Over five hours of tennis. Epic, grandiose, nail-biting to the end. Federer should really have won. He could perhaps even have won in three straight sets. But he didn’t. He probably let Djokovic off the hook. No disrespect to Djokovic. He’s a truly great player, but the majority of beautiful tennis, of excitement, thrills and variety came from Federer. Djokovic seemed quite flat at times. All the more credit to him for maintaining his focus but Federer had more chances. In their previous two finals at Wimbledon it felt inevitable that Novak would win. Not yesterday. That will make it hurt doubly for Federer. Next year he’ll be thirty-eight. Logic dictates that yesterday’s final was his last though with Federer logic is at times wasted. Some of the tennis he played yesterday defied logic. Sublime drop shots, exceptional half volleys at his toes, backhands winners down the line. The line is, he makes it looks easy. Which it isn’t. That is his genius. Djokovic, at times, doesn’t make it look easy. But his defence is the greatest in tennis history. That is his genius. You think he is in trouble, but he still comes away with the point. Federer’s game fits grass court tennis like a glove. Djokovic, at times, looks like a flailing octopus in comparison. Yet he won. Aesthetics win you fans but they don’t always win you tennis matches. Still I feel for Federer and felt very sad. Novak is thirty-two and will have more chances. Federer may not. But his tennis this year will stay with me for a long time. He was also part of the two greatest matches on the men’s side. The other being the semi -final against Nadal. Not quite an epic, but still four sets of thrills and spills by the men’s game’s two greatest rivals and greatest stars.
Finals often disappoint, in other sports too and this one started off quite subdued. But momentum gradually built, and it finished up the longest men’s final ever, if perhaps not quite as dramatic as in 1980 between Mcenroe and Bjorg, 2008 between Federer and Nadal and of course, Andy Murray vs. Novak in 2013.The women’s final, by comparison, lasted one hour and was fairly drab by comparison. The winner Simona Halep will receive the same amount of money as Djokovic for spending a fifth of the amount of time on court. Sometimes the quest for equality fails to deliver justice. Surely true equality would oblige the women to play the best of five sets too?
Another highlight was Andy Murray’s return to the doubles arena. Men’s and mixed with Serena Williams. It was tremendous seeing them play together and enjoying themselves too. Not that they weren’t competitive, but they were relaxed. A rare treat for them and the spectators. Murray, it seems, still has a part to play, which is wonderful, a player of true class. Serena Williams, like Federer, thirty-seven, impressively again made it to the singles final. Not that long ago she almost died during childbirth. She is an astonishing player and presence; a force of nature. Dan Evans, the English player who was banned for a year for using cocaine acquitted himself very well and is a very entertaining tennis player, with an old school game suited to the fast grass. His 5 - set loss to Sousa, the Portuguese – a far higher ranked player - was one of the matches of the tournament. Full of suspense and excitement. If he had won and he had chances, he would have met Nadal. What a thrill that would have been. He probably doesn’t have the weapons to trouble the big guns, but he plays with skill, adventure and enthusiasm and will hopefully have a successful year.
A couple of other points. In the sixties and early seventies, Australia was one of the dominant countries in tennis, both for men and women; Rod Laver, John Newcombe, Tony Roach, Ken Rosewall, Margaret Court and Yvonne Goolagong amongst others. In the eighties we had Pat Cash, in the nineties, Pat Rafter both sublime serve volleyers and grand slam champions and also Leighton Hewitt. Less flamboyant, more pragmatic, but a world number one. This year, granted, Ashleigh Barty won the ladies French Open, a fine achievement, but on the men’s side who do we have? Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios. Both have talent, Kyrgios, in particular, is spectacular at times, but their attitude of belligerence and disinterest and Kyrgios’ swearing and spitting on court – making his mate Andy Murray, almost saint-like in comparison – are tiresome and depressing. Still, it’s their life and it is only tennis, but the sport needs to maintain some dignity in a world currently so lacking and they have failed to respect that, unfortunately. But as Jean Renoir, the great French film Director, said, in his film, ‘The rules of the game’, “chacun a ses raisons”, i.e. “everyone has their reasons”. I’m not judging them but as a tennis fan it is my right to criticize.
Wimbledon, like Christmas come around once a year and disappears too quickly. A metaphor for life, I suppose. I miss it already.