The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London played host to the Wimbledon, also known as the Championships, from the 3rd of July to the 16th of July, 2017. Still the only major to be played on grass, Wimbledon is regarded by many as the most prestigious of them all. Being the oldest tennis tournament in the world means that Wimbledon prides itself on its many traditions, be it the Royal Family box on the Centre Court or the all-white dress code.
The build up to the Championships had been lukewarm. Despite the reigning champion Andy Murray declaring himself fit to defend the title, ardent fans knew his hip injury would prove a thorn in the flesh of another title. Things were quite the opposite for former champion and crowd favourite, Roger Federer, who had opted out of the French open earlier to keep himself fit for the premier trophy. Having already won the Australian Open that year, a resurgent Federer was prised to lift his 8th Wimbledon title. Rafael Nadal was another favourite, having won his 10th Roland Garros title and reached the final of the Australian Open earlier that year. Rounding off the big 4, Novak Djokovic, the former World Number 1 could not be written off despite a lean year.
The absence of past champions Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova made the Women’s side of the draw more difficult to predict. World number 1, Angelique Kerber was a force to be reckoned with but the likes of Wozniacki, Halep and Muguruza were not far behind. At the age of 37, former Wimbledon champion and elder Williams sister, Venus was an outside chance to the title. Ironically, Britain’s hopes were pinned on the 26-year-old Johanna Konta, who until 2012 used to represent Australia in the tennis circuit. Only time would tell if she could repeat Virginia Wade’s feat 40 years ago.
Barring Stan Wawrinka’s stunning exit in the first round, the first 3 rounds proceeded without any major upsets. However, they were not short of some disappointing knockouts. A fourth round exit for Asia’s best, Kei Nishikori meant yet another disappointing grand slam campaign after the highs of the 2014 US Open final. Nick Krygios’ retirement in the first round and Jo Wilfred Tsonga’s heartbreaking 3rd round loss meant another case of potential not translating into results. There were also early exits for 3rd seeded Pliskova and 8th seeded Cibulkova.
As Wimbledon’s famous ‘manic Monday’ drew near, few could’ve predicted what was to come. For a change, the attention would be drawn away from the Centre Court. Court 1 would witness the longest match of the tournament between Rafael Nadal and Gilles Muller. Muller going two sets up would put Nadal under pressure but the King of Clay would fight back forcing the match into the final set. The underdog would, however, prove to be the party-pooper prevailing in a 28 game fifth set and sealing a remarkable upset in the 4 hours 48-minute marathon.
The World Number 1 in ladies tennis, Angelique Kerber’s Wimbledon had been a rough one so far, with the German struggling to beat her lower ranked opponents. It got worse when Spain’s Garbine Muguruza sent her packing in the round of 16, thus making her relinquish her number 1 ranking. Wozniacki was another victim of the manic Monday, being brushed aside in straight sets.
If one thought that the results in the round of 16 was shocking, the frantic quarterfinals would prove everyone wrong. If last year’s upset of Novak Djokovic wasn’t enough, the big-serving Sam Querrey would claim another big fish in the quarterfinals, this time Britain’s Andy Murray. His third consecutive 5th setter of the tournament, Querrey would use Murray’s injury to his advantage stunning a massive Centre Court crowd. Gilles Muller’s quest for another upset was seen off by a determined Marin Cilic and the evergreen Federer conquered Milos Raonic, the man who beat him in last year’s semi-final epic. Novak Djokovic’s body would fail him at the quarter-final stage, forcing him to retire, thus making it the most painful moment of the tournament.
Expected results in the women’s quarterfinals meant exciting draws in the final 4 of the tournament. Unseeded for the Championships, Slovakian Rybáriková’s journey thus far had been nothing short of a fairy-tale. Muguruza, however, treated her with no such respect, thrashing the 28-year-old in straight sets of 6-1, 6-1. The second semi-final would see Venus roll back the years in a pulsating semi-final, triumphing over Johanna Konta in straight sets and crushing the hopes of Great Britan.
