Words on Djokovic's determination, Rybakina's calm, Kyrgios, Jabeur and more

Centre Court at Wimbledon
Despite the player ban and notable absentees, Wimbledon 2022 was engrossing | Crosscourt View

Determined Djokovic

Given his disjointed season beforehand, and the likelihood that the 35-year-old would not be allowed to compete at the US Open due to vaccination rules, Wimbledon 2022 was the whole ball game for Djokovic.

The pressure was immense. Unfortunately for the men's field and in particular Jannik Sinner, Cam Norrie and Nick Kyrgios, the Serb excels under the severest strain.

Like a venus fly trap, Djokovic lured his latter opponents in by dropping sets early on. Then, when they started to develop rare hopes of an historic upset, he took control of the matches and dashed those dreams ruthlessly.

And despite the unique qualities of Nick Kyrgios, the outcome should never have been in doubt: Novak Djokovic has NEVER lost a grand slam final to a first-time finalist.

Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon
Novak Djokovic now holds the record for most grand slam final appearances with 32 | Crosscourt View

Djokovic ties Pete Sampras on seven Wimbledon titles and is only one behind Roger Federer at SW19. In the overall standings, the Serb is up to 21 majors, a notch behind Rafael Nadal. Extraordinary.

Elena's Elation

While it’s still shockingly hard to dislodge Djokovic and Nadal at majors, the women’s side continues to produce maiden grand slam champions. Elena Rybakina is the seventh first-time major winner since 2019 and the unfathomably calm Kazakh is a worthy Wimbledon champion.

The 23-year-old probably produced the most devastating performance of the tournament when, in a hail of aces and blistering ground strokes, she dispatched Simona Halep in the semis.

However, there’s more to Rybakina’s game than just blunt force.

In the final, Ons Jabeur tried to expose the Kazakh’s movement and feel by bringing her into the net but Rybakina coped admirably. Alongside the best serve on tour and those heavy strokes, Rybakina has decent touch and a superb temperament.

It’s nice to see her succeed here because Rybakina's progress was derailed by the pandemic. In early 2020, she reached four finals before everything stalled. Even this season has been troublesome with post-Covid issues and a foot problem.

But that's all in the rear mirror now as the Kazakh toasts a first singles major success for her adopted country.

The Kyrgios Conundrum

Much later than expected, we finally witnessed a proper Kyrgios grand slam run and it was predictably explosive.

Over the fortnight, the Australian’s supreme serving and magical gameplay was accompanied by a number of unseemly incidents and that Marmite contest with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The 27-year-old showed great resolve to come through against the Greek and Brandon Nakashima in four and five sets respectively. He also posted a creditable effort against Djokovic in the final before the usual demons surfaced.

When Nick was quiet and efficient, he won the first set and Sunday looked set to be a real contest. Then - as Djokovic’s level rose - the chuntering to the box started and things went awry.

Djokovic was and is a better player than Kyrgios, that’s clear. Without the nonsense though, Nick could be an even better player than he. Will we ever see that?

Ons-wards And Upwards

Ons Jabeur at Wimbledon
Ons Jabeur continues to set landmarks for Tunisians and Arab women | Crosscourt View

While it was an impressive performance from Rybakina, you couldn’t help but feel sadness for the remarkable Tunisian.

Jabeur's game, personality and story are inspirational and it would have been a lovely conclusion to the fortnight to see one magician succeed another as the Wimbledon women’s champion.

It was not to be though and Jabeur will probably look back on the second sets of both the semi-final and final as areas to potentially improve. The 27-year-old’s focus and level fluctuated in both matches. She got away with it against Tatjana Maria but it cost her in the final.

Given the season she’s having, I’m pretty confident that Jabeur will rebound nicely during the North American swing. She will be a strong contender at Flushing Meadows all going well.

Ranking Points Debacle

It is perfectly fair to debate the merits of Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from the tournament this year.

While it made a statement that those in the world of tennis are not beyond the reach of sanctions, it also punished players and weakened draws. As a spectator in the first week, you could clearly see how the absence of so many elite players diminished early round matches.

But the biggest mistake was the joint decision by the ATP and WTA to strip ranking points from the tournament in retaliation. This had no real impact on the status of the event and the burden fell entirely on the players.

We are now in a sad position where the women’s champion has not burst into the top 10 after victory but remains static at no.23 in the world. Djokovic, Kyrgios and Jabeur have actually dropped in the rankings and there’s no major jump for semifinalists like Halep, Maria and Cam Norrie.

What a shame.

Reset For Iga

All winning streaks come to an end and for Iga Swiatek it was match no.38.

While I was surprised that Alizé Cornet was the player to snap it, the Frenchwoman has amassed almost a century of top 10 wins in her career.

With that burden relieved, the world no.1 can move onto the North American swing with new purpose. For instance, the Pole has done little so far at the Canadian Open or Cincinnati, and she is yet to make a real mark at Flushing Meadows.

It will be fascinating to see whether Swiatek can pick up where she left off at Paris or if there will be a let down.

I’d bet on the former.

American Promise

Apart from the spectacular success of the Williams Sisters, the US has been able to celebrate major triumphs from Sloane Stephens and Sofia Kenin in recent years. On the men’s side however, you still have to go back to Andy Roddick’s US Open win in 2003 for the last one.

There may be hope on the horizon however.

While far from a certainty, the idea of Taylor Fritz as a major champion someday is not an outlandish concept. It was also an impressive tournament for Brandon Nakashima, who continues to develop into a highly consistent player.

Brandon Nakashima at Wimbledon
Brandon Nakashima has a rock solid game and excellent temperament | Crosscourt View

When you add in Reilly Opelka, Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul, Jenson Brooksby and Maxime Cressy, America has a number of top 50 players aged 25 or under to get excited about.

Positive Steps For BBC

While I have oft been frustrated with the BBC’s cheerleading of British players, there was a well judged and deserved send off for Sue Barker after 30 years as lead presenter. Replacing her will be a challenge but I hope another tennis person like Marcus Buckland, Sam Smyth or Anne Keothovang takes it.

After years of indifferent commentary, I was very happy to hear some fresh voices in the booth this year.

I was particularly impressed with Lleyton Hewitt, Jo Konta and the always solid Todd Woodbridge. Caroline Wozniacki and Feliciano Lopez are also positive additions who provide relevant and contemporary knowledge of the sport and its players.

Dump The Queue

The famous Wimbledon queue
For some it's a unique joy but I'm not a fan of the Wimbledon queue | Crosscourt View

This may be sacrilegious to some but having spent the first two days of the tournament in the famous queue, I think it’s time to discard it.

On the opening Monday, I received my queue card around 7.30am and I only hoped for a grounds pass rather than a show court. I did not get into the All England Club until 1.30pm.

As a tourist who has spent a fair amount of money on travel and accommodation, with a limited time in London, that’s just an enormous waste of time.

I think it’s too much to ask for visitors to come to a grand slam with no certainty of whether they’ll even have a ticket (bar success in the ballot or resale portal). Another major issue is that the time spent queuing saps your energy before a serve is even struck.

I know that Wimbledon prides itself on the concept that anyone can get a ticket on the day for the event. But in an era saturated with smartphones and tablets, a predominantly digital avenue for sales makes sense.

Just as Roland Garros do, Wimbledon could primarily sell tickets through their own portal, require proof of ID on entry, limit sales per person and prevent resale to touts. It makes such a difference traveling to Paris with the security of having a ticket beforehand.

I hope in future years that Wimbledon will consider changing the current system to move away from standing in a field for hours.

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