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July 7, 2013 Article

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Between The Lines By Ray Bowers
 
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Amazing Wimbledon 2013
by Ray Bowers

Ray Bowers Photo
Ray Bowers

It was another magnificent Wimbledon, once again its annual expression of elegance and combat at the top levels of international sport. The weather was generally good -- cool and damp for the earlier going, then turning dry and warm toward the finish, ultimately hot. The difficult winds that had afflicted northern Europe during the grass tune-ups were absent. The crowds were superb.
 
Astonishing upsets of top players dominated attention. Of the 32 male players seeded and thus favored to reach the third round, 14 lost their places in losses to unseeded intruders during the first two rounds. That number had not been exceeded in any year since 2003. The female seeds were even less safe, as the female intruders this year numbered 17. Of the seven superstars generally viewed as the sport's high royalty (Djokovic, Federer, Murray, and Nadal among the men, Serena Williams, Azarenka, and Sharapova among the women), only two succeeded in reaching the quarter-finals. The effect was to wreck all pre-tournament predictions, including those given here.
 
But the two survivors among the royalty -- Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray -- went on to make a historic men's final. The same two had met in the finals at U.S. Open 2012 and Australian Open 2013. Their clash on final-round Sunday took place at the sport's highest level. Meanwhile Marion Bartoli provided a courageous new women's champion, defeating rising star Sabine Lisicki.
 
The grass courts held up reasonably well, the wear and tear no greater than usual and largely confined to the several feet behind the baselines. The damage brought some benefit as the worn area expanded, improving foot traction and decreasing what seemed an inordinate number of falls, several of which produced injuries. The footing was assuredly an important factor in the play, challenging players to maintain body control during stopping and changing direction. Officials will surely investigate whether the grass was more slippery this year and why.
 
As was expected and intended, the grass-court bounce, generally fast and low, usually helped the server and the player at net, encouraging aggressive play. Data from the last four rounds showed that the 2013 surface was similar to those of recent years in these characteristics and in contrasting with hard-court (Australian and U.S. Opens) and clay-court (Garros) data.
 
Aces per point played
Wimbledon 2013, 10.4%
Wimbledon 2006-2012 (avg), 10.1%
Australian and U.S. Opens 2006-2012 (avg), 7.6%
Garros, 2006-2013 (avg), 5.5%
 
Points won by servers
Wimbledon 2013, 66.5%
Wimbledon 2006-2012 (avg), 66.9%
Australian and U.S. Opens 2006-2012 (avg), 63.2%
Garros 2006-2013 (avg), 61.8%
 
FIRST WEEK
 
The early departures of Nadal, Sharapova, and Federer seemed almost inconceivable. Of these, the most improbable of all came on opening day.
 
Steve Darcis d. Rafael Nadal, 76 76 64
 
It seemed a comfortable tune-up for the great Nadal, 27, runner-up at five past Wimbledons, champion twice, and my choice to win the 2013 rendition. Rafa had skipped the grass events in the two weeks following his recent Garros triumph, resting the long-problematic knee. His opponent was Belgian veteran Steve Darcis, 29, officially ranked in the second hundred and showing just one match win in 2013 main-draw play. Steve had the odd distinction as tops among the pros in 2012 tiebreaker results, having won 20 of 22.
 
Rafa played moderately aggressively, often driving with good power close to the lines, sometimes finishing points at net. But at times he seemed to favor his bad leg, and though there were intermittent flashes of Rafa's best, mainly there seemed rustiness from lack of grass-court play -- a serious matter, as the Wimbledon grass was fresh, thick, and slippery this first day of tournament play. Most grievous were Rafa's unforced errors, some of them inexplicable, some coming at especially critical points.
 
But along with Rafa's mediocre play, the plot also depended on Rafa's opponent. Steve Darcis played incredibly well, with relentless force amid high risk-taking. Thus Steve was generally the more forceful player, forcing Rafa to defend against Steve's strong serves and first-strike rockets to the corners that often punished Rafa's softish serve-returns. For the full three sets Steve led in aces 13-6 and in other winners 40-18. There were, too, many brilliantly successful sorties to net by Steve, following his own serves or first-strikes.
 
