So, the annual explosive spike in strawberry sales has come to an end, the price of dairy products has returned to normal and we can all return to drinking Pimm’s without the overbearing sense of expectation mingled with terror. This year’s Wimbledon, for fairly obvious reasons, is one that will be visited and revisited in nostalgic video montages for several years to come – more if we have to wait another 70 years or so for another British champion. But the championships were drama-filled pretty much from day one, not just the last Sunday.
For a start, the propensity of the tournament’s big guns to go out at shockingly early stages left spectators with a feeling that anything could happen. The spate of withdrawals in the early stage of the competition through injury, most notably Victoria Azarenka on the women’s side and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on the men’s, was dramatic enough on its own. For tournament favourites and defending champions to crash out, to players far lower-seeded in the competition, was the kind of script that would be considered too far-fetched even for a chick flick starring Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst. Striking among these was Roger Federer’s defeat at the hands of Sergiy Stakhovsky. It was a defeat that truly starts to beg questions about whether or not Federer is still at the top of the men’s game. He is arguably the best men’s tennis player of all time, undoubtedly the best of his generation, but that supremacy cannot last forever and it seems as though it is beginning to fade.
Sabine Lisicki’s collapse in the women’s final was a disappointing end to a fantastic tournament for the young German. Her defeat of Serena Williams was a supreme display of dogged determination and outright defiance. What’s more her infectious smile and clear joy in the game she played made a very welcome change from the dour-faced competitive rage offered by many of the championships’ participants. For her to succumb so meekly to the challenge of Marion Bartoli ended the promise of an explosive final with a shy whisper. On the most nit-picking of aesthetic terms I would have preferred Lisicki to win. The tennis that wins Wimbledon ought to be supreme, graceful, technical. Bartoli is a deserving winner, and certainly merited the victory on her final performance, but there is something about her blunderbuss double-handed play and esoteric serve that leaves me cold.
It’s very hard to find any words to describe Andy Murray’s victory over Novak Djokovic without running over tiresomely familiar territory. It seems we can discuss the weight of expectation, the impact of Murray’s extensive coaching staff and quote the “seventy-seven year wait” until we turn the same colour as the grass upon which Murray claimed his second Grand Slam title. The manner of Murray’s victory was the most heartening thing about the final. You simply don’t beat Novak Djokovic in straight sets unless you belong firmly in the topmost echelons of the tennis hierarchy. This was a player, after all, who had only dropped two sets in the entire tournament leading up to the final. Murray’s game had an intoxicating mix of physicality, technique and above all confidence. For years to come, in Andy Murray the British public may look forward to the first week of July, not with nervous hope, but well-grounded and confident expectation.