Imaginative, exhilarating and unexpected, Wimbledon 2018 was tennis at its best

Published: July 19, 2018
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Novak Djokovic and Angelique Kerber’s performance at SW19 alone is enough to gauge the magnitude of their achievement.

A fortnight of exhilarating tennis at the game’s showpiece event – Wimbledon – culminated in triumphs for Novak Djokovic and Angelique Kerber in their respective domains.

Unexpected winners? Yes. Disappointing tournament? Not at all!

While Djokovic and Kerber’s performance at SW19 alone is enough to gauge the magnitude of their achievement, their tango sequence after the conclusion of the event unintentionally encapsulated their entire careers.

The peaks and troughs of their tennis careers were subtlety portrayed as they tangoed on the dance floor during the Champions Dinner at Guildhall in London, with notable rhythms and sudden pauses.

Djokovic rejoins the cult of champions

It was neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal, but Djokovic who had his arms wrapped around the pineapple-topped Wimbledon trophy amidst a spectacular idyllic setting.

At the beginning of the season’s most prestigious grand slam, one could have predicted at the drop of a hat that Swiss maestro Federer would run away with the title, whereas Spaniard Nadal also had a chance despite grass being his less-favoured surface. However, for the first time in six slams, we had a new winner – albeit an old face.

Roger Federer celebrates after beating Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic in their men’s singles first round match on the first day of the 2018 Wimbledon Championships on July 2, 2018. Photo: Getty

Rafael Nadal celebrates after beating Jiri Vesely in their men’s singles fourth round match on the seventh day of the 2018 Wimbledon Championships on July 9, 2018. Photo: Getty

Before digging into the details of Djokovic’s victory, an interesting facet accompanies his win. Back in 2016, this was the same venue where the four-time Wimbledon winner’s career took a nosedive after a shocking defeat at the hands American Sam Querrey. Add to that a combination of various factors on and off the field, all kept him out of reckoning for major events.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic leaves the court after losing to US player Sam Querrey in their men’s singles third round match on the sixth day of the 2016 Wimbledon Championships in Wimbledon on July 2, 2016. Photo: Getty

Although Djokovic enjoyed a relatively easy ride till the round of 16, the Serbian went into another gear in the quarterfinal against Japanese player Kei Nishikori. For the first time in the event, it was evident that Djokovic was finally hitting the right notes. He moved well from side to side, reminiscent of the athleticism from his peak days, and looked at ease despite Nishikori playing some real good tennis.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returns against Japan’s Kei Nishikori during their men’s singles quarter-finals match on the ninth day of the 2018 Wimbledon Championships on July 11, 2018. Photo: Getty

Kei Nishikori leaves centre court after losing to Novak Djokovic 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2. Photo: Getty

His semi-final encounter against Nadal was a thing of class. It was one of those matches where it is hard to grasp that one of them had to lose at the end of it all, but thankfully for the Serb, he prevailed in five sets.

Novak Djokovic (L) shakes hands after winning against Rafael Nadal during the continuation of their men’s singles semi-final match on the twelfth day of the 2018 Wimbledon Championships on July 14, 2018. Photo: Getty

Novak Djokovic reacts in the fifth set against Spain’s Rafael Nadal. Photo: Getty

Since his return, Djokovic had showed signs of being low on mental strength, but in that particular match against the 17-time grand slam winner, he remained composed regardless of the fluctuating fortunes in the match.

The final was all too easy for the Serb, as he overpowered Kevin Anderson in straight sets. On a day where the South African seemed riddled with nerves while his game also lacked the potency of previous rounds, the Serbian pounced on him like a tiger on its prey, leading to a hard-earned and well-deserved victory.

Novak Djokovic stretches for a return to Kevin Anderson in their men’s singles final match in Wimbledon on July 15, 2018. Photo: Getty

Novak Djokovic smiles as he carries the winners trophy after beating Kevin Anderson. Photo: Getty

Kerber denies Serena Williams her fairy tale ending

Women’s tennis can be very unpredictable at times, and Wimbledon 2018 experienced this to a significantly large extent.

