Reflections on Wimbledon

July 11, 2006

by Rahul Misra 

Sample these names – Andy Roddick, David Nalbandian, Ivan Ljubicic, Lleyton Hewitt, Mario Ancic, James Blake, Nikolay Davidenko, Fernando Gonzalez, Tommy Robredo, Thomas Johansson, Tomas Berdych, Radek Stepanek.

These were the players seeded 3 – 16 at Wimbledon 2006. How many of these names actually inspire the slightest degree of awe within you? If you ask me, the answer is none of them. There is not one name here who I can say is a jaw-droppingly amazing player. And I’m measuring them on an absolute scale, let’s leave Federer out of this for now.

On the other hand, here’s a similar list from Wimbledon 1998 – Petr Korda, Greg Rusedski, Carlos Moya, Patrick Rafter, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Cedric Pioline, Richard Krajicek, Alex Corretja, Jonas Bjorkman, Tim Henman, Andre Agassi, Goran Ivanisevic.

While I’m not saying that the 1998 list is filled with world-beaters, just a casual glance will show that there definitely seems something amiss in the levels of competitiveness in men’s tennis today. The evolution cycle that went from Borg-McEnroe-Connors-Lendl to Edberg-Becker-Sampras-Courier to Sampras-Agassi-Rafter-Ivanisevic seems to have lost a wheel somewhere. The next generation which was supposed to take over the Sampras-Agassi legacy doesn’t seem to have arrived yet.

Other than Federer and Nadal of course… this developing rivalry is our silver lining, the meeting of the top 2 in the finals at least is something we can look forward to. And if this year’s final match is anything to go by, we’re up for royal treats in the years ahead.

The Wimbledon finals of this year seemed to follow a track similar to the French. With the first set in Federer’s bag quite early, Nadal joined the party and seemed to match the champion shot for shot in the 2nd. An enthralling match followed, one that was played with tremendous grit but in the end Federer took it. Perhaps a little bit of his experience shone through, this was after all Nadal’s 5th career grass tournament. But we did get glimpses of what Nadal is capable of even on grass, his least favourite surface, and the promise of many more glittering matches has been made.

All that is for later though, this weekend belonged to Roger Federer. With a 4th consecutive Wimbledon title, he has cemented his place amongst the greatest in this sport. Even after the match, Federer seemed completely at ease, walking around with the air of someone who’s getting used to his success now. It was very interesting to see him even trying to make a fashion statement, complete with a very ’60s blazer. Though for someone whose finesse and calmness on court is a favourite topic of discussion for sports writers, the blazer seemed an ill-fit, a little too extravangant and out there. And he seemed to overdo it a little by wearing it to the Champions Ball too. Federer may be the undisputed master of all things on court but in such mundane matters, perhaps a few lessons from Maria Sharapova are in order.

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