Darcis took the first two sets in tiebreakers. The second tiebreaker was the more critical, as Rafa reached a set point in his own favor and might have equalized the match. But that opportunity quickly passed and, at eight points all, Rafa gifted away the set by contributing two dismal misses. Both errors came from seemingly unwise bids for quick winners. The first was a plop shot designed to bring Steve forward but which instead found the net, the second a blazing try for a first-strike winner that just missed the baseline.
 
Rafa thus departed for temporary exile. It seemed unlikely that his return to tour action would be prompt.
 
Rainfall had not yet interrupted the tournament's timetable, but continuing dampness aggravated the slippery footing and contributed to the growing list of injuries and upsets. Among those departing for one or both of these reasons were Isner, Cilic, Azarenka, Wozniacki, Tsonga, Ivanovic, and Hewitt. But most shocking of all were two outcomes on Wednesday, the third day, each knocking out one of the sport's megastars.
 
Michelle Larcher de Brito d. Maria Sharapova 63 64
 
Lisbon-born Michelle Larcher de Brito, 20, height 5-5, brought firm stroking and excellent body control in her court movement. Best known for her noise-making during play, rivaling Sharapova's, Michelle had not won a main-tour main-draw match in 2013. But she had just won three qualifying matches and then a three-setter in the main draw against Melanie Oudin.
 
Sharapova from the start struggled with her footing, three times falling, hurting her hip. Unable to plant safely in stopping, her footwork and stroking technique seemed especially awkward when stretched to a side. Michelle's serve was the softer but her second serve consistently landed deep in the service box, avoiding Maria's familiar. Throughout, the edge in mental strength had been Michelle's, as Maria seemed always unhappy with the footing, her own errors, the possible hip injury, and the message of the scoreboard.
 
Late-on, Maria seemed to have adjusted to the surface. Striking with full power Maria pressed hard to break serve and attempt to reach a second-set tiebreaker. But Michelle continued to deny Maria easy opportunities, now sometimes delivering some blistering power of her own, all with good depth and relatively few errors, obliging Maria to high-risk attacking from back court.
 
Some of the risks succeeded, but more often the result was an unforced error by Maria. Maria fought off four adverse match points, but the end came in a final unforced error by Maria.
 
Sergiy Stakhovsky d. Roger Federer, 67 76 75 76
 
It was serve-and-volley tennis of the old school. It was magnificent -- well-placed, forceful serves backed by fast movement forward by server, narrowing the margin of the returner, inviting a difficult and risky return -- hard, low, and to the sides. There was also eagerness to come forward at other times behind sliced or ripped deliveries deep and to the sides. Critical was the prowess of Sergiy Stakhovsky in serving, approaching, and volleying. On this day the tall Ukrainian commanded all these.
 
Overall, Sergiy won 61 of the 96 points where he was at net. In the critical late stages he came to net behind every first serve and many second serves. His opponent, Roger Federer, bid strongly to seize that final set, scoring 13 winners and only one unforced error. But Sergiy's tally testified to his determined and skillful attacking -- 21 winners vs. 5 unforced errors.
 
Roger's own mastery of net-attack had produced the first of his Wimbledon crowns, in 2003. On this day he responded, correctly, with heightened aggression of his own, winning 35 of 54 net approaches, a slightly higher winning percentage than Sergiy's. But Roger's arsenal also included superb countering ability against an opponent at net. Thus he executed many successful passes or rockets too severe for effective volleying. But Sergiy stayed with his attacking strategy and, moving well on the slippery turf, stretching indeed lunging for volleys, and remaining steady to the finish, Sergiy carried away the victory.
 
At age 27 and height 6-4, Sergiy's pre-tournament ranking had been #116, a decline from his career-best #31 three years earlier, showing only moderate success on grass. It had been an unforgettable day at Wimbledon.
 
MID-TOURNAMENT
 
Rains on Thursday and Friday set back the scheduling. On Saturday, Serena Williams swept her third match easily. Sabine Lisicki earned the right to meet Serena next, showing superb serving and good grass-court skills in defeating Sam Stosur in three sets. Sloane Stephens, Petra Kvitova, and Monica Puig all advanced on Saturday, each reversing deficits that existed when play was stopped the previous evening.
 
