The grass may have slowed Wimbledon down, but the epics kept coming.
As with virtually any Wimbledon fortnight that I have known, there was a bit of rain to slow down the event. But, this year, the ‘new’ grass which was introduced in 2001 just seemed to make the bounce rather too regular. According to this June 18, 2008, Time Magazine article (or Boschendal’s Wine Blog), the new grass is 100% perennial rye (rather than a mix of 70% perennial and 30% creeping red fescue). If English sense of humour is dry, then Wimbledon’s is rye. And the court’s speed means baseliners are ruling the day. Of course, it is true that a decade ago, at times, it felt like the serve-and-volley (Sampras, Ivanisevic…) was too expeditious.
As slow and predictable as the grass may have been, the standout match — and another thrilling epic between the two men — was the amazing five-set men’s final between Roger Federer (#1) and Rafael Nadal (#2). Nadal jumped to a 2-0 set lead, which was erased by a combatant Federer to even up the match 2-2 with two consecutive serious tie-breaker sets. In the end, Nadal managed the momentum reversal, overcame 3 failed match point conversions in the fourth set, several rain delays, and eeked out a monumental 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (8-10), 9-7 win. Nadal won 209 points to Federer’s 204. Each had 13 breakpoint opportunities, with Nadal capitalizing on 4 of them to Federer’s one. While sending out 25 aces, Federer also committed 52 unforced errors (to 27 for Nadal). Therein lies the rub. Thus endeth Nadal’s Wimbledon drought and Federer’s magnificent run of 65 straight victories and 5 consecutive titles.
One of the other highlight finals of Wimbledon 2008 will surely be the wonderful men’s doubles, won by the Canadian doubles veteran, Dan Nestor with his partner Nenad Zimonjic (2nd seeds), overcoming Jonas Bjorkman and Kevin Ullyet (8th seeds) 7-6,6-7,6-3,6-3 (who earlier had dispatched the #1 seeded Bryan brothers in the semi-finals in a tight-as-can-be 7-6,5-7,7-6,7-6 victory). Nestor and Zimonjic pulled off the first set 14-12 in the first tie-break.
On the women’s side, the singles final came down, one more time, to the Williams sisters. [And, so too did the women's doubles title.] Venus (#7) toppled her younger sister Serena (#6) 7-5, 6-4 to take her fifth singles title. Venus’ draw wasn’t particularly difficult, but to her credit she never dropped a set. It was the 7th time the sisters have met in a Grand Slam Final, with Serena having won the grand majority ever since Venus’ 2001 win at Wimbledon, including Serena’s two championship wins in the last two sisterly confrontations at Wimbledon. In the women’s doubles, the 11th seeded Williams’ beat 16th seeded Lisa Raymond USA and Samantha Stosur AUS 6-2,6-2.
And in the other final featuring sibling rivalry (the Byran brothers), Bob Bryan and Samantha Stosur (loser in the women’s doubles) upset top-seeded twin brother Mike Bryan and Slovakia’s Katarina Srebotnik in the mixed doubles in straight sets 7-5, 6-4.
All England’s Tournament was another fine fortnight of famous fights– despite the grass.