Film, TV and the Arts

Film, TV and the Arts

Monday, 4 July 2011

Djokovic and Kivotva Complete a Coup d’État

They’re changing the guard at SW19. This year’s championships very much had an end of an era feel. Two first-time singles champions were the most obvious symbol of it, but across the two weeks, there was a definite sense that the old order was being firmly abolished.
Roger Federer was a (perhaps unlikely) favourite with many going into the men’s championships, though most predicted (and hoped for) another clash with Nadal in the final, whilst in the ladies – as unpredictable as ever – few wrote off the Williams sisters, but many favoured Maria Sharapova. Former champions littered the column inches in late June, and all of them had met their downfall by early July.
The Williams sisters were the high profile casualties of the second Monday. Serena fell to the temperamental (in both performance and mood) French player, Marion Bartoli; Venus was blown off court (a rarity indeed) by Tsvetana Pironkova. Their absence in a draw already bereft of many of the top seeds ultimately saw a quarter final draw lacking in big name appeal but high in quality.

This came after a first week which had seen almost all of the great matches taking place in the women’s draw. Venus had fought a titanic second round match under the roof against the unfeasibly durable Kimiko Date-Krumm, and, in the same round, the French Open champion, Li Na had been beaten across three compelling sets by a resurgent Sabine Lisicki, whose smile was one of the images of the tournament, as she completed a spellbinding comeback from injury.

Come around 4pm on Saturday, as the supreme Petra Kivotva hammered an ace to win the championship, beating a surprisingly flat Sharapova, who had swept all before her up until then, it could be noted that, after some years in the doldrums, the women’s game was back, full of strength and interest. The old giants remain, but they’re under threat.
Date-Krumm's defeat by Venus Williams was a tournament highlight
In the men's game, there were many surprises. The golden generation has immense strength in depth, best seen in the brilliant second round five set match between the lost champion, Lleyton Hewitt, and the perennial dark horse, Robin Soderling, and in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s comeback to dispatch the great Federer, who is potentially facing his first slam-less year since 2002.
Andy Murray came closer and was still no match in the semis for Nadal, who made fairly smooth progress to the final, though he had struggled against Juan Martin Del Potro, who’s form on return from injury suggests that the former US Open Champion will soon turn the “Fab Four” into the “Famous Five”, and there was a new star being born in the impressive form of the Australian qualifier, Bernard Tomic, who has leapt 87 places in the world rankings after reaching the Wimbledon Quarter-Finals.
But, at lunchtime on Sunday, all of the speculation was on Rafael Nadal. The winner of 10 grand slams and the defending Wimbledon champion, who had been crowned the French Open champion just four weeks before, was on the verge of launching an assault on Roger Federer’s 16 grand slam titles. By teatime, he had been crushed by a man who, on Monday, became the deserved World Number One.

Novak Djokovic’s performance in the Wimbledon final was nothing short of extraordinary. Four victories against Nadal this year counted for nothing. Djokovic was unproven on grass, and was facing a man who had gone 20 matches unbeaten at Wimbledon. But, at the end of four sets, he had made the former world number one run about his old stomping ground to no avail. Nadal was not just beaten. He was utterly vanquished.
Even before he had mastered Federer, Nadal never tried to force things to happen. He stuck to his game, played his shots and his patience ultimately prevailed. Yesterday, Nadal was lost. He was trying to push his groundstrokes past Djokovic’s superlative defences, and the harder he tried the more unforced errors he committed. In the second set, Djokovic was untouchable. Nadal has not looked that humbled for a long time.
Tsonga became a centre court favourite with spirited performances
But, he was still Nadal, and in the third he fought back and Djokovic seemed to lose belief. Errors crept into his game as Nadal found another gear. The fourth set saw a response from Djokovic, and a drop-off from Nadal. As their standards equalised, the end was incredibly tense. Long rallies were the norm, but Djokovic had been winning those all afternoon and, in the end, he edged out a Nadal who looked increasingly bereft of ideas.
And so, a new champion was crowned. For the first time in nine years, a name other than Nadal or Federer was on the winners’ board. They are not gone and will still challenge for, and win, major titles, but a new era seems to be in the offing. Murray’s response to Djokovic’s triumph was to say he had been inspired. If Novak can do it, anybody can, was Andy’s view, and, with the strength of the men’s game, many men may just do that.

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