It was a tumultuous fortnight at the All-England Club. Top
seeds, many of them Hall-of-Fame caliber players, found themselves packing
their bags long before even the quarterfinals began. Rafael Nadal and his balky
knees exited in the first round (especially shocking considering he had just
won the French Open earlier in the month). We bid farewell to Roger Federer,
last year's champion, in only the second round. 2012's Ladies' Champion Serena
Williams didn't fare much better; she was eliminated in the fourth round. The
trio took with them 14 combined Wimbledon titles. Early on, it was clear that
this was a Wimbledon for the underdog, but we had to wait until the finals to
see the biggest upset of all.
Andy Murray, Britain's favorite (tennis) son, captured his
first Wimbledon title and second Grand Slam with a three-set sweep of number
one seeded Novak Djokovic. Sure, Murray was the number two seed. You might say
that a two seed beating a one seed isn't much of an upset, but, as millions of
ecstatic Britons could tell you, you'd be wrong.
You see, the Brits have been waiting for a British man to
win Wimbledon since the great Fred Perry did it in 1936. That 77-year wait is
one year longer than the wait between Halley's Comet appearances. In other
words, it's kind of a big deal.
Murray's three-set sweep is deceptive because his first
Wimbledon win definitely didn't come easy. Neither Murray nor Djokovic are
known for having a dominant serve, so the match featured plenty of long volleys
and a combined total of just 13 aces.
Despite all of the pressure annually heaped on Murray to win
Wimbledon, it was Djokovic who came slow out of the gate in the first set. He
committed 17 unforced errors to Murray's six, and managed only six winners to
Murray's 17. Murray immediately established the dominance of his serve and
volley game, winning 16 of 19 of his first serve points, including five of his
nine aces for the match.
The crowd held its collective breath after Murray took a seat,
having won the first set 6-4. Could this finally be Murray's year?
Djokovic is a fantastic tennis player, and he played like
the six-time Grand Slam winner that he is in the second set. Murray forced the
Djoker to come into the net over and over, and he responded by winning 12 of
his 16 net point opportunities. After five games, Djokovic was up 4-1. Murray
had won the first set against Djokovic and gone on to lose several matches in
the past. The assembled Brits, among them Prime Minister David Cameron and
Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, wondered whether they would go home
disappointed once again.
Murray roared back, winning six of the next seven games in a
stunning reversal that put him on top two sets to love. With both finalists
being masters of the return game, the second set featured many long points,
including a two-point series that took 58 combined shots to resolve (the
average point is over in less than 10 combined shots). Djokovic could not
overcome Murray's relentless precision on first serves: he got 73% of them in,
forcing the Djoker into awkward returns from which he couldn't recover.
Murray continued his strong play into the third set and soon
found himself just one point away from the victory that he and so many other
Britons had been waiting for, but the last point turned out to be the hardest,
and Djokovic showed he would not simply bow to history by almost breaking
Murray's serve three times on that decisive final point. At last, Murray
regained the advantage, and Djokovic returned Murray's final shot weakly into
Britain's underdog raised the Wimbledon trophy before a cheering
crowd, savoring a victory 77 years in the making.
On the women's side, the bracket was even more volatile.
Marion Bartoli, the number 15 seed and eventual champion, never faced an opponent
seeded higher than number 17 seeded Sloane Stephens (and didn't face a ranked
opponent at all until the quarterfinals) of the United States. Stephens missed
a golden opportunity for a breakout tournament, but she remains one of the US's
best hopes for future success. Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, and Caroline
Wozniacki (ranked 2, 3, and 9 in the
world, respectively) all bowed out in the second round, leaving the bracket
wide open early. German Sabine Lisicki was the real Cindarella of the women's
side, as she defeated Williams and four-seed Agnieszka Radwanska as a 23-seed.
Unfortunately, the clock struck twelve for her in the final as Bartoli
dominated her 6-1, 6-4 to win the Ladies' title.
It was definitely a Wimbledon to remember. Brits went home
happy, and we crowned ourselves two new champions. We will see if the greats like
Nadal and Federer can get it together by the next Grand Slam, but Murray is
definitely somebody to look out for.