An interesting confrontation pitted the serving and stroking power of the teenaged American Madison Keys against the superb movement, accuracy, and court magic of Agnieszka Radwanska, world #4 and last year's Wimbledon runner-up. Things stayed even well into the third set. But then in a brief spell of misfortune Keys surrendered a serving game. After that, although Madison saved her next serving game with three spectacular aces, Agnieszka played with near-perfection, closing out the affair.
 
Sabine Lisicki d. Serena Williams, 62 16 64
 
The original draw had seemed favorable for Serena, but lurking in her own quarter was Sabine Lisicki, a powerful, streaky player with a strong history on grass. It became a tumultuous meeting of titans. Lisicki showed the excellent power serving and stroking seen throughout her career. For much of this day, she also moved and counter-punched extremely well, sometimes finding the lines with rockets that surprised Serena with their power and accuracy. The German star played with confidence, smiling occasionally, moving briskly between points. It was Serena Williams who seemed worried.
 
Midway in the first set it became evident that Lisicki's ground game was the equal of Serena's. When Serena then slipped behind, Serena's confidence in her big game vanished and the first set ended shortly. The second set was a different story, as Sabine slipped into error-making and Serena moved ahead nicely, playing firmly and in full control. Serena won the set, but toward the end the games and points again became hard-fought -- a portent, perhaps, that the challenger was again finding her magic. Still, Serena's continuing pressure early in the third set brought an early break of Sabine's serve.
 
There were several critical places in that final set where Serena had opportunities first to build on her lead, then to regain it when lost, and finally to stave off the final failure. But all these moments turned, one after another, in favor of Sabine, as it was Sabine who found her absolute best level, playing freely, reacting to the ball quickly, unafraid to deliver her full power. Serena's calm exterior surely masked inner determination, but it also seemed to translate into slowness of reaction and perhaps fear of error.
 
Probably the ultimate moment came with Sabine serving in game eight and behind in games 3-4. Sabine lost the first three points, falling behind Love-Forty. Any of the next three points would have given Serena the lead 5-3, serving. But Sabine saved all three points, two of them with severe rockets to deep court where Serena failed to react. When Sabine soon afterwards closed out the game, equalizing at 4-4 on the scoreboard, whatever emotional reserves and confidence still possessed by Serena had become badly worn.
 
From then on it was Sabine full of adrenaline, receiving serve with eyes fiercely alive, her body poised for movement. Still calm, Serena lost those final two games, dominated by Sabine's power and accuracy in serving and stroking. Serena had surrendered dominance to her opponent, her chances thereafter dependent on errors by Sabine.
 
With Serena's departure from the tournament, highest-seeded among the eight female survivors were Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na, scheduled to face one another in the quarter-finals next. Among the men, neither Djokovic nor Murray had yet lost a set, and both seemed on track to reach the final round. Standing in the way were the likes of big hitters Berdych and Janowicz.
 
QUARTER-FINALS
 
Until now, the several players who had carried out the tournament's big upsets had all faltered in the next round. Now it was Sabine Lisicki's turn to be tested, one day after her emotional win over Serena Williams. Her new opponent was unseeded Kaia Kanepi, a strong recent riser who had already knocked out Kerber and Robson. There were many well-contested points, Kanepi playing firmly. But Sabine produced the same strong play seen the previous day, dominating behind her first serve and breaking Kaia's serve four times in nine serving games.
 
Next, Sloane Stephens lost the first set to Marion Bartoli, then lost five of six serving games in her second set, three of them at love. Sloane showed excellent, easily generated power, and at times she delivered it aggressively to the sides with good results. But veteran Marion, showing some of her younger bounciness and lots of her past energy and determination, was the more relentless in applying pressure while holding down unforced errors.
 
Another impressive veteran was Kirsten Flipkens, who battled evenly with higher-seeded former champion Petra Kvitova. Kirsten answered well Petra's nasty left-handed serves and excelled in extended points, thereby receiving many unforced errors by Petra. Besides her solid baseline play, Kirsten also achieved an impressively high points-won percentage at net. The scoreboard reached score 4-4 in the third set, whereupon Kvitova gifted away a service game with a volleying error and Kirsten then closed out, maintaining her firm serving and stroking to the finish.
 
