Thursday, July 12, 2007

Wimbledon 2007: Most Memorable Matches

by MadProfessah

Now that Wimbledon 2007 is history, I want to follow in the footsteps of Mary Carillo and John McEnroe and provide a list of Mad Professah's Most Memorable Moments at Wimbledon 2007 (with apologies to On The Baseline news):

1. R Federer (1) def. R Nadal (2), 7-6(7) 4-6 7-6(3) 2-6 6-2, Final

Regardless of who won this match, history would be made in that something would have been done for the first time since 1980: Either Federer would be the first person since Bjorn Borg to win 5 consecutive Wimbledon titles or Nadal would be the first to win the French Open and Wimbledon double in the
same year.

This match is the most memorable of the tournament for me because of the closeness of the match with the stakes so high. In addition, both Federer and Nadal both played well, with Nadal arguably playing better in the first three sets but unfortunately losing two of the three in tiebreakers, mostly thanks to Federer's more effective serve (24 aces and 38 unreturnables).

It was clear to me (and probably most people who watched the match) that Nadal can win this tournament, that he does have the game which can defeat Federer on just about any surface and that he probably will defeat Federer at a Grand Slam other than Roland Garros, sooner rather than later.

2. V Williams (23) def. M Sharapova (2) , 6-1 6-3, 4th Round

To me this was an even more memorable match than Venus' win over Marion Bartoli in the final for her fourth Wimbledon title a few days later, because just a few days before she had been staring defeat in the face at the hands of Akiko Morigami when the Japanese player served for the match at 5-3 in the third set. By winning the last four games of that match, Venus was able to set up a rematch with the reigning U.S. Open champion and current World No. 2 who had beaten her in a heartbreakingly close match in Miami earlier this year. She made ample use of the opportunity, turning her game around and for the first time in the tournament (and possibly the year) she played a match with more winners than errors (22 to 14). Sharapova for the third time this year had absolutely no chance against a Williams sister. This time she only lost 6-3, 6-1. But by showing that she could easily dispatch Sharapova, Venus sent the signal that other high ranked players, No. 5 Svetlana Kuznetsova and No. 6 Ana Ivanovic and possibly even No. 1 Justine Henin would have fared no differently.

3. S Williams (7) def. D Hantuchova (10), 6-2 6-7(2) 6-2, 4th Round

The most dramatic moment of the tournament occurred during this unsurprising matchup between the hard-hitting Slovak Daniela Hantuchova and the most powerful female player on the planet after Serena was cruising along at 6-1, 5-5, 15-15 when suddenly she experienced a massive cramp in her left calf muscle which caused her to collapse to the ground.

Despite what Serena haters have been saying ("She faked the injury!" "She was over-dramatic! She used gamesmanship!") there's no question in my mind Serena was in extreme pain. It took incredible guts to play on despite very limited mobility and force a tiebreaker until the rains came down and granted a 2-hour reprieve which she could use to regroup. In the third set, despite injuring herself again (which no-one saw!) she was still able to overpower a rather good grasscourt opponent.

4. N Djokovic (4) def. M Baghdatis (10), 7-6(4) 7-6(9) 6-7(3) 4-6 7-5, Quarterfinal

To me this was the best men's match of the fortnight. A five-hour classic of high quality tennis from two extremely talented and emotive combatants. The 20-year-old Serbian phenom, the heir apparent to Federer and Nadal who is currently the third best player in the world versus the flashy Cypriot shotmaker who is two years older and has already been two Grand Slam semifinals and a Grand Slam final and is attempting to return to the top of the game after the emotional rollercoaster such early heady success landed him on.n In the end Baghdatis had more winners 74 to 58 but also more errors, 60 to 50, than Djokovic who had 17 breakpoints to Baghdatis' 8 but they both converted just 5 times. At 4-4 in the final set, the total number of points won was tied, but the Serbian ended up winning 7 more, and thus the match.

5. M Bartoli (18) def. J Henin (1), 1-6 7-5 6-1, Semifinal

The upset of the year, and possibly the decade. The completely unheralded French player, who is shunned by the French Tennis Federation and managed and coached by her father in a completely unorthodox manner, knocked out the World's No. 1 player, after previously beating the World's No. 3 player two rounds before--both times coming back from a set and break down! Bartoli plays with two hands on both sides and takes the ball early. She's also a tenacious fighter which compensates for her less than stellar fitness, although she is faster around the court than she looks thanks to heightened "ball awareness." Henin had been even-odds or better to win her first grass court championship, especially after the defending champion Mauresmo was dismissed in the 4th round, but Bartoli was a 100-to-1 shot. Absolutely no one thought that after Henin had won the first set easily at 6-1, and come back in the second set to lead 4-3 that she would lose the match but Bartoli won 10 of the last twelve games from that point. An incredible win and a devastating loss for the Belgian.
Honorable Mentions
Gasquet d. Roddick, 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(3), 8-6
Ivanovic d. Vaidisova, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5
Nadal d. Soderling, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(9), 4-6, 7-5
Ferrero d. Blake, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(4)


sher said...

Look, you don't have to hate Serena to see that she was overdramatic and used her injury to shake up her opponent. For example, I like Roger Federer but I can't stand his latest (preening) costume on court. Neither makes me a hater of either player.

Karen said...

Hi Craig,

Just thought I would post an answer to a question that I sent in to on the whole Althea Gibson issue. Cannot recall which of the topics the Althea Gibson post was but thought you might be interested in the question and answer:

Jon, I am sure that you have been bombarded with a lot of questions about this, and if not, then it must be an oversight on every tennis analyst's part, but what do you think of the fact that the AELTC neglected to even mention or honour Althea Gibson on the 50th Anniversary of her historic win at Wimbledon?
-- Karen Williams, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

• It wasn't just the stuffed shirts at the club and the boors in the media. Note this give-and-take from after the women's final:

Q. As the tournament progressed and you advanced through the draw, did you give much thought to the 50th anniversary of Althea Gibson?

Venus Williams: No, I actually did not realize that. So, no, I didn't.

Shame, I suppose, on all of us.

Craig Hickman said...

Sometimes Venus says she doens't know about things and I'm not so sure I believe her. Or let's just say I don't want to believe her. But perhaps she's just that much of an airhead about certain things (gotta love those Geminis, no?).

Given that Serena is trying to produce a biopic on Althea, I'd have to imagine someone in the family knew of the milestone. But perhaps it wasn't discussed among the sisters.

Had Serena won, I'm sure she would have made mention of it (or, again, that's what I'm choosing to believe anyway), so....

But here's the thing: Had Wimbledon made mention of it or honored it sometime during the forthnight, Venus surely would have known. I like Jon. But he still side-stepped your question.