On the men’s side, a resolute performance by Marin Cilic saw a weary Querrey being defeated in 4 sets, putting Cilic in his first Championships final and 2nd Grand Slam final. Cilic would face 7 time Wimbledon Champion Roger Federer in the search for his first title after the Swiss maestro had brushed past Tomas Berdych in straight sets.
The reinvention of past Wimbledon Champions, Venus and Roger, made the build up to the 2017 final feel more like that of 2007. Winding back the clock throughout the tournament, both strived to deliver one final time to complete the most remarkable of victories at the All England Club. Yet, Muguruza and Cilic were no pushovers and seemed to have plans of their own. Two years since she lost to Serena here, Muguruza was determined to not suffer the same fate with Serena’s elder sister. As he had done it once before in 2014 to win his only grand slam, Marin Cilic was confident that he could battle it out against Federer once again to claim the prestige trophy.
The female finalists were welcomed by a warm Centre Court crowd eagerly eyeing the final with the expectation of a potential classic. Both Venus and Muguruza started strong and held serve. Going toe to toe and serve to serve, the final was living up to its billing. The first set was poised at 5-4 to Venus and Muguruza had to defend. Things didn’t exactly fall Muguruza’s way and she was down at 15-40 with 2 match points to Williams. Attacking the forehand, Venus looked ready to seal the break and the set but Muguruza would not give in. Holding on for the longest rally of the match, Muguruza managed to not only save the point but also win the next 3. She let out a huge roar as she held the serve. The match was still poised at 5-5 but as Venus and the rest of the crowd would soon find out, the tides had turned. A frustrated Venus conceded a break in the next game leading to her losing the set 7-5. Muguruza was firmly in control and never for a moment did she look back. With her step fully on the pedal and a weary Venus at the other end, Muguruza fired an array of groundstrokes to which Venus had no answer. The lopsided second set lasted a mere 25 minutes and Muguruza was crowned Women’s Singles Champion for the year 2017.
While the age difference showed part in the ladies final, the crowd expected it to not be a factor in the case of the men’s. 35-year-old Roger Federer had played such exemplary tennis over the course of the past two weeks, displaying no signs of weakness, that even the most critical of people wouldn’t question his fitness levels. Stepping in to serve, Cilic knew that apart from Federer he had another opponent: The Centre Court crowd. Always behind their beloved tennis player, Cilic knew that he had to keep his emotions intact to see the battle through. The first break point would come Cilic’s way. An early break could be his chance to stamp authority. But Cilic lacked the one thing his opponent had in abundance: experience in big game finals. Keeping his calm, Federer avoided the break and seized the initiative immediately after. Another break later, he won the set 6-3 leading Cilic to hit the chair with his racket. He suspected, like many in the crowd, that it was over. But it wasn’t. Not at least until Federer broke him again till it was 3-0 in the second set. This time Cilic was as broken mentally as he was physical. Sobbing on his chair with his left foot damaged and his dream of a Wimbledon final victory all gone, Cilic contemplated whether or not to continue. Choosing the brave route, Cilic decided to fight it out. For once the crowd at the SW19 went up in cheers for Roger Federer’s opponent. Unfortunately for Cilic, unlike his medical team, Federer didn’t give him any special treatment. He carried on seamlessly as he had done all fortnight and at 40-30, 5-4 up in the third set, Federer dished out a second serve ace to claim his record 8th Wimbledon title. The big man went down in tears of joy, realising what it had meant to him. At the age of 35, Roger Federer had won a Grand Slam for the 19th time without dropping a set. The return of the king was complete and at the hallowed turf of SW19, Federer had surely secured the title of the Greatest of All Time.
There was good news for the British in the doubles category with Andy’s elder brother Jim Murray and Martina Hingis sealing the mixed doubles title. The Russian pair of Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova won the women’s doubles title by wiping out their opponents clean 6-0, 6-0. Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo prevailed in a classic 5 setter to seal the men’s doubles title. It turned out to be a Wimbledon to forget for the Indian contingent comprising of Rohan Bopanna, Sania Mirza and Leander Paes, all of whom who failed to impress over the course of the two-week long tournament.