quo of the Tour, with each player’s individuality adding to the dynamics of the team. After his first outing as Kyrgios’ doubles partner at the Citi Open in Washington in July, Tsitsipas pointed this out.
“It’s the joy of being with a person who thinks differently and reacts differently. I would characterise him (Kyrgios) as someone who likes to amuse. I’m very serious and concentrated when I play, but he just has the style of speaking all the time. It’s good sometimes to have a change,” the Greek had said.
These changes – as seen with Murray’s recent decision – may not extend for a longer period. The culmination of these short-term team-ups does – and should – not mean the end of the road of doubles piquing attention, per se. At the same time, these transitory partnerships also reroute the discussion back to the financial side of the doubles game.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Jamie Murray – a doubles specialist – shared how conducive it had become for players to take up doubles as the sole means of a tennis career these days, as compared to in the past.
“Because the money is always increasing in tennis, it is a much more viable option to go down the doubles route a lot earlier than previous generations. Before, people would play singles and then when their ranking dropped, they played an extra few years of doubles. Now it is a genuine option to start off much younger and have a career in doubles,” the 33-year-old said.
Despite Murray’s upbeat attitude, these increases have not exactly trickled towards doubles, especially at the Slams including the upcoming edition of the US Open. For 2019, the USTA showed-off yet another hike in the prize-money coffer. The men’s and women’s singles champions will be awarded $3.8 million. In comparison, the men’s and women’s doubles teams winning the respective title will get $740,000. This sum gets further diluted for the mixed-doubles’ titlists who will get $160,000 as a team.
This is the third and final takeaway that emerged from Murray’s US Open call. For several of these singles players, intermittent doubles play is an option. For those who play only doubles, that is the only option they have. The doubles game requires similar effort – travel, expenses and fitness – the costs continue to outweigh the benefits. These momentary team formations are a gauge revealing the disparity of tennis’ two sides, visible yet obliviated beyond tokenism.
Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic’s Big Four reunion in Cincy
A few years before, there existed a quartet called Big Four in men’s tennis. At certain points in their time-line of dominance, injuries plagued each member of this four-member group. However, the severity of their affliction in one player, Andy Murray, saw his name erased from this elite pocket. Thus, the Big Four was reduced to the Big Three with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer making up the troika.
At the 2019 Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, three of the erstwhile Big Four troupe reunited as they re-entered the circuit’s circus. And each player had a different path leading up to the event, too, underlining how divergent their careers had become despite overlapping scheduling.
The 2016 season was the common catalyst leading to this divergence. From Federer’s injury to him pausing his season to focus on rehab after Wimbledon, to Djokovic pushing his boundary as a marauder and completing the non-calendar Slam, and to Murray ending the season as the world no. 1. The year in consideration also threw up other names – Nadal’s season ended in an agony of injury, while Stan Wawrinka won his third Major at the US Open. In its bounty of giving and taking, 2016 changed how we looked at these players – especially the first four – and the irrevocability of assumption that these guys could get past any hurdles stopping their way.
Juxtaposing with Cincinnati, in the three years since 2016, Federer and Djokovic have vaulted past their share of physical problems. Yet, in the Ohioan city, they have different motivations guiding them. This is the first time that Djokovic has entered the Cincinnati draw as the defending champion. Meanwhile, after having been drawn in the same half as the Serbian, Federer has the proverbial score to settle against him. “I can’t wait for my next rematch with Novak or my next time I can step on a match court and show what I can do,” the 20-time Slam champion said in one of his pre-tournament media interactions in Cincinnati.
There are a few opponents to get past before their slated semi-final meeting occurs. Nonetheless, their sustained competitiveness adds its fervour to the already-hefty top-half of the men’s draw. In the midst of their respectively successful opening rounds, Murray’s first-round defeat to Richard Gasquet in straight sets became a contextual misnomer for comebacks.
Yet, Murray’s was the most stirring return. This was not because of the emotional crossroads that had sprung up at the 2019 Australian Open regarding his retirement. But on account of how farther Murray had leapt to put his physical frailties behind and re-join the singles Tour. And, the Briton’s determination to do so is reminiscent of 2016, all over again. It’s the completion of the circle of how Murray had pushed hard to become the world’s best player and now, he is trying just as much to regain his footing back.
Nick Kyrgios’ Washington win is about good vs bad: Of situations and opinions
The Australian’s Citi Open win brought forth a wave of positiveness about him. But its enduring or lack thereof is a test for his viewers, hereon.
Nick Kyrgios picked up two titles in 2019 – in Acapulco and Washington – in the time it took opinion to swing between “He is not good for tennis” to “Tennis needs him”. And, in the days after his win at the 2019 Citi Open in the latter city, the subject continues to be a favoured topic of editorial conversation vis-à-vis his importance to the sport.
The player in question though does not care for any of these. Yes, after his win in the Washington final against Daniil Medvedev, Kyrgios admitted, “I’ve just been working really hard, on and off the court, to try and be better as a person and as a tennis player. And as I said, I wasn’t exaggerating. This has been one of the best weeks of my life, not just on the court but in general. I feel like I’ve made major strides.” But this came with an addendum of sorts. “And I’m just going to take it one day at a time and hopefully, I can continue on this new path.”
As Kyrgios heads into the Rogers Cup in Montreal, these words need to be stamped onto onlookers’ minds, with their significance getting highlighted each time he steps on to the court, hereafter. Especially, when describing his antics that often tend to be over-the-top.
This past week in Washington, Kyrgios came up with some idiosyncratic behaviour. He shimmied, he put himself in the shoes of the prince while conjuring up an image of Stefanos Tsitsipas as Cinderella, and he asked fans for their opinions about which way to serve on match points, following that with heartfelt hugs after winning the match. All of these were endearing gestures with their enjoyableness magnified by his run of triumph thereby leading to thoughts of why Kyrgios was so important to tennis.
Had these same actions come before a result – in any round – that had not gone in his favour? It is not hard to say, after observing past trends that the reactions would have been about how Kyrgios had disrespected the sport and how he did not do much with the potential he has been gifted. The opinions would have changed that quickly.
It is because of these that the Washington result comes as a timely reality-check monitor. That instead of analysing Kyrgios’ every move, both tactical and non-tactical, the world at large needs to just view him as part of the whole of tennisdom. He is like the others who have taken up tennis professionally. But if his route on the Tour is to be measured by others’ straight-line standards, then, he is not the guy to follow that precedent.
And, why should he? Kyrgios is the way he wants to be, not the way people think he should be. Moreover, if it is that easy to accept him as he is when he wins not being able to accept Kyrgios for who he is when he loses is not his lookout. It’s the viewers who need to pore over their preferences.
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