50 parting thoughts to close the roof on Wimbledon 2012
Roger Federer further cemented his place in GOAT debate with a 7th Wimbledon
Serena Williams showed impressive resiliency in bouncing back from Paris blunder
Kudos to the runners-up and those making comebacks on both sides of the draw
Wrapping up a rainy Wimbledon 2012. See you back at the same place in three weeks...
• Roger Federer goes deeper into the G.O.A.T stable, winning his seventh Wimbledon, his first major in more than two years and his 17th career major. He takes over the world No. 1 ranking and basically holds every Open Era record short of stolen bases, power play goals, and touchdown receptions. Two points stick out: 1) Age has done nothing to blunt his variety. If anything, it's enabled (forced?) him to go deeper in the bag of tricks. His defeat of Andy Murray in the final doubled as a Greatest Hits album, filled with flicks and angles, drop shots and terrific pick-ups. For the last few rounds, he was as dominant as he's ever been at Wimbledon. 2) For all the talk of Federer's gifts and feel and general virtuosity, he showed great mental strength this event. He knows there are finite opportunities left. And, not unlike the ladies champ, used it as motivation, not a source of pressure.
• In winning the women's title, Serena Williams proves once again that A) she has an unprecedented gift for blowing up all tennis metrics and conventional wisdom. Who else loses in the first round of major T and then wins major T+1? B) Serena has unprecedented mental strength. Who else loses a commanding lead in the second set of a major final and then shrugs it off as though it's a mere annoyance? After that 49-second, four-ace game in the third set, she didn't look back.
• Say this about Andy Murray: It wasn't nerves that cost him the title. Otherwise there's little left to say. The drought -- both personal and national -- persists. He dashed to the final, won the first set against Federer and then ran into the proverbial buzzsaw. Discuss: Is it a blessing or a curse that the London Games are nigh and he can go through this drill again -- albeit under less stress -- in a month?
• Wipe your nose first. Then take a bow, Aga Radwanska. The fair Pole played some terrific tennis to reach her first Grand Slam final. Despite suffering from the mother of all colds, she won a set and did her part to give us the most competitive and entertaining women's final in recent memory.
• Moving like "a cow on grass" doesn't tell us much. But did anyone else think that Maria Sharapova -- a loser to Sabine Lisicki -- moved better on clay, her longtime nemesis, than she did on grass, surface of her first major title?
• Nice to see Federer win a Slam on the watch of Paul Annacone, who's done nothing but win. Because he doesn't play the self aggrandizement game, Annacone has never gotten his due. Conversely, you have to feel for Ivan lendl, whose tortured relationship with Wimbledon continues.
• Britain's Jonathan Marray and Denmark's Frederik Nielsen teamed to provide one of the great stories of the tournament, unexpectedly winning a wild doubles event. They also served up one of the better lines of the tournament. In the third set tiebreaker, Marray ticked the net with his racket and the team instantly conceded the point, a real act of sportsmanship, especially given the occasion. Told that is not the kind of display one often witnesses in professional sports, Nielsen riposted: "Do you see us winning Wimbledon often?"
• Novak Djokovic's 2012 will not match his 2011. But he should know this: in a few years, he'll get the wave of nostalgia and crowds everywhere will be pulling for him. Happens to all the great ones.
• The most ridiculous -- and under-noted -- record in sports keeps growing: since February of 2005, one of three ATP players has won every major, save one. In other words, either Djokovic, Federer or Nadal have now won 29 of the last 30 Slams dating back to the 2005 French Open.
• Nice times for Canadian tennis. Eugenie Bouchard of Montreal won the girls title over Elina Svitolina of Ukraine 6-2, 6-2. Filip Peliwo of North Vancouver, B.C. defeated Luke Saville of Australia 7-5, 6-4 on Sunday to capture the boys' singles Wimbledon title. As always, Colette Lewis covers junior tennis like no one else.
• Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is in possession of so much natural ability. Who didn't laugh out loud when he deserted his two-hander and started hitting one-handed topspin backhands -- in a Grand Slam semifinal? And nice to see him back in business after that brutal loss to Novak Djokovic at the French Open. All that said, he needs to figure out a way to take that final step and become more than a Final 8/Final 4 player every time out.
