Thoughts On Wimbledon 2017
Some words on Roger's 8th title, Garbine's first, the BBC's coverage and much more
By Stephen Higgins | 17 July 2017
A few weeks shy of 36, Roger Federer is accomplishing things that he couldn't manage in his (first) heyday. The Swiss rolled through Wimbledon 2017 without dropping a set, only the second time he's done that at a major (2007 Australian Open), and the first time on the lawns of SW19. He now holds the all-time men's singles record of 8 titles at Wimbledon, and extended his overall grand slam record to 19 slams.
As we so often say with Roger, the stats are ridiculous. He's now world no.3 with two grand slam titles this season along with trophies from Indian Wells, Miami and Halle. Depending on how results go, he may even reclaim the no.1 position BEFORE the US Open.
His final opponent Marin Cilic carried a foot injury into Sunday which no doubt affected the outcome. Despite that, I'd like to focus on one stat that I believe highlights how well the Swiss played. Federer's first serve percentage in the final was 76%, with an average speed of 110mph. This is a marked improvement on his recent appearances in major finals.
Federer's first serve percentage was considerably lower in the 2015 Wimbledon final (67%), 2015 US Open final (53%) and 2017 Australian Open final (62%). Remember that he lost the first two to Novak Djokovic and was taken to five sets by Rafael Nadal in the latter. The moral of the story for me is; if Roger lands 76% of his first serves in a final, Roger will most likely bring the trophy home afterwards.
Women's champion Garbiñe Muguruza is developing a nice record in grand slam finals with two victories from three played. Her second major is all the more impressive when you consider how difficult her season has been. The Spaniard failed to reach a final at any event before SW19 and crashed out early in Doha, Dubai, Stuttgart, Madrid and Eastbourne.
The 23-year-old's successful Saturday was likely forged from that tremendous fourth round bout with Angie Kerber, which she took 4-6 6-4 6-4. Against the world no.1, Muguruza finally found her range off the ground and in the forecourt. She maintained that formula through successive victories over Svetlana Kuznetsova, Magdalena Rybarikova, and Williams.
I get the feeling with Muguruza that there's a dominant, world no.1 inside her waiting to ignite. With two majors on her CV at a young age, and Serena off the grid for the foreseeable future, now's as good a time as any for the Spaniard to spark.
I really expected Marin Cilic to firmly challenge, if not overcome Federer in the men's final. Unfortunately, the Croatian was "blocked with the pain" of a blister on his left foot. What should have been a close encounter turned out to be a 6-3 6-1 6-4 procession for the great Swiss.
It must be dreadful for an elite athlete to discover an injury that hampers them on the biggest stage, it's no wonder the 2014 US Open champion broke down during a changeover. Watch out for a strong recovery from the Istanbul champion in the coming months as he sets foot on his favoured American hard courts.
The collapse of Venus Williams in that second set shocked me and everyone else who viewed it. The match rapidly descended from tight as a drum to blowout, with the second set lasting a mere 26 minutes. The five-time champion kept shtum about the reasons for her capitulation so I won't bother to speculate.
Yet, despite this painful loss in what may be her last Wimbledon singles final, Williams has had an exceptional 2017. It will be interesting to see how her seemingly ageless form holds up through the US Open Series.
Federer would be the natural favourite for the upcoming US Open based on his performances to date, but more so given the predicaments facing Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.
The Spaniard won't be too disappointed to lose that epic fourth round match to an inspired Gilles Muller. It ended one of his better runs in London over the past five years. We will have to see if he can also improve at Flushing Meadows, a place where he hasn't reached the quarter-final stage since winning it back in 2013.
Meanwhile, Murray and Djokovic look fragile as we head toward the last major of 2017. The world no.1 just visited Switzerland to have his hip examined. Murray was in considerable pain during his quarter-final loss to Sam Querrey and his participation in the US Open Series is in doubt.
Djokovic may also skip New York so that a longstanding elbow injury, which forced him to retire against Tomas Berdych in the last eight, can properly heal.
Magdalena Rybarikova's run to the last four is the high point of the 28-year-old's career to date. A fortnight ago, she had never previously made it past the third round of a major. The Slovakian has claimed four ITF titles in 2017 and is hovering around her career best ranking of 31. Can she continue this uptrend for the rest of the season?
Well done to Sam Querrey, who is the most successful American male (from a grand slam perspective) since Andy Roddick. The man from Las Vegas has moved up to world no.23 and could be a powerful force at Montreal, Cincinnati and New York.
Despite - or perhaps because of - the enormous hype thrust upon Jo Konta, the 25-year-old could not end Great Britain's 40-year wait for another Wimbledon women's singles champion. The real obstacle for Konta though was Venus Williams, who was devastating on semi-finals day. The new world no.4 is a pretty complete player with a strong psyche, and should bounce back in time for the last major of the year.
Simona Halep is one of my favourite players to watch when she's on song. The Romanian's spectacular movement, coupled with a superior backhand, has gotten her to the top of her sport. Well, almost. With her abundance of talent and athleticism, Halep should be a grand slam champion at this point and has made at least the quarters of nine majors now. It would be a travesty if the two-time French Open finalist ended her career without one of the sport's premier gongs.
In young guns news, Dominic Thiem and Sascha Zverev made the second week in Wimbledon, a career first for both of them. The Austrian, playing on his worst surface, was bettered by 2010 finalist and grass court veteran Tomas Berdych. Zverev also lost in five sets to a former finalist, the 20-year-old blocked by Milos Raonic in the fourth round.
French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko couldn't quite match that breakout performance at Roland Garros. However, in reaching the last eight, the Latvian achieved her second-best performance at a major and should retain that unshakeable confidence for a good while longer.
In just her second tournament back from pregnancy, Victoria Azarenka can be very proud of her run to the second week. Her eventual loss to Halep on the one hand displayed the Belarusian's inarguable ability and competitiveness, and on the other, a simple lack of tour matches. She will be in fine fettle by the time New York comes around I'll wager.
And a final broadcasting note...
As a long-time viewer of the Championships on BBC, I would like to see more women involved in the commentary of women's matches.
For this year's women's final, the Beeb outdid itself in the preview, providing us with the thoughts of Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Tracy Austin, Sam Smith and Annabel Croft. That's an astonishing group of pundits and I commend the organisation for putting them all together at once. However, when the match itself arrived, the commentary team consisted of Andrew Cotter, John McEnroe and Tracy Austin. Why have two men and only one woman analysing the women's final?
Couldn't Sam Smith, who's excellent in a number of roles on BT Sport, taken the lead role in the booth? As for McEnroe's role, I'd love to see that taken by Martina, Annabel, Lindsay Davenport, Kim Clijsters or Jo Durie. Also, if a man has to take on the main commentary role, surely someone like Chris Bradnam or Mark Petchey would be more suitable?
And finally, on a related note, please stop using John Inverdale for Wimbledon.