It’s that time of the year.
When women and men are out in their whites trying to survive two weeks of gruelling tennis on the hallowed green turf at SW19.
Yes! It’s Wimbledon time! Sadly, no action this year.
The championships were cancelled for the first time since World War II as the pandemic struck another blue-riband sports event off the calendar and nixed tennis’s grasscourt season.
Since we are missing our favourite Grand Slam this year, Norma Godinho/Rediff.com revisits classic contests from the last five Wimbledon championships.
2019: Wimbledon final: Djoko snatches it from Fed
Think of an epic Wimbledon final, and you will see that the last decade gave us a few that have been nothing short of breathtaking.
Nothing, however, compares to the 2019 final.
Both Roger Federer and defending champion Novak Djokovic matched each other shot for shot. In what stretched to become the longest Wimbledon singles final in history (4 hours, 57 minutes!), the club’s new rule stipulating a tiebreak at 12-12 in a deciding set was employed in the final.
It was compelling combat that went into the fifth set, thanks to Djokovic. Federer, looking good to pocket Slam No 21, was serving for the match at 8-7 in a cliffhanger fifth set.
Federer held serve to stay alive seven times in the deciding set, but broke the Djokovic serve at 7-7 and served for the title.
At 40-15 a sensational victory was in the palm of his hand, but Djokovic was not done.
A forehand mistake cost Federer his first match point and then he watched aghast as Djokovic whipped a forehand winner across him as he closed in on the net.
Eight service holds then sent the match into a tiebreaker at 12-12.
Djokovic had an encore on his mind and he moved ahead with three championship points. Federer overcooked a Djokovic forehand return and the Serbian went on to snatch a 16th Grand Slam title, his 5th at SW19.
2018: Men’s Wimbledon semi-final: Djoko edges past Rafa
Rarely in the last 15 years have we witnessed matches of legendary proportions that don’t reflect the names of one of the Big Three on the scoreboard.
The 2018 Wimbledon semi-final that stretched to two days and became the second longest semi-final at the All England club, was a battle of attrition between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
The 5-hour, 15-minute, contest saw Djokovic take the five-setter 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(9), 3-6, 10-8 — the first game of the match taking 16 minutes to complete!
The match saw some intense returns from ends of the net, Nadal keeping his fans on their toes, but the longer rallies putting pressure on Djokovic.
Their record-extending 52nd career clash had been halted on a knife edge on a Friday by Wimbledon’s 11 pm curfew after Djokovic had saved three set points in a gripping third set tiebreak to move two sets to one ahead.
When play resumed, still under cover despite the sunny weather, the quality of the tennis scaled the heights.
The fifth set alone lasted 91 minutes and the quality of the tennis was top-notch.
Both artistes were on 5-5 in the final set and upped the ante.
Djokovic averted a crisis at 7-7 when he saved three break points, the third with an angled forehand winner past the net-charging Nadal.
At 7-8 Nadal won a brutal 21-stroke rally with a smash, raising his arms aloft as the crowd roared, then saved a match point with a backhand dropshot that had an eye-bulging Djokovic sprawling across the turf.
The Spaniard failed to hold on any longer and two games later a rejuvenated Djokovic pushed through to advance to his first Grand Slam final in two years.
2015: The Serena Slam
Serena Williams was the firm favourite to lift the trophy going into Wimbledon in 2015.
And the American World No 1 lived up to her billing winning her sixth Wimbledon title.
Although she wasn’t at her sharpest, Serena played powerful tennis to thump Garbine Muguruza 6-4, 6-4 to complete a second career slam or what we all know now as the ‘Serena Slam’ — holding all four major titles at the same time.
At 33, the victory saw her take the honours of being the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam in the Open era.
Although she didn’t have the best fortnight at SW19, the world number one was simply too powerful and too consistent for 21-year-old surprise finalist Muguruza, who began with a valiant positive approach but could not maintain her early high level.
Although the Spaniard was playing her first Grand Slam final, it was Serena who had a bout of nerves, hitting three double faults and facing four break points before losing her serve in the opening game.
But she found her zone and took the game by the scruff of the neck to win the opening set 6-4.
After losing a close first set and battling bravely to come back from 5-1 down in the second, Muguruza eventually lost the match after one hour and 23 minutes of combat, to leave Williams receive the acclaim of the Centre Court crowd.
The marathon semi-final
The match that prompted the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s bosses to relook the tie-break rule.
In what was the longest-ever Wimbledon men’s singles semi-final — the second-longest match ever contested at the All England Club — South African Kevin Anderson overpowered American John Isner in a 6 hour (yes, you read that right, S-I-X HOURS!) 36-minute contest.
Anderson needed five nerve-shredding sets to win 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-7(9), 6-4, 26-24 to become the first South African man to reach a Wimbledon final.
The towering Isner, best remembered for winning the ‘endless match”‘at Wimbledon — an 11-hour 5-minute humdinger against Nicolas Mahut in 2010 — put on a show of typical endurance against Anderson.
The match featured 102 thunderbolt aces, 264 unreturned serves and 247 bone-rattling winners, but none of those will stand out as much as the heart and desire of two incredible men to reach a maiden Wimbledon final.
A Year of Magic for Fed Express
Roger Federer returned to the game in early 2017 after six months of rest following a knee operation.
He had started the 2017 season on a high winning the Australian Open and was the favourite at Wimbledon.
And what a way he did it! Recording many firsts along the way.
Federer became the oldest men’s singles champion at Wimbledon in the professional era as he won his 19th Slam and a record 8th Wimbledon title thrashing Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-1, 6-4, surpassing his idol Pete Sampras who won seven Wimbledon crowns.
He reached a record-breaking 11th men’s singles final at the same Grand Slam tournament and became only the second man in the Open era, after Björn Borg in 1976, to win Wimbledon without losing a set.
The Swiss maestro was challenged early on in the final, but once he broke a nervous Cilic in the fifth game of the opening set, the match became a no-contest.
For Cilic, playing his first final on Centre Court, a blister on his left foot made it nothing short of a nightmare. At times he looked on the point of throwing in the towel — breaking down in tears at 0-3 in the second set.
Cilic required a medical timeout to treat his injured foot after surrendering the second set in 25 minutes, but it was his spirit that was broken and thereafter, Federer cruised to victory.
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