Sunday, July 8, 2007

Wimbledon - My Love Affair with Tennis

It's my favorite time of the sports year. Ahh.... the smell of Grand Slam tennis is in the air. I am a tennis fiend my friends and nothing pleases me more than watching the drama of high-stakes tennis. I guess every tennis match has it's moments. But on this world-stage and particularly on the red clay of Roland Garros (French Open) and the grass courts of the All England Club (Wimbledon) amazing things happen.

It was the wettest, wildest, Wimbledon ever. There were several days of rain delays and it almost seemed impossible for them to end the tournament on time. However, this is Wimbledon and magic always happens.

Take the match between Serena Willams and Daniela Hantuchova. Serena falls down on the court, the victim of an agonizing leg cramp, which would have made the heartiest of players retire without question. She was determined to keep going. After a hell of a tape job, and a second incredibly lucky rain delay in the match Serena managed to hang on and win the match. The amount of self-belief and determination that this woman possesses truly astonishes me. It is one of the things that I love so much about her. You can never count her out.

She might not have advanced to the semifinals, because of her injury (Justine Henin beat her in the Quarterfinals) but she showed everyone how much heart she had and looked great besides. I loved her tennis outfit and she's got a great new cut.

Her sister Venus played the best tennis of her life, after many would have considered her to no longer be a threat. Venus has an incredible wing span (she is 6'1" tall). She can get to balls in nearly in portion of the court. She comes to net and plays smart. Unlike Serena who tends to muscle the ball - leading to long and wide balls - Venus really has a finesse game. During Wimbledon it seemed she could do no wrong, despite her bumpy start in the 1st round against Alla Kudryavtseva and some very tense moments in the match against Akiko Morigami in the 3rd round. Venus beat the number 2 ranked darling of tennis - Maria Sharapova - handily in the 4th round. With each win her confidence grew, and at that point I was convinced that the only thing that could stop her was number one ranked Justine Henin.

Unbelievably to most - Justine most of all - she was knocked off a French woman I'd never heard of Marion Bartoli. Ranked 18th in the world - higher than Venus - yet still unknown to many people, Bartoli handled Justine Henin and made her way into the finals against Venus Williams. Marion played a beautiful match. Something she should be quite proud of. However, Venus pulled off the win, making it her fourth Wimbledon Championship. It really was a fantastic match.

However, the best match of Wimbledon was in the men's final between Roger Federer (does this guy have great hair or what?) and Spaniard Rafael Nadal. Both great champions with lots of trophies in their cases. What made it even sweeter is that the two men competed in the finals of the French Open several weeks earlier where Nadal won his 3rd French Open title in a row. Both of the last two won against Federer. Now they were on Roger's turf. He'd won the last four Wimbledons in a row. Rafa played a splendid game, breaking Federer's serve several times, returning seeming winners, and making nice with the instant replay cam which kept coming out in his favor.

Yet, in the end Roger Federer did what he does best - win Wimbledon. He has now caught up with Bjorn Borg, the only other man with five Wimbledon titles in a row. Quite an accomplishment.

I love this game! Yet, as much as I love it, I am sort of glad it's done and there's a couple of months till the US Open. Now I can concentrate on everything else again.


Michelle O'Neil said...

I've never followed sports much but the Williams sisters are so beautiful.

Your descriptions of the game are great.

Jenny Rough said...

Women's tennis is one of the few sports I LOVE to watch. But I missed Wimbledon this year due to a vacation.