Kerber & Djokovic return to winning ways at Wimbledon
16 July 2018
Angelique Kerber and Novak Djokovic have won this year’s Wimbledon titles, ensuring that both trophies remain in European hands for a second consecutive year. Both players have been steadily fighting back from their 2017 doldrums, with everything falling into place in London. Kerber, spoiling Serena Williams’ fairy-tale comeback, becomes the first German since Steffi Graf in 1996 to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish. By claiming her third major, she now just needs to win the French Open to join the exclusive club of Career Grand Slam owners. This is Wimbledon title #4 and lucky Grand Slam #13 for the Serb, who - having considered skipping the grass court season after a lacklustre French Open - has come back with a vengeance to set himself up as a force to be reckoned with once again.
There was expectation that the men’s final would be a subdued affair after Kevin Anderson, the first South African to appear in a Wimbledon final in 97 years, had survived two gruelling matches to face a resurgent Djokovic. Indeed, the first two sets were comfortable for the Serbian, with Anderson already calling for the trainer in the first set. Playing in his second Grand Slam final, experience did count for something, and Anderson mustered the will to fight harder in the third set, even earning himself two set points, but in the end, it was not enough. Djokovic was solid and took the match to a tiebreaker for the loss of just three points, closing out the match with a 6-2 6-2 7-6(3). After his win, Djokovic spoke about his doubts of returning after injury and said that a win here was especially gratifying, “It's my first Grand Slam final in a couple of years and this is the best place to come back. It's a pleasure to play in front of you.”
Mrs Williams, tennis royalty, was cheered on by British-American royalty. The Duchess of Sussex was accompanied by the club’s patron the Duchess of Cambridge to support her friend, but it was not to be, as she saw the crown placed upon the head of the German. Kerber was ranked 11th to Serena’s 181, but nevertheless Serena was the favourite and expectations were on her shoulders. Kerber played near flawless tennis, executing winners, defending well and was physically superior to Serena. It was perhaps the most dangerous player Serena could have faced and the 6- 3 6-3 score line indicates the relatively straightforward nature of the match, which lasted just over an hour. After a semi-final appearance at this year’s Australian Open, Kerber seems to be officially resuscitated from her 2017 coma and returns to the Top Ten. Meanwhile Serena once again demonstrated her amazing talent, strength and resilience, putting herself in a Grand Slam final a mere 10 months after giving birth - a fantastic achievement for both women. Kerber said it was “a dream come true” to finally win at Wimbledon had nothing but praise for the beaten finalist, saying that Williams was “such an inspiration.”
The last stretch of the journey to the final could not have been more contrasting for the four finalists. In what was an incredible 52nd meeting between two champions, Djokovic battled past Rafael Nadal in the semi-final to win 10-8 in the fifth set. Nadal had earlier taken out Juan Martin Del Potro in an equally tough quarterfinal match. Anderson, meanwhile, fought his way to the final with back to back five-set marathon wins, first with an arduous upset win against Roger Federer in the quarter finals and then an even more amazing six hour and thirty-six minute semi-final win over John Isner, taking it 26-24 in the fifth set. To reach the final, Williams got through a tough slog against the precise bashing of Camila Giorgi and faced Julia Goerges in the semi-final. Kerber saw off Daria Kasatkina, who was playing in her second Grand Slam quarterfinal after falling at the same stage in Paris, in an entertaining match and then dispatched a chaotic Jelena Ostapenko in the semifinals.
Wimbledon 2018 will be remembered for many reasons, not least the fact that week one was awash with upsets. Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova are now in illustrious company, but perhaps for the wrong reason. As former champions to bow out in the first round here, they join former top female greats, including the likes of Graf (1994) and Martina Hingis (1999) who also suffered the same fate in SW19.
Kvitova, the pre-tournament favourite, admitted that she had succumbed to self-imposed pressure after losing to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the first round. She was joined by Sharapova, who lost a three-hour first round marathon to fellow Russian Vitalia Diatchenko, ranked 132. After claiming to be returning to what is close to her top form, this result must be extremely difficult to swallow for the five-time Grand Slam winner who, incidentally, notches her first ever first round loss in a Grand Slam.