Agnieszka Radwanska d. Li Na 76 46 62
 
For most of the first set, dominance belonged to Li Na. The Chinese superstar relentlessly dealt blows deep and into the corners -- forceful backhands, heavy forehands with slight topspin, keeping her opponent on the defensive. Meanwhile Agnieszka Radwanska showed her remarkable consistency and accuracy, her superb court movement, her resolute defense and frequent creative brilliance. In the first-set tiebreaker, it was Na who, having reached set point in her favor, delivered a service ace that was wrongly ruled out. Na failed to challenge the bad call, and soon afterwards it was Agnieszka who captured the tiebreaker and the set.
 
Ahead by a service break midway in set two, Agnieszka, bothered by leg troubles. was unable to close matters, and Na won the last four games of the set. Over a short period rain interrupted play for the second time, Agnieszka obtained trainer attention to her leg, and the convertible roof was closed. It was a beneficial respite for the hard-pressed Agnieszka.
 
Refreshed, Agnieszka now moved ahead in the final set. The points and games were still hard-fought, incredibly so, the rallies intense. Agnieszka was now stepping up her own power nearly equal to Li's, both in answering Li's rockets and also in sometimes taking the initiative herself. Ahead by double-break, Agnieszka seven times held match point without converting. It was some of the finest tennis of the tournament. Finally, on her eighth opportunity, Agnieszka managed to close.
 
The men's quarters followed the next day, Wednesday. There was little suspense early on Centre Court, where Juan Martin del Potro seemed able to deliver his penetrating serves and ground strokes endlessly and without error, dominating most points from early on. His opponent, David Ferrer, renowned for his ability to defang the weapons of more powerful opponents, on this day could not summon the countermeasures needed. Juan Martin's badly jammed his left knee after slipping and falling on the backcourt grass. But no matter -- as long as Juan Martin avoided excessive errors, the match was his. David fought well but could simply not answer the heavy artillery of the man from Argentina.
 
Meanwhile a similar scenario was being tested outside. The artilleryman on Court One was Tomas Berdych, whose power game only slightly lacked the extremes of del Potro's. The receiver of Tomas's thunder was Novak Dkojovic, who was comparable to Ferrer in his movement and defensive art but was much stronger in his counter-battery weaponry. It was Tomas who yielded in the late moments of their first-set tiebreaker, and it was Novak whose ability to blunt Tomas's crushing first serves in important later stages finally ended the affair.
 
Yet another men's quarterfinal was settled in three sets. Jerzy Janowicz brought his extreme game in full array, smothering Polish counrtryman Lucasz Kubot with thirty service aces and a barrage of heavy ground strokes. Kubot's serve-and-volley tactics provided some exciting points and kept the scoreboard close, but Jerzy had the answer when needed throughout.
 
Andy Murray d. Fernando Verdasco , 46 36 61 64 75
 
The Scotsman was the strong favorite off comparative form of the last year or so. But the friendly gallery was mostly quiet for two sets as Andy Murray struggled to overcome the slashing left-handed serves and strokes of Fernando Verdasco. Late in the second set matters worsened for Andy, momentarily shaken by an ugly run of his own gross errors. Two sets for Fernando, who was still striking freely and aggressively.
 
Set three was Murray's, as Fernando's game lost some of its edge. It now seemed that Fernando's best chance was to win the forthcoming fourth set, before his own energy further weakened. Indeed, the first six games were intensely contested, Fernando achieving break point four times but never converting, then finally yielding the break in game seven with an abject error. The seventh game proved the critical one, Andy giving away little, Fernando finally cracking.
 
But Fernando's reserves were not yet exhausted. For much of the fifth set, Fernando was again serving brilliantly, frequently capturing point dominance, regularly bold in his relatively high-risk play. If Fernando was tiring it was probably unfelt, masked by high adrenaline flow. Mid-way in the set, Andy fell behind Love-Thirty, serving, plainly in trouble.
 
That was roughly the moment when Andy, buoyed by crowd support, finally found his best tennis. In saving that game and thereafter, Andy's forcing strokes and superior movement became dominating. In furious and extended exchanges, now it was Fernando who almost always made the final error. Andy won his last two serving games at Love. In between came the set's only break of serve, Fernando's still-spirited play no longer dominant.
 
