Wimbledon Men’s Final and Serena Follow-up

The men’s final today was fantastic, for two sets at least.  Indeed, we were graced with another Wimbledon men’s final that captured much of the beauty and competitive history of that grand major championship (for instance, seeing past champions dressed to the nines, aging splendidly, is always a treat).  Despite the dramatics of the first two sets, however, the final outcome seemed almost certain by the seventh game of the first set.  Federer is serving at 4-2 to consolidate his break of serve and quickly and convincingly snatch the first set from, what would’ve been, a fairly stunned Djokovic.  The power and control of Roger’s semi-final victory over Murray was on display early in this first set.  Be that as it may, characteristically, the Serb immediately broke back in this seventh game to put the match back on serve; and that pretty much sealed the deal (even though Roger had two break points/set points later in this first set leading 6-5).

Having watched so much Federer tennis over the years (many years), one can see the body language, the more frequent unforced errors, etc., that have come to define the veteran Swiss’ game when he seems to realize he’s met his match. The likes of Djokovic and Nadal have posed these kinds of challenges to Federer over the years and one can see him begin to struggle in these situations.  It’s pretty definitive if you ask me.

Djokovic won a first set tie-break as a matter of fact and the second set went to tie-break, as well, which Roger won in dramatic fashion, 12-10.  The tennis was very high level, did not disappoint.  Pretty amazing tennis through two sets, the top two players in the world even at 1 set a piece; but, again, the die had been cast, so-to-speak, in that seventh game of the first set.  At nearly 34 years of age, he absolutely needed that first set in that particular way: an artistic 6-3, thank you very much, welcome to the celebration of my 8th Wimbledon title.  Tennis fans and historians could only dream of such a procession (funny to watch the camera pan the crowd following a Federer point in that first set – the sheer joy and anticipation of another jewel to rest on Roger Federer’s crown!).

This was instead yet another reminder of the current tennis era in which we live: Djokovic.  My disappointment at his loss at the French concerns the meaning (the possibilities) of this Djokovic era.  A Roland Garros win would have complimented the two 2015 majors he has now, naturally setting-up an historic U.S. Open for the calendar GS (not to mention he would have his career GS, entering that elite club).  I say this not because I am some kind of fanboy.  I say this as a long-time fan of the game, dating back to the late 70s.  Djokovic is one of the greats.  I already knew that.  Grabbing the French would have set-up a huge 2015, perhaps finishing the year with 11 majors; of course, he can still finish the year with 10!  This is his time.  Time to make a run, Nole!  He has a ton of game, enough juice to put this kind of historical pressure on the eyes of tennis.  I was a little harsh (disappointed) with the French outcome even though I am a big fan of Wawrinka.  Tennis is in a great place right now.  But, again, it’s the Djokovic era.

Today’s win got his train back on track.  It’s on to the hard courts, destination New York City!

One last note on his significance in the bigger picture.  If we do a little deductive reasoning, most would agree with my premise that Roger and Rafa are two of the greatest of all time.  Right?  Novak has proven his ability to secure several big wins against these huge tennis institutions.  He put a bullet in the Nadal campaign that was ready to destroy the record books.  He has had to overcome Roger on several occasions.  Of course there are other great players, but one can’t say he was dominated by a particular foe (as in the Roger/Rafa debate).  You logically follow my train of thought (yeah, same train).  Djokovic has made quite a statement against some all-time greats.  If Djokovic can threaten Nadal’s 14 majors, we have another interesting discussion of tennis greatness on our hands.

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So, my article on the Serena era got a little bit of attention, thank you primarily to my fellow former-Fedfan-now-Djokovic-curator Ru-an who published my article about Serena.  He has a great site resplendent with big-time tennis intelligence.  I’m so stoked to have met-up with this authority on the game.  We both seem interested in the idea that we all need to have better historical perspective while watching this great game.  In the case of that article, we’re both interested in a little insight on how she has completely decimated the WTA.  However you look at that tour, it’s a joke.  Please read the Ultimate Tennis Blog.

There were some great posts that responded favorably to my main point: why isn’t anyone wondering how a 33 year-old (turns 34 in September) is winning a Grand Slam?

As a culture, we are PRISONERS OF THE MOMENT.  This is disturbing.  We all do it.  In some cases, what is happening right now is indeed historical, unprecedented, etc.

However, we have also come to understand that this premature ejaculation, er, I mean grandiosity has later been met with shocking realizations that the athlete/phenomenon is a fraud or we have simply overestimated the whole ordeal.