All top 10 seeds were ousted from the tournament even before the quarter-finals, with the top two seeds and winners of the previous two slams of the year – Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki – bowing out in the third and second round respectively.

Romania’s Simona Halep returns to Japan’s Kurumi Nara during their women’s singles first round match on the second day of the 2018 Wimbledon Championships on July 3, 2018. Photo: Getty

Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki celebrates winning a game against Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova during their women’s singles second round match on the third day of the 2018 Wimbledon Championships on July 4, 2018. Photo: Getty

While the top seeds went out in a heap, Kerber ensured that her progress was serene. She only dropped one set throughout the tournament, going from strength to strength as the event progressed. The German’s meteoric rise in 2016 stunned the entire tennis fraternity, but it also made her fall from grace in 2017 even more dramatic and startling.

“I know that I’m back,” Kerber said after losing to Halep in the semi-final of the Australian Open 2018.

Although she was on the wrong side of the result, it was clear that the conviction in her game was back; something she sorely lacked during her poor run in 2017. Despite losing at the quarterfinal stage at the French Open, it seemed a matter of time before Kerber would get over the hum, and the recently concluded Wimbledon proved just that.

Williams, her opponent in the final, has a story of her own. In fact, it won’t be wrong to say that most tennis fans wanted her to have a fairy tale ending, after the agonising medical complications the American had to endure post-pregnancy.

Serena Williams (R) returns against Angelique Kerber during their women’s singles final match on the twelfth day of the 2018 Wimbledon Championships on July 14, 2018. Photo: Getty

Angelique Kerber (R) embraces Serena Williams following their women’s singles final match. Photo: Getty

It is miraculous how quickly she has recovered and started playing at the highest level. As the event reached its second week, it was clear that Williams was peaking at the right moment, but unfortunately, the final proved a hurdle too far as she was knocked out in straight sets. Kerber’s words of admiration for the 23-time grand slam singles winner aptly revealed the degree of her achievement.

“First, I have to say Serena, you’re a great person and a champion. Coming back, you’re such an inspiration for everyone. I’m sure you will have your next grand slam title soon, so congrats for coming back,” said Kerber after the final.

Angelique Kerber kisses the trophy after winning the Ladies’ Singles Final against Serena Williams on day 12 of the Wimbledon Championships. Photo: Getty

Looking ahead

One thing is for certain: the unanticipated results of the last couple of weeks guarantee that next month’s US Open – which is the last grand slam of the year – is bound to be a mouth-watering one, as all the top stars of men’s and women’s tennis will be firmly back in the mix.

As far as grand slam events go, they sometimes tend to give off a sense of inevitability and being at par for the course. However, the same cannot be said about this year’s Wimbledon, as it went a long way in capturing the imagination of the audience.

Muneeb Farrukh

Muneeb Farrukh

The author is a freelance sportswriter based in Karachi. He tweets as @Muneeb313_ (twitter.com/Muneeb313_)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • UJ

    Federer should have won this. His game paralyzed after losing the match point in the third set against Anderson.Recommend

  • Stupid Intelligent

    Didn’t know people watched tennis in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Muneeb Farrukh

    They sure do, especially the grand slams.Recommend

  • Muneeb Farrukh

    True but playing on court 1 was possibly a factor too.Recommend

  • UJ

    Yes that was a weird choice. Why was the number one seed playing on Court 1? No excuses at this level though. He lost fair and square to Anderson. Lucky to be living in the era of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. Possibly the 3 greatest male players in tennis historyRecommend

  • Muneeb Farrukh

    In terms of competitiveness, Djokovic/Nishikori and Del Potro/Nadal were better matches on paper and hence they got the two slots on center court. Federer, on the other hand, was steamrolling his opponents before the quarterfinal and the organisers must have thought that he would do the same to Anderson.Recommend