SEMI-FINALS
 
Amid ideal temperature, the skies moderately threatening, Marion Bartoli showed her familiar habits -- the determined expressions between points, the high toss, the two-handed strokes from both sides, and, to lesser degree than before, the wild swinging away and kangaroo jumps between points, the running to her chair for changeovers. At age 28, Marion had seen her ranking decline from #7 in early 2012 to #15 now. She withdrawn from the tune-up at Eastbourne with ankle trouble and missed Birmingham with illness.
 
For Kirstin Flipkens, the strategy was to strike softly while varying spins, pace, and placement, making it problematic for the expected attacking of Marion. Marion indeed missed more often than she liked, especially at the start, but it soon became essentially target practice for Marion. Kirstin's feeding only raised Marion's energies, and the heavier hitting, more aggressive player from France swept through the first set easily. Kirstin's nightmare continued in the second set, indeed worsened as Marion was now at peak level, driving with full confidence, attacking net with good resolve, easily defeating Kirstin's bids at taking the initiative. Meanwhile Kirstin missed many shots, sometimes awkwardly, never able to get comfortable against this determined and forceful opponent. The match as one-sided as the score, 61 62.
 
Sabine Lisicki d. Agnieszka Radwanska, 64 26 97
 
The flow of the match was the same as in Sabine Lisicki's upset of Serena Williams earlier in the week. Again Sabine won the first set, then lost her edge and with it the second set, but then recovered from an early deficit in set three to claim the victory, producing her strongest tennis when things mattered most.
 
The serving and stroking power of Lisicki, age 23 at height 5-10, had been displayed all week along with Sabine's fine court mobility and court craft. As expected, Agnieszka Radwanska, 24 and 5-8, answered with all her countering skills, stepping up her own power more often than usual. The only service break of the first set came when Agniezka on successive points became victim of a bad bounce and then a net-cord deflection. Sabine soon afterwards closed out the set behind commanding first serves. But with Agnieszka now keeping her shots to the sides of Sabine's court with good pace and disguise, and with Sabine's performance far below her earlier level, Agnieszka took an early lead and ran out the second set comfortably.
 
The drama next heightened. Agnieszka broke early, Sabine then replied to reach three games all. Fighting to get ahead, Agnieszka demanded much of her heavily wrapped legs, which had narrowly held up against Li Na, having not only to answer her opponent's heavy strikes but also to rise from her own unusually low striking positions. Showing utter determination, the two players provided spectacular displays of power tennis combined with artful position play. Sabine was the server in the even-numbered games. In game ten, she needed only to hold serve to win the match, but Agnieszka denied that. In games twelve and fourteen, Sabine served successfully to stay in the match. But Agnieszka was gradually weakening amid the severity of the play. Finally in game sixteen, with Sabine once again serving to win, the determined German star firmly took the victory from her now-worn opponent.
 
Novak Djokovic d. Juan Martin Del Potro, 75 46 76 67 63
 
The tennis was as fierce as could have been imagined. The two men were so evenly matched that every point, every game, was critical. Juan Martin's injured knee was braced but otherwise both men seemed fit and at their best. Del Potro brought what seemed the easier power in serving and stroking. Meanwhile, with his size and reach he seemed to shrink the court on his side of the net. Both were often dazzling in their shot-making, answering one another with superb angled deliveries, both bringing power, control, and variety to the long exchanges that were endlessly thrilling to the gallery. It was competitive tennis at its absolute best in tactics and drama.
 
Evident throughout was Djokovic's defensive greatness -- his movement, controlled rallying, his countering and serve-returning abilities. Also glimpsed regularly were Novak's skill in ace-serving (he led in aces 22-4), and his ability at net, whether behind his own forcing approach shots or following drop-shots by either player. (Novak won 42 points at net, del Potro won 25).
 
The ebbs and flows were many amid countless closely contested games. Early in set two Juan Martin seemed in trouble, his knee requiring a medical visit. But quickly it was Novak who yielded the set's only break of serve. The tiebreaker ending the fourth set was even more riveting. Djokovic led, six points to four, with two match points in hand to end the contest. But Juan Martin saved both match pints in scorching, extended rallies, and he scored winners to end the next two points as well, thus sending matters to a fifth set. The cheering from the packed crowd was unrestrained.
 
