So, I have now had a week to absorb and then analyse my thoughts after a hectic two weeks at SW19.
It has been a huge turn around for Novak Djokovic. I just can’t get it out of my head that after his loss to Marco Cecchinato in Paris he basically said he wasn’t sure he would play Wimbledon. That is some knee-jerk kinda sulk. The Serb was runner-up at Queens Club and then went onto to tear it up at Wimbledon. After breezing through against Tennys Sandgren and Horacio Zeballos in the first two rounds, he found Kyle Edmund his first real test. Having dropped the opening set against the Brit he made his move at the end of the second set and switched the balance in his favour. It was a sign of things to come. He impressively hammered Karen Khachnaov in the last 16 and then came through a few sticky moments against Kei Nishikori in the quarters. Nishikori proved he can get results on grass this time though, especially when beating a below-par Kyrgios.
From there, Nole went from strength to strength, by winning a semi against Rafa that was obviously worthy of any final. 10/8 in the fifth, the Spaniard possibly just running out of steam and feeling the effects of the long clay court swing. Starting on the Friday and finishing on the Saturday this was surprisingly played under the roof both days. Djoko stepped it up again here though with some fantastic shot making, especially late on in the key moments. Nadal can be happy with his efforts, having beat what was put in front of him comfortably in his first four rounds. Del Potro, as he usually does threw a spanner in the works to one of the big boys. Though he didn’t beat Nadal in the quarters, he led by two sets to one and softened his opponent up for Nole. Still, think Delpo can go further than his best appearance here (semi-finals in 2013).
Elsewhere in the bottom half Sascha Zverev once again paid the price for playing too many sets of tennis, probably spilling over from Paris if i’m being honest. Ernests Gulbis sorted him out, rolling back the years after getting through qualies, he went on to nearly take out Nishikori in the fourth round but injury prevented that. Other players with less grass-court pedigree, such as Thiem and Goffin both went in the first round to Marcos Baghdatis and Matty Ebden respectively.
In the top half, tournament favourite Roger Federer was on cruise control on Centre Court through his first four matches. The change to Court One obviously affected him, like it did with a few. It certainly always seemed to be windier than on Centre and I think the conditions were playing very differently. Big Kevin Anderson had all the answers from two sets and match point down though. Superb from the South African, who in winning obviously out served the Fed-Express but by the end was also looking comfortable in the longer rallies against him.
There was an early defeat for Borna Coric, who had beaten Federer in Stuttgart. Once again he failed to replicate his form over five sets, Daniil Medvedev needing just three to finish him off. Grigor Dimitrov’s woeful run continued. Admittedly this was a stinking draw against Stan Wawrinka in the opener but it was another poor performance. Stan went out next round to Thomas Fabbiano in straights. Sam Querrey lost out to Gael Monfils, who like Nishikori proved that when he puts his mind to it he can play on grass. He did prove this in is his junior days but hasn’t been great since on the green stuff. There was also major disappointment for Marin Cilic, who was much fancied by a fair few (myself included) after his victory in West London at Queens Club. Guido Pella came back from two sets to upset the fifth seed. Gutsy effort from the Argentine and I’m still not sure how he has taken Cilic on this surface. Fair play.
Isner and Raonic made full use of their weapons as they made it through to a last 8 showdown. Isner had looked impressive particularly when seeing of Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round. He also had too much for the Canadian who always seems to feel physically less than one hundred percent. It must be immensely frustrating for him but sadly it is becoming the norm, it was his thigh here. Isner had served out of his nut all tournament and it was a straight shootout against Anderson in the semis.
What we witnessed in the semi, was unbelievable, even though perhaps not all that surprising. With the courts playing so quick this year there was always the danger of Isner having a crack at re-writing the history books again! The 26/24 scoreline in favour of the South African, was for me, compelling. There was so much at stake and they were two players that deserved a crack at Nole/ Rafa in the final. The problem for Anderson was that it was just under eleven hours in the last couple of rounds. People don’t even menion the three and half hours against Monfils in the last 16, not worth mentioning I spose. Having said that, both players were going to suffer in the final, whoever made it through. It was natural.
The experts all said that they expected Anderson to loosen up by the third against Djokovic and that is pretty much what happened. Through no real fault of his own he was trailing 2/6 2/6 and though he had set points in the third on Nole’s serve, you knew the Serb was going to run out a winner and a deserved one at that. Djokovic is currently favourite for the US Open as a result. Nole is back and as a pal said, it’s good for tennis to have him in the mix again!