My concern with Serena was first and foremost a reaction to listening to all of the “intelligent” talking heads shower GOAT on Serena ad nauseam.  First of all, better look at the record books for some perspective on that.  Look at the numbers, look at the fields in which players played.  Get beyond the moment.  Come on.  This should be obvious stuff.  There are other great players; Serena definitely has no business bulldozing these other legacies with out some consideration.  There’s not enough evidence to suggest this foregone conclusion.

I read a few comments from people (a couple of interesting discussion boards actually) that left me a bit disappointed in the apparent tennis audience.  Naturally, there was the racism response: I am racist. Red herring, ad hominem, etc.  That’s weak.  I mentioned in the article that I’m a fan of Venus; she’s a major class act.  Watching on occasion Arthur Ashe’s beatdown of Conners at Wimbledon 1975 brings tears to my eyes. The race card here is the idiot card.

The next great move was the comparison to Federer.  If I am critical of Serena winning so extensively at the age of 34, why am I not critical too of Roger, threatening to win Wimbledon at the age of 34?  Hahahahahahahah.  You idiots.  He’s aspiring on his favorite surface.  He’s making a run at Wimbledon.  He’s won seven already.  Is it beyond one’s comprehension/imagination to conceive of a master of the game and that venue to make a run at said Championships at the age of 34?  There have been other maverick runs by great players. Comparing Roger to Serena is an embarrassment.

To the point, she’s undefeated in 2015.  She’s on the verge of winning the last five majors, including a calendar Grand Slam. There’s no comparison to Roger Federer here.

All I want is for people to acknowledge that she seems to be defying massively the process of age.  That’s all.

In the end, Serena is winning her matches. She is executing in a big way.  She is a champion without a doubt.

We’ll leave it at that.  I’m not watching the WTA anytime soon, but she owns it.  Good luck to her in New York and beyond.

Cheers to an unreal Wimbledon Championships; and here’s to a great summer of hard courts competition culminating in a Flushing Meadows tennis war for the ages.

14 comments

  1. Another great article Matt and thanks for the praise. I am glad to have met up with you too. I don’t know what your exposure level is right now, but I’d like to help you get more because you are a good writer. Much better than me! I’d post this post as a guest post too, but I will make a follow-up post to the final as I usually to with slams. I will post your link anyway or maybe make another guest post tomorrow(if you’d want that). I like that you are very much to the point, as in the game at 4-2 in the first set. That was indeed the moment that effectively turned things in Djokovic’s favor. Of course, there was still a long battle ahead after that, but that was a very decisive moment and congrats on picking that up.

    1. Thanks, Ru-an. I am more than happy to share and be exposed to your passionate and knowledgeable readership; that’s a great opportunity and I am very grateful that you’re willing to do that. You are a very good writer! So enough of the high praise of my writing; you are too kind and too modest. The richness of your articles and the ensuing discussion/comments speaks volumes of your quality. “Good” writing is pretty meaningless if people aren’t reading and responding.

      A link or a guest post tomorrow is fine. Either way, I am hugely appreciative.

  2. The fact that you failed to research the significant number of sportsmen and sportswomen who have achieved and are achieving at a very high level well into their late thirties and forties was very evident. You did not even seem to envisage in your thinking that we are not all born equal and some of us have unusal genetic gifts which permit some fortunate individuals to perform out of the norm. This translates not only to sports but to geniuses of the mind and voice as in Caruso and in the just passed Jon Vickers of Canada in vocal expertise. Before jumping to assertions of P.E.D’s, with respect to Serena,you could have been more intelligent and sober in your thinking. That’s why your quantum leap to P.E.D’s without one shred of evidence and unlike the official rumbles which followed someone like Lance Armstrong, smacked strongly of racism. Just do your homework on those folk born with extraordinary human strength gifting, go to the scientists who can scientifically explain to you and not behave as I repeat like a medieval ignoramus subscribing superstitious belief to what he cannot understand.

  3. “The fact that you failed to research the significant number of sportsmen and sportswomen who have achieved and are achieving at a very high level well into their late thirties and forties was very evident.”

    So much for your comment. Then you call me a racist. Ken, thanks for reading and attempting to add to the conversation, but this is a really weak effort.

    We live in a climate of PED use and abuse. This is well documented. Are you aware of this trend? Unfortunately, we have all been duped and lied to repeatedly by many many athletes and organizations and institutions. Sure there are athletes who are clean. Many. But the fact that we, as a culture, have been cheated by the prolific cases of PED use in sports has to make people wonder a bit.

