Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Holding court with Greg Rusedski

July 5, 2010

Wimbledon 2010 has been a great Championships, the weather for the two weeks has been absolutely perfect. Sun and more sun, not a drop of rain, the first time since 1995. They should have built that 40 million pound roof sooner! There were a lot of question marks going into this Wimbledon Championships for Andy Murray but fortunately for him he had a dream draw and took advantage in the first week to play himself into form.

For me though, the match of the tournament and the first week was John Isner versus Nicolas Mahut. I asked the BBC to schedule me on a short match so I could watch the all important England vs Slovenia qualifying match for the knockout stage of the Football World Cup. They said “No problem, we’ll put you on the Isner/Mahut match, they only have one set to finish”. So off I went with a rookie tennis commentator by the name off Ronald MacIntosh to finish the match he had started the day before. I joked that the outcome would be 27/25 in the final set to Isner, 8 hours 30 minutes later, over two days; I had been part of tennis history. We broke all records; longest match, longest set, most games ever played, most aces, longest match ever commentated on etc etc. It finished 70/68 in the 5th set for John Isner. This is a record which will never be broken. So much for watching the football, England did go on to win 1-0 though.

The other story of the first week was how much Federer and Nadal were struggling, especially Federer but by the end of the week, they both seemed back to their best. On the women’s side, it was normal service pretty much, except for French Open Champion Francesca Schiavone losing in the first round. The second week and especially on the Monday, is when the real tournament started in the men’s and women’s draws. On the women’s side, Serena Williams played Maria Sharapova which to me, was the women’s match of the tournament. It was an epic first set, with both players having set points with Serena narrowly winning it 11-9 in the tie breaker. The quality and power hitting was exceptional. Serena went on to win the match 7-6, 6-4. It’s great to see two Wimbledon champions playing at their best; Sharapova will be back in the women’s top 5 playing on this form. The other interesting women’s encounter was Henin vs Clijsters which went 3 sets with neither playing their best tennis at the same time. Clijsters ended up winning in 3 sets.

On the men’s side, it was normal service for Federer, Nadal, Murray, Soderling and Djokovic. The major surprise of the day was Andy Roddick loosing to Yen-Hsun Lu from Taiwan. This is the first time that a Taiwanese player has been to a Grand Slam quarter-final, what an effort. He only created one break point in the match which ended up being match point; he went on to win 9-7 in the 5th set. Unfortunately for Andy Roddick I think that this year’s Wimbledon finals will have been his last chance to win the title. I hope I am wrong though because I know there are a lot of Roddick fans out there.

The big shock of the tournament came on Wednesday when Tomas Berdych beat Roger Federer. Tomas Berdych was my outside pick of the tournament even though I picked another Federer / Nadal final with Nadal going onto win it. Berdych played great and over powered Federer. Federer was too defensive and a bit slow but after the match we found out that he was struggling with a back and leg problem. Federer has dropped out of the Top 2 in the world for the first time in 8 years. These are worrying times for Federer but not entirely unexpected. Life changes when you are happily married with two children and have achieved everything in tennis. He is already the greatest tennis player in the history of the game. He has dominated the game in the last 5 years and we will never see the likes of him again. He is 28 years old and in tennis terms that is already getting on! What he has accomplished is super human and it is amazing that he has kept up his motivation and drive this long. I do not believe he will get back to number one again but I still believe that he has a few more majors left in him. With Nadal back to his best and Berdych, Soderling and Murray all playing well, it will only get tougher for him. We will know more about Roger when he gets to the US Open in a few months. Don’t write him off just yet but it will only get harder for him because players are really starting to believe they can beat him.

For the women, upsets kept happening and the semi-finals line up was Serena Williams vs Petra Kvitova and Vera Zvonareva vs Tsvetana Pironkova. Once this semi-final line up happened there was only going to be one winner and that was Serena Williams. Her serve and power were the key to her Wimbledon success; she served a record 89 aces which has never happened before at Wimbledon in the women’s game. There is no-one in the world who can stay with her when she is motivated, hungry and serves like this on hard court and grass. She will rule women’s tennis for a long time if she stays healthy.

The match of the tournament we were all waiting for was Murray vs Nadal in the semi-finals. A lot of people had picked Murray but you can never count out the world’s number one and 7 time Grand Slam champion. Nadal played his best tennis of the tournament and Murray was totally outplayed in the match. Murray will have to improve his serve and forehand, he will need to be more aggressive like when he reached the final of the Australian Open. I also believe he needs some extra advice from team Adidas (one of his sponsors.) Being part of the Adidas team should allow Andy access to Andre Agassi, Andy Murray’s idol growing up as a kid and also to Darren Cahill, he is considered the best coach in men’s tennis. In 2009 Federer was trying to employ Darren Cahill as his coach but Darren decided to stay with Team Adidas instead. Andy Murray is good enough to be the world’s number one and win majors but he needs extra help with the finer details to help him to win his first Grand Slam title.

Berdych backed up his win against Roger Federer to get to his first Wimbledon and Grand Slam final which is a tremendous effort but unfortunately for him he faced Rafael Nadal who was in unstoppable form. Nadal won his second Wimbledon title and 8th Grand Slam. With the way Nadal is playing, it is possible he could one day catch Federer’s 16 Grand Slam titles and go down in history as the world’s greatest ever player. He is younger than Roger Federer and having won his 8th Grand Slam he is on track. The key for Nadal to tie or beat Roger Federer’s record is to stay healthy. He has changed his schedule and he is playing less which is a key learning point from Roger Federer. He will be looking forward to trying to win the only Grand Slam that has eluded him, the US Open. If he does that this year, it will give him even more momentum and will be on his way to tie or surpass Federer’s record in the near future.

What an amazing Wimbledon Championships in 2010.

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