WIMBLEDON, England – The Report Card hands out grades for the week in tennis. Here’s our review of Wimbledon.
Andy Murray: A-plus. “Seventy-seven years of expectation. Seventy-seven years of close calls. Seventy-seven years … of pain,” Boris Becker said during the BBC’s opening montage to the men’s final on Sunday. But on July 7 (that would be 7/7), in his seventh Grand Slam final, Murray snapped a 77-year drought for British men at Wimbledon by using seven service breaks to stop Novak Djokovic, a man born seven days after him, from capturing his seventh major title. Let’s just say the stars (sevens?) were aligned. Not even the tennis gods could bear to hear about that Fred Perry stat for another year. (Oh, and Murray played some fine tennis, too.)
Marion Bartoli: A-plus. The 28-year-old Frenchwoman entered Wimbledon having failed to get past the quarterfinals of any tournament this year. But she rolled through a favorable draw without dropping a set to win her first Grand Slam title. She has exemplified perseverance in the face of doubts. During her 13-year career, Bartoli has been called a whack job because of her unorthodox training methods and tic-laden style. She has been and always will be the outsider. Except now, she’s also part of the exclusive club of major winners — a refreshing development for a sport that could always use a dash of different.
Bob and Mike Bryan: A-plus. At 35, the brothers are still dominating the men’s doubles game. With their Wimbledon title, they are the first team to be reigning champions at all four Slams and the Olympics. The twins won their 15th major title and extended their winning streak to 24 matches. When the U.S. Open rolls around, they can become the first team in the Open era to complete the calendar Grand Slam.
Sabine Lisicki: A-minus. She charmed the British crowd with her smile and knocked off Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska to make her first Slam final. However, her mid-match tears on Saturday, caused by nerves, wasn’t the best visual for the women’s game, especially when she spent the entire week giving off a refreshing air of confidence and swagger. The 23-year-old German will get another shot at the title here; she just needs the experience.
Novak Djokovic: B-plus. Credit Djokovic for his never-give-up fight that helped him overcome Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinal — the best match of the men’s tournament and the longest semifinal in Wimbledon history. But the four-hour, 43-minute match seemed to leave Djokovic with less than a full tank for the final. Not to take anything away from Murray, but Djokovic was flat in the final.
Juan Martin del Potro: A. Dealing with a knee injury and facing one of the fiercest competitors in the game, the Argentine brought out his full arsenal to fire forehand after forehand that left the Centre Court crowd gasping for air during his semifinal against Djokovic. We thought he was finally back to his top form last year when he beat Federer twice in the fall, but he lost in the third round of the Australian Open. Then we thought he was back when he beat Djokovic and Murray to make the final at Indian Wells in March, but he struggled leading into the French Open and withdrew from the clay-court major with a respiratory virus. So do we think he’s back now? We’ll wait and see.
Polish tennis: A. From Radwanska’s crafty style to Jerzy Janowicz’s lightning-bolt serve, Poland put two players into the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the first time. And that gave Sports Illustrated‘s S.L. Price a reason to write this great piece on tennis, nationality and patriotism.
Kirsten Flipkens: B-plus. From being unable to get into qualifying last year to making the semifinals this year, the bespectacled Belgian was one of the feel-good stories of the tournament. It’s a shame that nerves overwhelmed her in the semifinals. A knee injury didn’t help things, either, but her win over Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals was one to remember.
Montages: B. I wasn’t able to tune into ESPN’s coverage from London; I followed the BBC most of the time. But based on what I’ve viewed online, what the BBC brought in quantity (did it really just make a black-and-white trailer casting Djokovic in Man of Steel?), ESPN surpassed in quality. Montages can be cheap, overwrought, unnecessarily overdramatic pieces of visual drivel. But from what I’ve seen, ESPN got it right.
British pundits’ casual sexism: F. During her semifinal match against Lisicki, Radwanska, who already had her legs taped up, asked the umpire to get her some ice bags for her legs. “I was going to say something sexist, but I’ll keep that buttoned up,” BBC commentator Simon Reed said. Two days later, another BBC commentator, John Inverdale, described Bartoli as “not a looker.” That same week, Annabel Croft, who was working for the All England Club’s Live @ Wimbledon broadcast, apologized for critical remarks about Williams’ body during a corporate event. The manner in which women’s tennis is covered in Britain always makes me uncomfortable — after all, this is the tournament that has admitted to making Show Court assignments based in part on looks — but this year was particularly shocking.