    No one in the main stream media is questioning Serena’s historical achievements at the age of 34 (she turns 34 in September). She has been dominant through out her career, but this run here, where she will have won the last FIVE majors is with out precedent. This is due to her incredible genes? Could be. All I did is wonder why no one (NO ONE) is bringing-up how remarkable this is. It’s incredible.

    So, to come after (you might say you’re “defending” Serena Lol) a few people who do actually ask how is this happening at the end of an athlete’s career (unless she’s going to dominate into her late 30s and early 40s) is cheap and weak. Pretty easy for you to just point a finger and call me (or anyone else questioning her unprecedented athletic achievement at 34) a hater.

    And calling me a racist. As a sports enthusiast, I am anything but a racist. Do you know what irony is? You calling me racist is very ironic (for the sake of this discussion, Samantha Stosur, a white Australian, has been linked to PEDs big time – but she’s not winning 5-6 major championships in a row).

    Thanks for coming by, but if this all you got, just read and move-on.

  4. Nice piece, as usual.
    Two objections, though.

    1. Too much fangirling on Djokovic, IMHO
    If Williams is highly suspect (and indeed she is) the egg chamber rubberband.man is totally beyond suspicion?
    At least his close mates Cilic and Troicki are proven dopers (though one has to admit that both cases are utterly ridiculous compared to what’s most likey really going on behind the scenes). Djokovic publically defended them.

    2.All in all you seem to be maybe a bit too harsh on the WTA (compared to the ATP, following a pretty common pattern there).
    Also you are factually wrong. Williams is not undefeated in 2015. She lost to Petra Kvitova in the Madrid SF in straight sets. It’s indeed the only official match she lost this year as of yet (she lost two at the start of the year at the Hopman Cup)

    But there is a more intriguing pattern. Williams, indeed, rarely loses, she simply withdraws.
    Over the last 18 month or so she withdrew from virtually every major tournament except, of course, the four slams, the WIA finals and her home tournament in Miami. This pattern is also unprecedented by any reigning number one in WTA history, at least as far as I know.

    If you ask me there is no way in hell that Wiliams is clean.
    The patterns are simply too suspect and there have been far too many strange incidents over the years (anyone remember Wimbledon 2014?).
    I also don’t know of any other top player that – cynically blatant – plays with a medical patch on her wrist (as Williams did in the finals of Paris and Wimbledon).
    No one seems to give a f…
    The Connors-biographer Joel Drucker wrote a pretty critical piece on Williams in Stanford last year. It already has been deleted from the tennis.com archive, of course.

    And who in the world has any serious doubts about the doping culture in countries like the US, Spain, Russia and many others?
    In Rumania for instance junior coaches feed 16year old girls with steroids, get busted, the ITF confirms the case (as it happened first of April – ha! – this year), but still nobody gives a f…

    Because tennis is generally clean, of course.

    1. Good stuff, doom patrol. You got me, she’s 40-1. Ha ha. There probably is pretty prolific PED use. What bothers me the most is everyone drooling all over her greatness with out hesitation. She’s 34. She’s toward the end of her career. That’s not how the body works. Time is undefeated.

      I’m a big ATP fan. The WTA is unwatchable. That’s just me I guess.

      Thanks for reading.

      1. Since the WTA is unwatchable to you then you should have restricted your comments to what you watch. You clearly demonstrated your monumental ignorance of thwme WTA by putting your foot in your mouth to bring up Serena Williams. What evidence do you have to allude to P.E.D use by her. If you have followed the history and lives of the Williams sisters, you ought to realise that they are likely to be amongst the most honest and cleanest in the sport along the likes say of Usain Bolt. We are not all born physically equal, some of us like Usain Bolt, Serena Williams, LeBron James are born with superior athletic genes, just like Albert Einstein,Shakespeare, and Beethoven were born with superior genes which gifted them with their unique above average genius.

      1. To reiterate (which means repeat something I already said to you, for clarification – in the event you’re not sure what I mean): “Thanks for coming by, but if this all you got, just read and move-on.”

  5. One should neither be a fan of ATP nor WTA.
    Both are mainly corporations (one is doing quite well, but may face a bleak future – too many „lost generations“ in the ranks already; the other one seems utterly mismanaged).
    One should be a fan of the game, one of the most beautiful of all games. (I’m being boring, I know)
    That said,
    I find both Serena Williams and Sharapova totally unwatchable, loathsome – for various reasons. But watching Nadal really makes me sick and angry. Williams and Nadal – they turned the game into a farce.

    Bullies, cheaters, airheads.

