Garbine Muguruza winning the women’s title was the story of Wimbledon.
Yes, I know Roger Federer added to his legacy as greatest men’s tennis player of all time with his 19th Grand Slam title (and eighth Wimbledon crowd) on Sunday. But come on, we all knew this was going to happen, especially after Manic Monday set his biggest threat packing and when the top two seeds were ousted in the quarterfinals. Any questions about how Federer would be affected by taking three months off and skipping the entire clay court season vanished as soon as he entered Center Court two weeks ago. And while he faced some tough competition late – Milos Raonic pushed hard in the third set in the quarters and Tomas Berdych played really well in the semis – there’s still no one better than Federer on the grass… and there probably never has been anyone better in tennis history.
But there was a lot of doubt on the women’s side as to who would hoist the trophy in London. You could make a case that anyone that made the second week had a shot at winning, which shows just how unpredictable the ladies’ tour is in its current state.
At the beginning of the event, there weren’t many people who picked Venus Williams and Muguruza as the women’s finalists. Venus is 37 years old, and it had been eight years since she had made a final at Wimbledon. She entered the tournament with a heavy heart, as she was involved in a car crash prior to the third Grand Slam that eventually left a passenger in another vehicle dead, although she did get cleared of any wrongdoing during the event. She nearly lost in the second round to a player outside of the top 50 in the world, and had a tough draw in the second week. Her remarkable and surprising career resurrection in 2017 has been somewhat overshadowed by the Roger Federer story, but it had been 14 years since she had made two Grand Slam finals in the same year, and although she is always a threat on the grass (five of her seven Slam titles are at Wimbledon), no one saw this run coming.
Muguruza’s title run was unpredictable due to the fact that she had played so poorly and been wildly inconsistent since she broke through last year by claiming the French Open title. She looked very uncomfortable on the clay at Roland Garros defending her crown this year, and lost in the first round at a warm-up tournament the week before Wimbledon. The talent has always been there, but it was a question of whether she would be able to string together enough quality wins to get back to the mountaintop at majors.
After the competitive first set on Saturday, Muguruza demonstrated why many think she could ultimately become the best player in the world, and sooner rather than later. She dominated Williams on her best surface in the second set, as Venus did not win a game and really didn’t get close in many of the six games of the quick set. Muguruza played great defense, blasted her powerful ground strokes, and showed a lot of touch around the net to emphatically finish off her second Grand Slam title.
The win vaulted her back into the top 5 – along with newly crowned #1 Karolina Pliskova, #2 Simona Halep, #3 Angelique Kerber (still have no idea how she’s ranked that high), and #4 Jo Konta. Out of those five players, Muguruza clearly has the best resume, and could easily claim the top spot with a strong hard court season. You would think that winning her second Slam would take all the pressure off of Garbine, as she has already lived through the expectations following a major title, and she will likely head into the U.S. Open as one of the favorites to snatch major number three.
A couple other stories at the third major were some surprising players stepping up their games on the biggest stage, and the unlikely duel for the top spot in men’s tennis that is looming as we move to the hard courts and the U.S. Open Series.
Although they didn’t win Wimbledon, there were several players that had outstanding tournaments. On the men’s side, Marin Cilic was spectacular in his run to the finals before a toe injury and a freak of nature halted him on Sunday. Cilic looked strong in the lead-up grass court events, and picked up his level of play in every round. He was pushed hard by Gilles Muller (who had an extraordinary tournament, beating Rafael Nadal in a classic in the fourth round then bouncing back for another great showing in the quarters) and Sam Querrey before the final. It was a shame that a toe injury hampered him on Sunday, especially when he broke down on a changeover in the second set. He clearly couldn’t perform at the level he needed to in the final, and the emotion and pain got to him at that moment. Hopefully he can overcome the frustrating end to his outstanding two weeks, because he could easily break into the top tier of men’s players, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Andy Murray (hip injury) and Novak Djokovic (elbow/shoulder injuries).
Querrey became the first male American player since Andy Roddick in 2009 to make a Grand Slam semifinal, and knocked off the #1 player in the world for the second straight Wimbledon. The fourth and fifth sets against Murray in the quarters were possibly the best two sets that Querrey has ever played, as the ball seemed to be moving in slow motion and the size of a beach ball when it came over his side of the net. He played well enough to make the finals, but just ran into a great performance by Cilic, but hopefully Querrey can build off of this terrific showing to finally jump inside the top 20 and become a legitimate threat at Grand Slams.
On the women’s side, Jo Konta proved that she is a legit top 5 player by not only making the semifinals but playing in two of the best matches of the tournament. Her second round match against Donna Vekic lasted over three hours, and was one of the highest-quality women’s matches I’ve seen in a long time. Both ladies hit a ton of winners and limited their errors, and the third set was full of drama and emotion, especially from the home crowd rooting for Konta. Konta then had to survive another tough three-setter in the round of 16 over Caroline Garcia before running into Halep in the quarters, which was another outstanding match. She may have ran out of steam in the semis against Williams, but the deep run gives British fans hope that they could witness a female hoisting their trophy in the near future.
Federer’s win, combined with the injury concerns surrounding Murray and Djokovic, set up both Fed and Nadal to duel for the #1 ranking in the late summer/fall. Both Murray and Djokovic hinted that they may need time off, and the point gap between first and fifth has shrunk rapidly due to both top players losing a ton of points from last year’s results. Federer was out for the season after Wimbledon last season, so he’ll gain ground just by entering tournaments from here on out, and Nadal is only a couple hundred points back of Murray, who went on a tear in the second half of 2016 to claim the top spot in the rankings. In a year where every major event on the men’s side has been won by either Federer or Nadal, it would be fitting if the #1 ranking was determined by another huge duel between the best two players of the current era of tennis.
Written by: Adam Belue (@albinomamba44)