• Victoria Azarenka loses her semifinal match in singles, then gets busted for wearing a color other than white onto the court, then loses her doubles match, then slinks into her press conferences and gets this as her first question. Actually, it's less a question than an assertion:
"What a beast of a day for you. You had to change your warmup strip on the practice courts this morning, then you lose a major semifinal, and then you're the last player on court and you lose in doubles as well. Horrible day for you."
Azarenka is often rough in the interview room, generally projecting the same queenly iciness she brings to bear on court. Her management team would do well to invest in a few sessions of media training. Read this for an example.
But I thought her response to the above "question" was exquisite: "Thanks for bringing it up and putting me down. I appreciate that. But I actually take a lot of positive things out of today. I think it was a great performance for me. It was a little bit unfortunate but I can learn from here and improve. I don't have any regrets when I walked off the court today." (And on the plus side, she is back to the No. 1 ranking.)
• A hypothetical conversation unfolds as follows: "Rafael Nadal needs only to win a few more French Opens, pluck another Slam or two and -- especially given his head-to-head record against Federer -- will go down as the G.O.A.T."
"Are you nuts? He hasn't won a title off clay since, like, the Hellenic Era; he's lost to both Luke Rosol (who?) and Ivan Dodig (huh?) in the past year; and name me the last time Federer lost to a Lukas Rosol type? And enough with this 'humble guy' tripe. Did you not see him chest bump Rosol? Takse a day and half between serves? YouTube, buddy."
"YouTube? Great. While you're there, note how he stayed on the court to sign autographs after suffering perhaps the worst loss of his career, how he gushed about Rosol -- not a single mention of lucky shots -- and concluded that there are worse things in life than losing a tennis match. Total class."
Can we agree on this? In his mid-20s, Nadal has become a much more complex and nuanced and, yes, polarizing, figure that than he was in the first trimester of his career?
• A least of a dozen of you asked how Nadal's loss to Rosol affects his G.O.A.T status. Honestly, I don't think it impactss Nadal much at all. Upsets happen. It's one match. Serena has lost matches this year to Virginie Razzano and Ekaterina Makarova. At the U.S. Open, Sampras lost twice to Jaime Yzaga. Steffi Graf lost to Lori McNeil. I do think Nadal's loss puts Federer's "Deep Week Two" streak in context and impacts the G.O.A.T discussion in that respect.
• It only lasted one blissful day. But bravo to Rosol for reminding us that there is a "zone." If he could pass on the GPS coordinates to other journeymen, they'd be most appreciative.
• For all the talk of the roof -- which, inevitably, has its own Twitter account -- and the balls and the wind and the grass, when do we address this condition? By the middle of the tournament, Centre Court was half grass, half sandlot dirt, especially on the baselines. It's tradition. It's Wimbledon. But is it not strange to play on a court that looks like a grazed pasture?
• Who would have guessed that the mixed provided the most "formful" draw? Each of the top four seeded teams reached the semis. In the end, Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond, the No. 2-seeded team, prevailed in three sets over Leander Paes and Elena Vesnina.
• As is the case every four years, the summer tournaments get wrecked by the Olympics. But one event that benefits: the Campbell's Hall of Fame event in Newport. This is the lone ATP grass event between now and the London Games, the field is lousy with good players: Milos Raonic, John Isner, Nishikori, Ryan Harrison, David Goffin, Lleyton Hewitt, the Bryans and Jack Sock are among those entered.
• Speaking of the Hall of Fame, welcome to Twitter @JenCapriati
• Andy Roddick is a big enough sports fan to know the rules of engagement. The Republic of Sports -- commentators, fans, Twitterati -- have every right to speculate on how much longer he'll continue on, asking him about his retirement plans, drawing inferences and conclusions from the smallest gesture. He has every right to keep his plans to himself.
• Marianna Jalo of Rio de Janeiro took us to task (rightfully so) for overlooking her quasi-namesake Mirjana Lucic from our midterm grades. Brian Baker has set the bar at heights that could induce vertigo. But this is a great comeback story, too. The last time Lucic, now 30, made the middle week at Wimbledon? It was 1999.