Karolina Pliskova was the only top ten seed left by the last 16 in the Ladies and she hadn’t looked in the best of form. Harriet Dart had taken her the distance and Mihaela Buzarnescu was playing some top stuff against her, but then lost from a set and break. The Romanian blowing up late on the second and never regaining it. Halep, Wozniacki, Muguruza, Svitolina, Stephens, Garcia, Petra Kvitova, Venus and Madison Keys all going out early. Svitolina, Stephens, Garcia and Kvitova all in the opening round, Muguruza and Wozniacki both got outplayed by Alison Van Uytvanck and Ekaterina Makarova respectively. Wozniacki probably has one eye on the U.S Open, where she has a much superior record. Ironically, I seem to remember Makarova beat her last year when I was in New York to my surprise. Halep made it through to the third round and then threw away a seemingly unassailable lead in the decider against Su-Wei Hsieh. Venus lost to Kiki Bertens who finally adapted to grass, even though not conventional at times. Keys admitted to getting caught up thinking about a fourth-round showdown with Serena in her defeat to Evgeniya Rodina. Far too many errors from Madison.
It left us with a top half of Dominika Cibulkova, Jelena Ostapenko (12), Daria Kasatkina (14) and Angie Kerber (11). The bottom half consisted of Kiki Bertens (20), Julia Goerges (13), Serena Williams(25) and Camila Giorgi. The AELTC making the correct call to seed Serena even though I am sure Dom Cibulkova has something to say about that. Rena’s movement and form had been pretty much improving round by round. Kerber was making light work of the draw too with the exception of the struggle against Claire Liu. Beating Zvonareva, Osaka and Bencic in straights had set her up nicely. Rena and Angie were the clear front two in the field as we reached the business end.
Jelena Ostapenko was sneaking through, having looked pretty ordinary against Katy Dunne on Centre in the first round. She beat Cibulkova in the quarter’s, the Slovakian certainly looked like she was on a mission having not been seeded. She took out Jo Konta, who is now down to 48 in the latest rankings. There were a few people liking the Latvian’s chances as this went on, but I just couldn’t quite see it. The talented Aliaksandra Sasnovich (beat Kvitova) had caused her a lot of problems in the first set in the round of 16 as had Dunne. Kerber had a mouth-watering matchup with Daria Kasatkina with the winner taking on Ostapenko. The variation that Kasatkina has at her disposal makes her a joy to watch. A bit of inexperience cost her against Kerber who was looking in the mood for this. She is so solid and focused when she is on song. A tight straight sets was a big win for the German. Kasatkina just couldn’t get her nose in front in the second and was always playing catchup as a result. It sounds ‘classic’ I’m sure, but we are going to see a lot more of Kasatkina at the highets level like we have in Paris and London.
Julia Goerges was a player I fancied to go well in this third quarter of the draw and she ended up comfortably beating Kiki Bertens from a set down, to make her first semi-final at a Slam. I just thought with her serve and forehand she could go well and that proved to be the case. Bertens tired late on, playing in the doubles too may not have helped. Georges got what she deserved for sticking at this throughout the fortnight and for keeping her head against Strycova in the third. Winning the decider 10/8 having served for it several times. Serena had to up it once more against Camila Giorgi, having dropped her serve with just one slack game in the first set, she lost it. Giorgi was playing well and hitting plenty of winners herself but Serena tightened it up even more so from there on. Not dropping serve again in the match and increasing the consistency and power from the baseline. Immense!
We were all set for the final after two relatively straightforward victories in the semis for Kerber and Williams. Kerber beat Ostapenko 6/3 6/3 and Rena beat Julia Goerges 6/2 6/4. Kerber left the door slightly open at 5/1 but closed it out and Serena lost her serve at 6/2 *5/3. The only time in the match she dropped serve but then broke straight back to book her place in Saturdays Final. This was the same line-up as 2 years ago and both players were looking on a different level to everyone else.
Angie has to be given a lot of credit for stepping it up in the final, we know it wasn’t Renas best performance but Kerber played very well. I said in my preview that I thought Kerber would go deep but not quite all the way, I was wrong there. She has now won three of the four majors with only the French missing from her collection. This was one major achievement from Serena as well. How has she come back playing some of the tennis she did over the fortnight? Even more amazing considering all the complications. To come back to the level that she has shown in Paris and now here, is massively encouraging for the coming months. Could these two paths cross again in New York?
Andy Del Potro