The finish was just as thrilling. One of the most furious long rallies happened early in the eighth game, fifth set. Djokovic won that rally, and it left del Potro visibly winded, the score now against him 15-30, serving. Novak won the game soon afterwards, helped by his opponent's tiredness, and now he needed only to hold serve. Novak fell behind Love-Thirty after two close backhand misses. Moments later a blistering forehand by Juan Martin made it break point for the Argentine. But Novak recovered with good close-in play and finished off matters with a superb backhand winner, down the line to an open corner.
 
Surprisingly, as Juan Martin had seemed the more aggressive in the rallies, the player having both more winners (excluding aces) and more unforced errors was Novak.
 
Andy Murray d. Jerzy Janowicz, 67 64 64 63
 
Neither player broke serve in the first set amid plenty of power striking by both men. Janowicz, tall and powerful, won the tiebreaker surprisingly easily, Murray losing all four of his serving points. Andy answered with a break of Jerzy's serve early in set two. The Scot red-head thereafter held serve through set's end, surviving two break points.
 
But Jerzy broke back early in set three, now ahead 4-1. As Andy began his bid to recover, the crowd's support of Andy now became loud and decidedly expressive. Jerzy was now delivering drop shots from fairly far back in court. After Andy dispatched one of them with a forehand winner, Andy revealed tiredness, lowering his head and breathing heavily. (Question: Was Andy trying to trick Jerzy into trying another dropper?) Two points later Jerzy tried another drop shot, and again the result was a fine winner by Andy. (Answer: It certainly seemed so.) When Jerzy then lost another close-in point, this one initiated by Andy, Jerzy angrily slammed the net with his racket, producing noisy disapproval from the gallery. Jerzy's unraveling thereafter continued as Andy won the last five games of the set, taking a 2-1 lead in sets.
 
Darkness now loomed, and it was clear that a fifth set probably could not be completed outdoors. Officials therefore decided to close the convertible roof. That decision was hardly avoidable, as Jerzy used up some of the remaining daylight by taking an off-court break (to which he was entitled). Andy, having the momentum and unlikely to profit from indoor conditions, naturally disagreed strongly, but the ruling stood.
 
It didn't matter. Upon resumption Andy maintained his edge, and matters ended after two breaks of Jerzy's serve.
 
FINALS
 
Marion Bartoli d. Sabine Lisicki, 61 64
 
Marion Bartoli had been a Wimbledon finalist before, in 2007, when she lost to Venus Williams. Now, six years later, it was Marion the finalist who knew how to win, how to intensify her always forceful game, how to summon her best. For her opponent, Sabine Lisicki, already it had been a wondrous two weeks, her game having been at its highest level in victories over superstars Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska. Sabine wanted more, of course, but Sabine's mind-set was unready on this day to produce the high tennis inherent in her talent and her long years of preparation.
 
Bartoli's backhand two-hander was especially impressive throughout, producing powerful cross-court winners again and again. Also noteworthy was Marion's performance at net, defeating Sabine's ploys to bring her forward. The first set went to Bartoli by one-sided score, as Sabine's big weapons -- the serve and the forehand -- repeatedly malfunctioned. Sabine's artillery began to register in the second set, but although many of the games were closely fought, Marion won five of the first six. Always a streaky player, Sabine's powerful strengths now jelled fully, and Sabine won the next three games. But it was too late. Under enormous pressure, the woman from France served out the final game by winning all four points in magnificent fashion -- with two severely angled forehand winners and, on the last point, a clean service ace.
 
Andy Murray d. Novak Djokovic, 64 75 64
 
The entire affair was fiercely contested, the many long exchanges made the more tiring by the warmish temperature, said to be the hottest at a Wimbledon final in more than three decades. Both men were capable of absolute highest performance in their serve-returning, defensive, and court-movement abilities. Thus both were almost impenetrable when in back court, so that risky shots seldom paid off, even when the attack was perfectly executed. And because both men were deadly against an opponent at net, whether in striking passing shots or in running down volleys, both accepted that the day was probably going to be decided via stamina, by determination to prevail in the many heavy-duty extended rallies.
 