Grigor Dimitrov’s patchy season must be a concern for the Bulgarian and his team. He was handed another early exit, this time in the first round by Stanislas Wawrinka. A great four-set result for Swiss player, but disappointment for Dimitrov, although there is no shame in losing to a three-time Grand Slam champion. The sixth seed was unlucky to have drawn a first-round match against the “Stanimal”, who was unseeded and on his comeback from knee surgery.
After the much-deserved pre-tournament hype and fanfare, Borna Coric wilted in his first-round loss. Having defeated Federer in the final in the lead-up event in Halle, the up-and-comer seemed to have very little gas in the tank as he succumbed to Daniil Medvedev in straight sets.
Elina Svitlona has so much potential but is falling short in the Grand Slams. In London she fell at the first hurdle to Tatjana Maria of Germany, one of four mothers victorious on the first day. Sloane Stephens was bundled out 6-1 6-3 on day one against Donna Vekic. The Croat is always a dangerous player, even more so against a haphazard opponent who, much like Garbiñe Muguruza, may seem aloof early on in tournaments but is a tenacious player upon reaching the round of sixteen or thereafter. Number six seed Caroline Garcia, never really at home on grass, went down in round one in a tough loss to a very tricky opponent in Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic, another Swiss player on the comeback trail.
After the retirement of Dominic Thiem in the third set of his first round match against Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, the purge on the men’s side of the draw continued in round two. Croatian third seed Marin Cilic was ousted by Argentine Guido Pella in five tough sets. Other seeds to fall in round two were Lucas Pouille, Denis Shapovalov and Diego Schwartzman, but these losses didn’t quite create the shockwaves caused by the departure of their female counterparts.
More tales of woe for the women's seeds, as Caroline Wozniacki went out in round two to a dangerous Ekaterina Makarova. Perhaps a long and late Eastbourne final took its toll on the Dane, although she claimed that it was not the case. A listless Muguruza was also sent packing early, falling in the second round to Belgium’s inspired Alison Van Uytvanck.
In round three, the biggest upset in the men’s draw was the loss of fourth seed Alexander Zverev to Ernest Gulbis of Latvia in five sets. A bigger storm was brewing in the women’s draw as Hsieh Su-wei took out top seed and Roland Garros champion Simona Halep 7-5 in the third after saving a match point, for her best Grand Slam result. This meant that after three rounds of play, Karolina Pliskova was the only top 10 player left in the women’s draw. Although she survived until “middle Sunday” and was back on court in fourth round action on Monday, she fell to an in-form Kiki Bertens, thus ensuring that for the first time ever, there was not to be a single top 10 player in the second week of the women’s event.
There was to be more silverware for Europe in the women’s doubles. Former European 18 & Under champions Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova became the first ever players to go on from winning the Wimbledon girls’ doubles title to win the ladies’ draw five years later. They defeated fellow Czech player Kveta Peschke and her Czech-born American partner Nicole Melichar, 6-4 4-6 6-0. It was a good fortnight for Melichar though, as she teamed up with Alexander Peya (AUT) to take out crowd favourites Victoria Azarenka (BLR) and Jamie Murray (GBR) in the mixed doubles final 7-6(1) 6-3.
The men’s doubles winners were Jack Sock & Mike Bryan (USA) who defeated Raven Klaasen (RSA) & Michael Venus (NZL) in five sets to give 40-year old Mike a 17th Grand Slam doubles title, but first without brother Bob, who continues to recover from a hip injury. Mike will also return to the world #1 spot after the tournament.
2015 European 14 & Under Champion champion Iga Swiatek of Poland continues to make impressive progress, scoring her Grand Slam junior breakthrough. Already a junior Slam doubles champion, the Pole saw off Switzerland’s Leonie Kung 6-4 6-2 to claim the title. There was some consolation for the Swiss player, who has been awarded a wild card to the Swiss Open, played on home soil in Gstaad this coming week.
In the boy’s singles, Chun Hsin Tseng of Chinese Taipei extended his impressive winning run, outlasting crowd favourite Jack Draper of Great Britain to claim his second successive junior Grand Slam singles title (from three finals) in a battle of two 16-year olds. Tseng, a winner at Les Petits As in 2015 and a student of the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, recovered from a second set blip to outlast his rival 6-1 6-7(2) 6-4.
Otto Virtanen (FIN) & Yanki Erel (TUR) were the boys’ doubles champions, while the Chinese duo of Xinyu Wang & Xiyu Wang were victorious in the girls’ doubles final.