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125th Championships review

2011 Wimbledon champions.
by Ron Atkin
Sunday 3 July 2011

A memorable 125th Championships ended with two new names on the singles honours boards. The men's title went, for the first time, to a player from Serbia as Novak Djokovic halted Rafael Nadal's 20-match winning streak at Wimbledon - a run which included the 2008 and 2010 titles - with a merited 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 victory. It was the Serb's fifth victory over Nadal in a final this year and took his win-loss record for 2011 to an incredible 48-1. Nadal was playing with a pain-killing injection in a sore foot, suffered in the fourth round and was below his best form. Djokovic on the other hand swept all before him, and was justly congratulated by the loser for playing "very, very high level''.

In the ladies' singles Petra Kvitova upset the form book by out-hitting the 2004 champion and hot favourite Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-4. The 21-year-old lefty added further lustre to the tennis reputation of the Czech Republic as two of her compatriots and former Wimbledon champions, Martina Navratilova and Jana Novotna, looked on from the Royal Box, alongside eight other ladies' champions of yesteryear. Navratilova, now an American citizen and winner of nine Wimbledons, had perceptively predicted that her fellow left-hander's serve and groundstrokes would prove too much for Sharapova to handle and she was proved correct. The tall blonde kept her nerve and emotions in check until she met Novotna and Navratilova afterwards, when the tears finally flowed.

For Sharapova, defeat came as a bitter blow as she gradually rediscovers the form which had won her three Grand Slams before undergoing a shoulder operation in 2008. She had reached the final without conceding a set but her service remains her weak point - the final saw her lose five of her eight service games and double-fault six times.

If the ladies' singles provided a sea change at The Championships, with the final contested by the sixth and eighth seeds, the men's always promised to be more predictable since the top four seeds looked a cut above the rest of the field from the start. So it proved, at least until the quarter-finals when Roger Federer, a six-time champion and third seed, was blasted to defeat by charismatic Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who overhauled a two-set deficit to demolish the ambitions of the Swiss, who was pursuing his 17th Grand Slam title. It was unfortunate for Federer that he caught Tsonga on one of his irresistible days, as tournament statistics reveal. He finished up leading the men's ace count with 108, but was also top of the double-fault table with 27 and unforced errors (143).

Andy Roddick's hopes of another good Wimbledon to match his three runner-up years were ended as early as the third round by another left-handed Spaniard, Feliciano Lopez, one of Nadal's closest friends. Roddick, famed for his serving power, was aced into oblivion by Lopez, who ended up only one short of matching Tsonga's tournament total. But Mardy Fish, who has replaced Roddick as the top-ranked American, did considerably better until running into Nadal at the quarter-final stage. Lopez was then involved in the longest match of the fortnight, needing five sets and four hours 18 minutes to subdue Polish qualifier Lukasz Kubot.

This of course does not begin to approach the 2010 Wimbledon marathon (and world record) of 11 hours five minutes set by John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, who were by huge coincidence drawn to meet again in this year's first round. Isner won again, but this time nine hours faster, in two hours four minutes and straight sets.

The struggles of the fifth seed Robin Soderling merely served to underline how the Big Four have taken control. He had to come from two sets down to defeat the 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt, but was eliminated - and in straight sets too - in the third round by qualifier Bernard Tomic, whose reward for marching into the quarter-finals and taking a set off Djokovic was to replace Hewitt as Australia's No.1.

The inability of Andy Murray to get past the semi-finals for the third year in succession was clearly a bitter blow to the player, his support team and the millions in Britain for whom he was, as ever, flying the flag for alone. Hopes that he would become the first Brit to reach a Wimbledon final since Bunny Austin in 1938 were dashed by Nadal's perennial brilliance, however.

The sensation of the ladies' event was the early defeat of the defending champion, Serena Williams, and her sister Venus who between them had won nine of the past 11 Wimbledons. Thus was an era eclipsed and it did not come as a total surprise since Serena had not played (until a pre-Wimbledon event at Eastbourne) since lifting her fourth championship in 2010 because of injury and then severe illness, while Venus's last tournament had been the Australian Open in January. It was always certain that they would come to Wimbledon in view of what they had achieved in the new century, but almost as certain that, short of match practice, they would struggle. Both went out within hours of each other in the fourth round, Serena to France's hyper-active Marion Bartoli and Venus to Tsvetana Pironkova, who had also ousted her in last year's quarter-finals.

World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, who has yet to win a Grand Slam, also failed to get past the fourth round, while Li Na, a heroine in China following her success at the French Open, lost in the second round to Sabine Lisicki, a wild card from Germany making a comeback after a serious ankle injury in 2010. Big-hitting Lisicki, who finally fell to Sharapova in the semi-finals, topped the ladies' ace count with 44. All eight ladies' quarter-finalists came from Europe, while only Fish and Tomic interrupted European domination of the men's last eight.

The men's doubles was annexed by the top-seeded American twins, Bob and Mike Bryan, who defeated the Swedish-Romanian pairing of Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau 6-3, 6-4, 7-6. It was the Bryans' 11th Grand Slam and second Wimbledon triumph, an honour for which they had to fight hard through two earlier five-setters, including a 16-14 fifth-set win over Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley. The Czech-Slovak second seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik became ladies' doubles champions by defeating Lisicki and Australia's Samantha Stosur 6-3, 6-1. The mixed doubles title was won by Jurgen Melzer of Austria and another Czech lefty, Iveta Benesova, who beat Mahesh Bhupathi (India) and Elena Vesnina (Russia) 6-3, 6-2.

There was a double triumph in the Junior singles for Australia. First Luke Saville outlasted Britain's Liam Broady 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the Boys' event, then Ashleigh Barty captured the Girls' title with a 7-5, 7-6(3) victory over Russia's Irina Khromacheva. There was a guaranteed British winner in the Boys' doubles, where George Morgan teamed with Mate Pavic of Croatia to beat Oliver Golding and the Czech Republic's Jiri Vesely, while the Girls' doubles went to the North American combination of Eugenie Bouchard (Canada) and Grace Min (USA) who edged to a 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands and Hao Chen Tang (China).

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