The margin was not great, but the player most comfortable in these circumstances was Andy Murray, who generated his weight of shot more easily, whose temperament was better tuned to patience and heavy striking from the baseline. Novak Djokovic was superb in the same qualities but ever so slightly behind Andy. Thus although the twists and turns were many, in Novak's mind the game of baseline striking was one slightly favoring Andy. Novak tried to respond by forcing his way to net more than usually, with only moderate success.
 
Critical was the middle of the second set. Novak led with a service break, Andy serving at 1-4. If anything, the fury of the earlier points and games intensified, along with the crowd support for Andy. Now it was Novak whose temperament had become frayed, who carped at his bad luck, at the umpire, at himself, at his waste of shot-challenge rights. Of the next seven games, Andy would win six of them, all of them narrowly. The second set thus became Andy's, along with a two-set margin.
 
The break of Novak's serve in the next-to-last game of the match was owed to Andy's spectacular reactions and court speed, twice running down well-placed volleys. But it was still not over. Andy, now serving, won the first three points in that last game. But the determination and focus of Djokovic was still strong. Novak fought back to deuce and then three times held break point. Surely helped by the frenzied crown, Andy weathered the crisis, finally cementing his victory. The last few games made a segment of tennis long to remember.
 
OTHER HONORS
 
The top overachievers in men's singles were Fernando Verdasco and Lukasz Kubot. Both had been unseeded, and both succeeded in penetrating into the rounds of 32, 16, and 8, thus scoring three levels of overachievement. Leading the women were the two singles finalists, both with four levels of overachievement. Sabine Lisicki had been seeded in the #17-32 range but penetrated into the rounds of 16, 8,4, and 2. Marion Bartoli, seeded in the range #9-16, reached the rounds of 8, 4, 2, and 1.
 
No male player has won the Wimbledon Triple Crown (singles, doubles, and mixed) since Frank Sedgman in 1952, no female player since Billie Jean King in 1973. The closest this year were Ivan Dodig of Croatia, Dan Nestor of Canada, and riser Ashleigh Barty of Australia, each with a total of eight victories. Dodig achieved three wins in singles plus five in men's doubles, Barty achieved five wins in women's doubles, three in mixed, Nestor achieved three in men's doubles, five in winning the mixed crown.
 
The Bryans won the men's doubles -- their third Slam crown of 2013 and their fourth in succession. Hsieh-Peng won the women's, and Nestor-Mladenovic the mixed.
 
National honors were dominated by France. The French male contingent scored 12 wins in the first round of singles and 5 more in the second, establishing a lead that was never threatened. Second place went to U.S.A. led by the Bryans in men's doubles. Among the women, the contingents from Czech Republic and U.S.A. saw matters decided with the last ball strike in the mixed doubles.
 
Men
France, 23.5 match wins
U.S.A., 16
Spain, 15
Poland, 14
 
Women
Czech Republic, 21.5
U.S.A., 21
France, 16.5
Germany, 15.5
 
The triumph of the French males broke a two-year run of success by U.S.A. following a French triumph in 2010. The Czech success among the women was the first for that nation. U.S. women had won in 2012, the Russkayas for several years before that.
 
Along with their many other laurels, the men's and women's singles winners, Marion Bartoli and Andy Murray, become our immediate Il Primo and La Prima of pro tennis, respectively. They replace Serena Williams and Rafa Nadal, whose tenures had been renewed recently at Garros.
 
With its many twists of fortune, it was surely among the great Wimbledons in quality and plot.
 
--Ray Bowers, Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A.
 

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Between The Lines Archives:
1995 - May 1998 | August 1998 - 2003 | 2004 - 2014


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This column is copyrighted by Ray Bowers, all rights reserved.

Following interesting military and civilian careers, Ray became a regular competitor in the senior divisions, reaching official rank of #1 in the 75 singles in the Mid-Atlantic Section for 2002. He was boys' tennis coach for four years at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Virginia, where the team three times reached the state Final Four. He was named Washington Post All-Metropolitan Coach of the Year in 2003. He is now researching a history of the early pro tennis wars, working mainly at U.S. Library of Congress. A tentative chapter, which appeared on Tennis Server, won a second-place award from U.S. Tennis Writers Association.

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