• You know what else didn't get nearly enough attention? The Golden Set turned in by Yaroslava Shvedova (one day a top ten player, it says here). One of you reasonably suggested that if Wimbledon is in the business of putting up plaques for Isner-Mahut, why not acknowledge a feat that never happened before in a Major, at least not in the Open Era? (Not only that, but the loser, Sara Errani was a top ten player!)
• You know what else didn't get enough attention? Agnieszka Radwanska winning her second-round match without committing an unforced error. Zero. Amazing how far you can go when you are determined not to miss a ball.
• More weirdness for Errani. Her first match against CoCo Vandeweghe was halted on account of rain at match point. The players returned the following day. Vandeweghe promptly double-faulted and Errani advanced without having to hit a ball.
• The Brian Baker comeback story continues apace. Didn't get a wild card for Wimbledon? No problem, he qualified -- on an alien surface -- and reached the fourth round. Works better for the script that way, anyhow.
• My colleague, Scott Price, wrote a fine piece on Baker. But a reader raises an interesting question:
"If this were not Brian but Briana Baker, a former girls junior champion, returning to the tour after more than six years away and suddenly strolling into the second week of Slams, would we be celebrating this? Or critiquing the weak field? Just something to consider....."
• Long as we're in the neighborhood... The prize money debate continues to percolate, both in the locker rooms and among you guys. I'm happy to address it -- we can do so more in a forthcoming mailbag -- but I stand by this: If the ATP and WTA stopped fighting over nickels and instead presented a united front to the majors and demanded fairness, the potential gains would be dramatically higher.
• Can we call the current state of German tennis a "boomschen"? There are a lot of fine players emerging from the Kingdom of Merkel. Angelique Kerber, Sabine Lisicki, Phil Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer all made deep runs, while Tommy Haas, Julia Goerges and Andrea Petkovic have made inroads in the past year as well. But are any of the aforementioned really threats to win majors?
• A few years ago we had "Roger Federer as Religious Experience." Then we had a Facebook page declaring Federer the Messiah. (Weirdly, one of the administrators was listed as John Isner, though he denied to me that it was truly him.) Now we have Chris Laddaran of Manila, Philippines sharing this:
A Federer's Fan's Prayer
Our Federer, who art in Wimbledon,
Glory be thy name,
Thy #1 ranking come,
Thy win be done,
This fortnight, and also on august.
Give us these wins, our daily prayer,
And forgive us for asking so much of you,
As we forgive those who doubt and belittle you.
Do not bring us less than the championship and the gold,
And deliver us from ghosts of losses past.
• You know who could use a strong showing at the Olympics and hardcourt boondoggle? John Isner. After such a promising start to the year, a defeat over Federer, a blast of Davis Cup heroics and a takedown of Novak Djokovic, the wheels have come off a bit. Good dude going through a bad stretch.
• From the nice-to-see category: 1) Two years after his fateful Wimbledon, Nicolas Mahut is doing just fine. He's into most main draws, scored some nice wins and already made in excess of $300K this year. 2) Mardy Fish came back from his troubling heart issue and reached week two. 3) Almost two weeks after her elimination from singles, Venus Williams won doubles.
• There should be a name for players like Xavier Malisse and Marcos Baghdatis. Good guys, loads of talent, so often on the losing end of big matches.
• Dear tournaments: Anything we can do to upgrade the swag given the chair umpire during the trophy ceremony after a Grand Slam final? The winners make in excess of $1 million. The runners-up take home a handsome check. The chair umpire -- whom we are told "has reached the pinnacle of the profession, is a standard bearer for authority, judgment or bladder control," etc. -- is given some candy bowl that looks like it comes free with your purchase of a carton of Junior Mints at Sam's Club.
• The most stunning result of Wimbledon 2012? It wasn't Nadal losing, Venus failing to get out of the first round, or the golden set. It was Esther Vergeer losing a match. Okay, it came in doubles. But still. This is rare the way steak tartar is rare.
• The tournament ace leader? It was Phil Kohlschreiber with 98. Oh, wait. You mean we can include women, too? Even though they only play best-of-three sets? In that case it was... Serena Williams with 102. (Note the next highest woman was Sabine Lisicki with 34.)
