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PostFederer's Wimbledon Victory (David Duggan, USA, 07/19/17 12:13 pm)
I had not commented on Wimbledon this year because, believe it or not, I hadn't seen a stroke: I don't have cable and the network-broadcast women's and men's finals conflicted with other events, including Sunday church, followed by playing my own form of late-in-life hobbled tennis. At the local courts that morning, I asked two couples playing nearby who was winning the men's final: one replied, "we're taping it," and the other said at around 10 am CDT, 2 hours into the match, that Federer had won. No surprise. Federer hadn't lost a set en route to the victory, the first time that had happened in 41 years, since Bjorn Borg's first (of five) title in 1976. By the time I got home, all the festivities were over.
Of course, everyone is commenting that Federer is the best ever and I'm not going to disagree: the statistics bear it out even if Nadal owned him during the middle of his career. Boris Becker has weighed in by saying that he's the "best sportsman" (note, not "athlete") ever, surpassing Lionel Messi, LeBron James, Jordan, and on and on. For my money, I don't know how you compare individual athletes against team players, and I don't know if "gentlemanliness" goes into Becker's calculus. Jordan, for instance, was known as particularly nasty to both opponents and teammates who didn't measure up, and Roger's public persona of being a true gentleman is matched, I understand, by his behind the scenes deportment at least for the most part (I am given to believe, for instance, that he and doubles-partner countryman Stan Wawrinka don't see eye-to-eye, though they did win the Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008, and the Davis Cup doubles over France in 2014 two years after a stunning 0-5 loss to a distinctly average US team of John Isner, Mardy Fish and Mike Bryan).
For his part, Federer matches a fluidity of movement with an uncanny ability to pick apart another's game. True, he couldn't pick apart Nadal, whose game defies picking apart: you either bludgeon him like Robin Soderling in the 2009 French Open, or outlast him like Djokovic could do. But Roger could intuit that his Wimbledon finalist opponent, Croat Marin Cilic, was a bit hobbled, so he took some pace off the ball, making Cilic with a sore back try to wail on it. That led to Cilic's court-side breakdown when a trainer was called. At least in my lifetime, I don't think we'll see someone win 8 Wimbledons, and his record of 19 Grand Slam victories (Australian , French, Wimbledon & US Opens), against 10 GS finals' losses, is not likely to be surpassed on the male side before the apocalypse--Nadal has 15 now and Djokovic 14; they're both five years younger than Roger but time is not on their side.
But, and isn't there always a but, Federer beat only 1 top 10 player en route to the finals, Canadian Milos Raonic (6), and benefited from a first-round walkover. And 7th-seeded Cilic beat none in the top 10. Nadal was bounced in the 4th round (of 16); top seed Andy Murray was beat in the quarters and Djokovic withdrew in that round. The grass courts remain a tricky place to play, but for 15 years (he won his first Wimbledon in 2003), Roger has mastered the courts and three generations of opponents (the average career for a tour player is 5 years). His groundstrokes--a forehand which he can roll cross-court or blast up the line, and a one-handed backhand (thought to be a dinosaur of a shot) that he can slice or hit with topspin--will be examined for generations to come as the models to be emulated if you want to keep your arm attached to its socket. Bravo, Roger. Vous etes le meilleur du monde.
Also defying further comment was Venus Williams' finals appearance, sadly falling apart to Spain's Garbine Muguruza, 7-5, 6-0. At 37, she matched Martina Navratilova's 1994 finals appearance, where she lost to the only other Spanish winner, Conchita Martinez. Venus made 2 grand-slam finals this year, too (Australia & Wimbledon), but though she was on the losing end of each, she is gracious in defeat and another testament that quality counts over quantity. Her sister, awaiting the imminent birth of her first child, remains the best in the world, but Venus is one-half of the best-ever women's doubles team. And speaking of ageless wonders, 36-year old Martina Hingis won the mixed doubles with Andy's brother Jamie, 20 years after winning her only Wimbledon title.
Now, if I could only get this darned Achilles to heal, I might consider going out on the 65-and-over circuit. It's been bothering me for nearly a year and I'm good for only about an hour.
JE comments: A splendid analysis-from-afar. I've become intrigued by Garbiñe Muguruza, a Venezuelan-born Basque I had never heard of (confession) until this morning. I know the Basque Country is celebrating--and I presume Venezuela is as well. Sadly the Venezuelans haven't had much to celebrate of late.