Wimbledon 2012 - Year of Records and Memories

09 Jul 2012 10:46:39

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For British fans, Wimbledon 2012 will long be remembered as the year that a British man for the first time since 1936 scaled the tennis heights to become (nearly), the Wimbledon Men’s Singles champion. For the whole Wimbledon fortnight, Andy Murray lived under the intense focus of the media and public microscope projecting on to him their ambitions to have a British Wimbledon champion. In this sense, he was no different from other British players in the recent past. Normally, playing in front of a home crowd is an advantage, but with this sort of pressure on Murray’s shoulders, it could have turned into an albatross – much depended on Murray’s own reaction to pressure. While the Wimbledon crowd was always going to be solidly pro-Murray, Roger Federer retainsed the kind of strong, loyal following given his long and positive associations with London SW19 to suggest that adoration was never going to be all in one direction.

Wimbledon Finals Day always attracts the great and the good. To be seen in the Royal Box this year were: The Duchess of Cambridge and her sister Pippa Middleton, Prime Minister David Cameron, the omni-present Cliff Richard, Sir Alex Ferguson, David and Victoria Beckham, Tim Rice, Sir Steve Redgrave, Alex Salmond, Boris Johnson, Rod Laver and Stan Smith. Laver had won the first of his two Grand Slams 50 years previously and Smith won one of the most exciting Men’s Finals ever forty years ago by beating Ilie Nastase in five sets. Laver and Smith were two who had clearly earned their positions in the Royal Box.

Federer came into the final having defeated his arch-rival and previous year’s winner Novak Djokovic in the semis – a four set victory that had clearly blooded Federer for the final, smarting from his absence from a Grand Slam final in two and half years. Murray had the less demanding but very worthy opponent of Frenchman, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semis whom he dispatched also in four sets. The aspirant young Scot in whom all British hopes and desires resided was to take on the graceful Swiss doyen of Wimbledon: a match-up made in heaven.

At the very beginning of the match strangely, all the nerves seemed to be with Federer. Starting slowly, he lost his first service game and although he soon broke back, he dropped another service game to concede the first set to Murray 6-4. In his three previous Grand Slam finals, Murray managed to take a set, so he must have felt the gods were at last with him. Fierce baseline rallies in which Murray showed superb concentration and determination bode well for the young Scot. Federer’s error count during the set was uncomfortably high. Federer soon rebounded, however, by taking the second set 7-5.

Early in the third set, play was stopped for half an hour due to rain and a decision was made to play under the roof, a decision that played to Federer’s advantage as the world’ s best indoor player. Key to Federer’s winning of the third set was his breaking of Murray’s serve in the 6th game which lasted 20 minutes with ten deuces. This was the turning point after which Federer never looked like releasing his grip on the match.

His display in the fourth and final set was majestic. His use of deftly placed sliced drop volleys wowed the crowd, but still Murray never gave up, running for everything as if his life depended on it. Murray finally succumbed 6-3 in the final set after a most exciting display of tennis on both sides.

This was a huge disappointment for Murray, but he disported himself well both during and after the match – his emotional speech afterwards revealing a side of the man very few knew existed. As much as Murray’s own disappointment at his defeat was the palpable reaction of the crowd whose hopes and dreams hade been invested in Murray. This did not in any way detract from the popular reaction to Federer’s victory, his seventh Men’s single’s title, equalling Sampras’ record. Sadness for Murray was tempered by a realisation that a youthful Murray would do it one day.

Federer is now World No. 1 again after a long period in which Nadal and Djokovic had both usurped his throne. In reaching this position again, he has set the record (in a fortnight during which several records have tumbled) of having been at the No. 1 position for 285 weeks. With his Wimbledon pay cheque, Federer also became the game’s biggest ever money winner, no doubt lending some happy smiles to Swiss bankers!

British Doubles Victory

To prove that success often arrives in pairs, the Men’s Doubles Finals featured a Briton in a final also for the first time since 1936. Jonathan Marray and his partner, the Dane, Frederick Neilsen won the final against Lindstedt and Tecau. The Anglo-Danish partnership had never played together and Marray, normally a player on the Challenger Tour barely qualified for Wimbledon this year. Marray’s plucky and unpretentious manner will clearly appeal to the British public. Although some will point to the role of good fortune, I am sure this is not the last we will have heard of Marray.

Other Records and Memories

Another Jubilee Year (the Silver Jubilee of 1977) was the last time a Briton won a Wimbledon title with Virginia Wade’s victory in the Ladies’ Singles Final against Betty Stove that year.

The women’s event while not having the same electric excitement as the Men’s this year, had its fair share of interest. Serena Williams came through to win the Singles Final after a long period of absence due to illness and injury which saw her form and ranking drop dramatically. She has clearly not lost her appetite for the Grand Slam events. Main hopeful Maria Sharapova exited the tournament early and Kim Clijsters competed in her last Wimbledon having graced the tournament over many years during a highly successful career. British hopeful, Heather Watson also distinguished herself, laying down a marker for future years.

With the Euro 2012 championships behind us and the Olympics ahead of us, this year’s Wimbledon proved another exciting feast of sport and provide am impressive showcase for British sport at its best – the premier tennis championships in the world. In a short while, we will all be back at Wimbledon again for the Olympic Tennis events – perhaps an opportunity for some interesting re-matches.

Looking at this year’s Wimbledon from a domestic tennis perspective, the fact that Andy Murray reached the Men’s Final and Jonathan Marray the Men’s Doubles Final, were the icing on the cake. The positive effects on British tennis should be significant.

Paul McElhinney July 2012

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