• From the Bureau of Perspective: Want to guess the youngest player in the WTA's top 25? Hint, she's from Denmark. Not a banner year for Caroline Wozniacki, her first-round defenestration the latest lousy result. But we've seen this movie too many times not to think she'll be back. Maybe not back to No.1 or major finals. But eventually the stock will rebound. (Props to Standish of Portland for the tip.)
• It's long been the view here that too many people pick on Jelena Jankovic, who doesn't merely wear emotion on her sleeve. She then wants to talk about the soiled shirt. But, this essay sure is funny.
• Have to admit that I am with Greg M. of Charleston, SC who called this to our attention. It's usually bad form to question the severity of an athlete's injury. But Vera Zvonareva retired from her singles match against Kim Clijsters -- just a few points from defeat -- and played mixed doubles later in the day?
• Speaking of Clijsters, she bowed out meekly against Angelique Kerber. But congrats to her for getting back into some semblance of good health in time for her final Wimbledon appearance.
• Tamira Paszek will go to the Olympics after all. And it's purely coincidental that she was initially ineligible, played well on grass this summer, and then...
"The ITF Board of Directors voted to uphold the appeal of Tennis Austria against the decision of the ITF Olympic Committee that Tamira Paszek (AUT) was not eligible for the Olympic Tennis Event because she had not fulfilled the Fed Cup component of the Olympic Eligibility Rule. In their appeal, Tennis Austria provided additional documentation to the ITF Board that was not available at the time of the ITF Olympic Committee meeting that confirmed that Ms. Paszek had made herself available in 2010 but had not been selected. This documentation included affidavits from the Austrian Fed Cup captain Jurgan Waber and additional information about Ms. Paszek's back injury during the second half of 2009.Therefore, the Board determined that Ms. Paszek had met the two components of the rule, that she is in good standing with Tennis Austria and had made herself available to compete in two Fed Cup ties in the Olympic cycle including 2010 and 2012 where she competed for Austria in Europe/Africa Zone Group I."
• I saw very little of the tournament on ESPN so I'm just playing middle man. And as usual, your views were all over the map. And not just that, but they were often contradictory. The same Brad Gilbert malapropos that make of you cringe ("Where do I buy a Gilbert-English, English-Gilbert dictionary?" one of you asked) make him appealing to many others, self included. Again, there were persistent themes. You like the lack of tape delay, the various platforms and Darren Cahill. You're less enthused about a staleness among the team, the lack of cross-promotion on SportsCenter and other shows, a sense that there are still some unseemly conflicts and fanlike behavior that compromise professionalism and credibility.
• Helen of Philadelphia was a frequent source of amusement over the last two weeks. Among other gems she noted: Grunting in women's tennis made the limerick quiz on last Saturday's episode of Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me. And it elicited a very interesting response from the female panelist, Kyrie O'Connor, who found it "incredibly offensive" that anyone would expect women to not make noise when they play sports.
• Liezel Huber and Elena Vesnina on the undercard. Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi as the main event. Three rounds. UFC rules. Mandatory interviews with Joe Rogen after the fight. Who else is buying the pay per view?
• This is juvenile and lowers the bar and coarsens society. But at least of few you laughed at this unfortunate headline.
• Attention all units! Attention all units! We have an Amber Alert out for a Bernard Tomic. Repeat: Bernard Tomic. May be in the company of a Donald Young.
• You hope Sam Querrey is galvanized by his win over Milos Raonic and not gutted by his loss to Marin (County real estate is bouncing back to the delight of Brad Gilbert) Cilic.
• Paul Kumar of Springfield, Va.: "The Federer-Malisse match -- I don't think either of them would qualify for the condition, but when playing together they are MAL-FED."
• Along similar lines... props to Matt R of Syracuse, N.Y., for noting the David Goffin-Mardy Fish match was a game of Go Fish.
• I watched this event in fits and starts -- over various time zones and various continents -- while chasing other stories. For the record, I'll be in Merry Olde for the Olympics. We'll do our usual daily columns from the tennis event once the London Games begin.