The All England Club dress code: D. So Roger Federer can’t wear orange-soled sneakers but the likes of Williams, Maria Sharapova and Alize Cornet can get away with bright-colored tennis shorts? How about some consistency, guys?
Andy Murray’s roof tantrum: A. Murray lost it after tournament referee Andrew Jarrett informed him that the roof would be closed during his semifinal against Janowicz because of oncoming darkness. “This is an outdoor tournament! I don’t understand these rules!” You tell them, Andy.
WTA Big Three of Williams, Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka: D. Remember them? They were at this tournament, right? Azarenka succumbed to bad luck when a nasty fall in the first round led to her withdrawal before the second round. But Williams’ and Sharapova’s exits were shocking. Sharapova was eliminated in the second round by 131st-ranked Michelle Larcher de Brito, and Williams followed her out two rounds later with a surprisingly poor performance against Lisicki. Blowing a 3-0 third-set lead at Wimbledon? That’s just not supposed to happen to Williams.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal: D. So much for the seeding issue and their highly anticipated potential quarterfinal matchup. Both were gone by Day 3, with Nadal suffering his first loss in the opening round of a major and Federer falling in the second round of a Slam for the first time.
The giant killers: B. Major upsets are great, but they lose some sting if the underdog can’t back it up. Steve Darcis knocks off Nadal, but then withdraws with a shoulder injury. Sergiy Stakhovsky snaps Federer’s streak of 36 Slam quarterfinals, but then loses the next round to Jurgen Melzer. Larcher de Brito topples Sharapova, but then loses to 104th-ranked Karin Knapp in her next match. Lisicki, on the other hand, was able to sustain her party-crashing form into the final. Her story got traction, fans became invested and the tournament benefited.
Wacky Wednesday: A. The first Wednesday of Wimbledon was one for the books. The day started with many thinking Darcis’ withdrawal was going to be the big headline item, but as the minutes ticked by, the stories got bigger and bigger and bigger until it culminated in Federer’s loss. In between, Azarenka withdrew, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga retired and Sharapova lost. All told on Day 3, seven players pulled out of Wimbledon and seven former No. 1s exited. Relive it all here:
Britain: A-plus. From the raucous crowd that packed Henman Hill in 100-plus-degree heat, to the deafening roars on Centre Court, this year’s British crowd was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. There was no cloud of dread this year, only positivity and optimism as the crowds cheered on Murray and Laura Robson. The London Olympics surely helped loosen everyone’s collars and created a unified sense of national pride, and it was on full display throughout the fortnight. It was good to see.
The women’s locker room: B-minus. With Williams and Sharapova exchanging some verbal volleys before the tournament, everyone — OK, maybe it was just the British tabloids — was focused on trying to paint the women’s locker room as one big catfight. Some players get along great; others may not be able to stand each other. So what? This isn’t a book club. It’s a locker room full of professional athletes competing for high stakes in the biggest women’s sport on the planet. No workplace is made up exclusively of shiny, happy people holding hands. Why should the women’s locker room be any different?
Team Djokovic: A. Novak’s mother, Dijana, got a lot of stick when she reportedly proclaimed, “The king is dead, long live the king” after Djokovic defeated Federer in the 2008 Australian Open semifinals en route to his first major title. In fact, it seemed the tennis establishment didn’t know what to do with the Djokovic clan, which was bold with both its words and fashion choices. I thought the criticism was overblown, so it’s worth pointing out that, after Sunday’s final, the cameras caught Dijana and Novak’s father, Srdjan, running up to Murray’s mother, Judy, to give her a hug and kiss. Class move.
Li Na: B-minus. How do you not call for a Hawk-Eye challenge on an ace out wide on set point in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon? How?
Laura Robson: B-plus. One thing you need to understand about British tennis: Outside of the grass-court season that culminates at Wimbledon, they really don’t care all that much about your results. What you do on home soil is most important. So when the 19-year-old became the first British woman to reach the fourth round since Sam Smith in 1998, it mattered. No British woman has won the Wimbledon singles title in 36 years. No pressure, Robbo.
Controlled chaos: A-plus. After all the dust on the baseline settled, the 127th Wimbledon Championships gave us two likable champions with great stories. Can’t ask for more than that.