After two weeks of incredible tennis, Wimbledon is over. Before attention turns to the hard-court season and the year’s final Grand Slam at the US Open, let’s look at 10 big things we can take away from London.
1. Wimbledon remains the gold standard of tournaments
Each of the four Grand Slams is an enormous, profitable success, and each is renowned for having its unique character. But Wimbledon still manages to remain the tournament that matters most. There are three reasons the All England Club keeps its pre-eminent position. One, the mystique and well-maintained quality of the grass courts. Two, the All England Club’s “Committee of Management” manages to keep Wimbledon current without sacrificing its Camelot-like appeal.
And finally, but perhaps most important of all, the best players love and dominate the event. Champion Roger Federer acknowledged that in his victory speech, noting a potent reason that has nothing the do with ivy, strawberries and cream or rye-grass courts.
2. The US Open also wins at Wimbledon
Federer’s Wimbledon win and Venus Williams’ impressive run to the women’s final have injected a bolt of energy into the second half of the year, particularly the hard-court segment culminating at the US Open. There’s a very real chance that Federer and No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal will reprise their rivalry in major finals. And in New York, the year-end No. 1 ranking might be the bonus prize. For her part, Williams has been in two Grand Slam finals this year (0-2), one on hard court and one on grass. Those are the surfaces on which she’s won all seven of her major titles (five Wimbledons, two US Opens). She, too, has a shot not just to become No. 1 but to inspire and thrill as only an icon can.
3. The WTA’s new wave is cresting — and breaking
Somehow, it seemed symbolic. Garbine Muguruza galloped away in the Wimbledon women’s final, reeling off nine straight games to defeat the remarkable 37-year-old Venus in two sets. Williams did a marvelous job advancing the WTA’s recent “30 is the new 20” theme, but 23-year-old Muguruza’s win feels very much like a passing-of-the-torch moment. She and new French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko are just part of the 25-and-under generation, led by hard-luck Simona Halep, that is taking over the game.
4. Bulletin: Two of our Big Four are missing
Nobody, but nobody, could have predicted that No. 1 Andy Murray and No. 4 Novak Djokovic might not even last for half the year as contenders for the US Open or No. 1 ranking. Djokovic’s mysterious suite of woes was compounded at Wimbledon by the elbow injury that forced him to retire during his quarterfinal clash with Tomas Berdych.
Murray’s hopes of ironing out his game with a successful defense of his Wimbledon final collapsed, partly because of a hip injury that may require surgery. But things started going sideways long before the physical injuries manifested, and that’s something no one expected.
The Australian Open renaissance that was heralded by the early success of Bernard Tomic (he made the Wimbledon quarterfinals at age 18) and the emergence of Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis has been a great big bust. Tomic disgraced himself — and incurred a $15,000 fine — when he admitted he was “bored” during his listless first-round loss to Mischa Zverev.
Kyrgios defaulted during his first match due to a hip injury. Among the nine Aussies in the Wimbledon main singles draws, the only one to win a match was Arina Rodionova (who lost in Round 2). For only the second time since 1938, no Australian men made the second round. It’s amazing, considering that players from the U.S. and Australia dominated at Wimbledon for most of the tournament’s history.
6. Different, and in a good way
There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about how the Wimbledon grass has evolved to play like the more ubiquitous but pedestrian hard court. That was a great sales job, warding off charges that grass is an irrelevant, outdated surface. But grass still really is different in many substantive ways, as demonstrated by the continuing, oversized role of the big serve (see Williams, Cilic, Vandeweghe, Querrey). Yet big servers still aren’t able to overcome the ultimate advantage that the nature of slippery, low-bouncing grass gives to players whose athleticism is superb. It’s why the Williams sisters and the Big Four have utterly dominated Wimbledon for a decade and a half.
7. The WTA race is on
It looks like women’s tennis fans are in for an incredible summer, with an unprecedented number of fresh-faced challengers vying to push aside old-guard players like Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Agnieszka Radwanska and others. But don’t forget just-deposed No. 1 Angelique Kerber. She had an excellent Wimbledon, culminating with a narrow loss to Muguruza in perhaps the best match of the tournament. Kerber loves the North American hard courts and still could end up back at No. 1.
8. The worse they are, the better they do
It’s ironic, but the success of U.S. players at Grand Slam events may be in inverse relation to their rankings. Jack Sock, the top U.S. man, and Madison Keys, the leading American WTA pro, both were knocked off early. Keys at least could blame her first-round loss on rust from recent injury problems. Sock had no solid rationalization for his second-round loss to Austria’s 21-year-old Sebastian Ofner, who had never played a main-draw Grand Slam match before the tournament and didn’t even begin to focus on tennis until he was 19.
No. 21 seed John Isner was sent packing in the second round by 5-foot-9 Dudi Sela, yet No. 24 seed Sam Querrey made a memorable run to the semifinals. And No. 31 Steve Johnson made the third round, as did No. 67 Jared Donaldson. Women who punched above their weight were quarterfinalist CoCo Vandeweghe and Alison Riske, Shelby Rogers and Madison Brengle. All exceeded expectations in reaching Round 3.
9. NBA comes to the ATP
After 6-foot-4 Marat Safin belted Pete Sampras off the court in the 2000 US Open final, many predicted that players of his size or bigger would dominate the men’s game. Thanks to Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Lleyton Hewitt and others, that proved to be a premature conclusion. But perhaps that time has now come. At 6-foot-6, Marin Cilic was the tallest finalist in Wimbledon history. Three of the four semifinalists were 6-foot-4 or better, as were eight of the 16 fourth-round competitors. Four of the most promising youngsters — Alexander Zverev, Karen Khachanov, Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka — also pass the height test.
10. Serena’s heirs
Five of the eight quarterfinalists in the girls’ junior event were from the U.S., including the top three seeds. It was an all-American final, with No. 3 seed Claire Liu, who had upset top seed Kayla Day, taking down Ann Li. In stark contrast, 17-year-old Patrick Kypson was the only U.S. male in the quarterfinals. He lost in the semifinals to the eventual champ, Spanish No. 8 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.