    OTOH
    I watch an early round in Washington like Gasquet vs Muller and it is very, very good tennis. And you seldom get that on the WTA in early rounds. But never generalize, there’s A LOT of girls doing some soul searching on the courts, too (even on ITF-level)

    And then all of a sudden I have to read some stuff here like the emergence of the Aryan Nation is on the horizon…
    Stuff about genetic superiority and the above average genius that comes with it…
    And then there’s a list of GOATs like Shakespeare and Einstein and Walt Disney or whatever that, frankly, reeks a tiny bit of ignorance. Reminds me of Robert Musil’s infamous joke about „the race-horse wth genius“ (in a context that involved allusions to Suzanne Lenglen btw, let’s strictly talk tennis here).

    You do realize, dear Ken Seon, that „Macbeth“ for example was somehow co-written by some poor soul that never really made the top 10 called Thomas Middleton (it took a few hundred years to do him justice), and even Einstein had to discuss his shit with Henri Bergson (a quite merciless and vital opponent with a strong return)?
    Enough of that.

    Seriously,
    it takes a lot of collective effort to produce a top athlete. Even in tennis which actually is a pretty tough business for a junior – the drills and the drugs, the constant physical pain, the travelling, the enormous expenses, the uncertainty… and when you’re extremely lucky and you’ make the top 50 before turning 20, then you might know you’ll most likely be pretty fine . But until then? A tough road for the future geniuses.
    Elitist price money distribution is one of the main problems in the sport now. Everything else comes with it – the apparent doping culture, the match fixing (mainly a problem of the men’s game on ITF-level) and so on..

    Usain Bolt clean and honorable? Like the Jamaican Anti Doping Agency that resigned in 2013? Honestly?
    (at least Bolt used to be real fun to watch, I remember him DJing at some PR-Gig, being superfriendly to everybody and partying like there’s’ no tomorrow).
    But maybe Justin Gatlin is clean and honorable, too? At least he’s genetically superior, I suppose?

    About the Williams farce:
    If we had „evidence“ she’d already be in jail (metaphorically speaking, maybe even literally… that Odesnik guy got pretty lucky in Autralia…). But she is – as they say – too big to fail, anyway.
    Aren’t these comment sections all about saying things out in the open, i.e. „to speculate“, to discuss things? Otherwise it wouldn’t be fun at all to post here. The professional pundits have liabilities, therefore they have to use codewords („bulking up“, extremely fit“, „body image“ seems to be the latest fad).
    Jon Wertheim (otherwise pretty much a hack) gave a list of criteria what that may be a „suspect pattern“ in one of his „mail bag“ columns for SI last year. I think it is pretty accurate:
    1. „abrupt withdrawals or retirements or ill-explained absences and sudden reappearances“. Check.
    2. „physical feats we see with our own eyes“. Well, it’s all in the genes, like our eyesight and medical patches and viral illnesses and tumbling around on the court like having had one insuline shot too many. Insuline is indeed a „natural“ substance, who would deny that? (Double check)
    3. „affiliations to disreputable figures“. Hmmh, that’s harder. They’re all an honorable society, anyway. And Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian and the editorial staff of The Watchtower don’t do sports. Neither does Chip the doggie. But maybe at least the Miami Dolphins do ring a bell…
    Nothing to see here. „Serena has moved on. Must we?“ (Joel Drucker)

    1. You sound like a bright chap, however your particular genius seems to be misplaced. That happens you know, genius can also take you in the wrong direction both in thought and action- like AL Capone who went to crime.

  6. Doom Patrol, pardon my refusal to appreciate the WTA at this point in time. But it sounds like we agree on some of this “unwatchability.” I’m gonna have to say yay to your Nadal point, as well. If one watches tennis for its beauty, its balletic grace under pressure, then there are players who might not live up to that. Period. But we have to enjoy the diversity, as well. As much as I’m not a fan of Nadal’s style, he’s a tremendous competitor that we should appreciate on some level.

    Good stuff in your comments on doping. In the end, we’ve all been hoodwinked so often, how can the discussion offend people. That’s just a sign (being offended) of lack of intelligence and/or supreme bias.

    For the sake of Tennis (since they have and will continue to shower the younger Williams with bizarro worship), I hope “they” aren’t turned upside and caught off guard.

    Granted, people like Wertheim can’t really make such suggestions about athletes because it’s so toxic, will affect their relationship with players, employers, etc. That’s why such discussion should be welcomed at places like blogs and other “minor” media.

    I watched and enjoyed that Gasquet/Muller match, as well. Gasquet has a nice game, just not enough assassin in him.

    Go Jack Sock!

What say you?