What we learned
Wimbledon produced two familiar winners but also saw new faces break into the big time. We look back on the 2014 Championships
By Alex Williams
Last Updated: 08/07/14 7:44pm
There was a sense of deja vu on the final weekend of Wimbledon when Petra Kvitova and Novak Djokovic secured their second Wimbledon titles.
They had both claimed their first crowns in 2011 – the most successful season of both players’ careers – and three years later history repeated itself at the All England Club.
The successes of Kvitova and Djokovic may have been a return to the past but this year's Wimbledon also gave us a glimpse into the future. Here we take a look at what the tournament revealed about the sport's main protagonists...
Pre-season predictions about Djokovic were correct
Djokovic’s victory at the All England Club took him back to the top of the world rankings, confirming what many had envisaged at the start of this year. The Serbian’s strong finish to the 2013 campaign, combined with Rafael Nadal’s habit of following an incredibly successful season with a relatively disappointing one, had marked him out as a heavy favourite to finish 2014 as the world No 1. If Djokovic does hold onto top spot for the next five months, it will be the third time in four years he has ended the year in first position.
Djokovic’s results in recent years have edged him ahead of the rest of the ‘Big Four’ and, after reaching his 12th grand slam final in his last 16 attempts, he must surely be recognised as the most consistently brilliant player of the current era of men’s tennis. With ‘only’ seven major titles to his name as opposed to Roger Federer’s 17 and Nadal’s 14 there is a tendency to compare him unfavourably to the Swiss maestro and the Spanish superstar, but Djokovic is likely to go down in history as one of the very best players of all time.
In the Open Era only Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Nadal and Federer have shown comparable consistency across the grand slams over a similar period of time and the way Djokovic slides on hard- and grass-courts could yet revolutionise the defensive side of the game. A second Wimbledon title just adds to the legacy.
Kvitova can be the world’s best
When Petra Kvitova first won the Wimbledon title in 2011 it started a run of form which almost ended with the Czech clinching the world No 1 spot. Her defeat of Maria Sharapova in the final three years ago was a surprise, but she backed it up by winning the end-of-season WTA Tour Championships and reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open and French Open in 2012. At that time Kvitova had just turned 22 and seemed to possess all the attributes needed to battle fellow up-and-comer Victoria Azarenka for supremacy in the women’s game during the following years.
But the last 24 months have generally been a case of unfulfilled potential for the hard-hitting left-hander, who has mixed wins at prestigious Premier Mandatory events in Montreal and Tokyo with early exits at grand slams. Before this year’s Wimbledon she had failed to reach the quarter-finals at six of the last seven majors and was threatening to slip into mediocrity. But in London she gave a timely reminder of her immense talent by easing her way through the draw bar one scare against Venus Williams.
Kvitova is the youngest of the seven multiple grand slam winners currently active in the women’s game and is now perfectly placed for another assault on that world No 1 spot she missed out on in the aftermath of her first Wimbledon victory.
Grass-court specialists still exist
For the men: Six tournaments over the course of five weeks. For the women: four tournaments over the course of four weeks. That is the extent of the grass-court season in contemporary tennis. As late as 1987 half the grand slams were held on the surface but now we have to make do with Wimbledon and a handful of smaller events. With serve and volleying tactics almost extinct these days, it is tempting to think that dealing with the nuances of grass courts is not worth the effort for the world’s top players anymore.
That may, in fact, be true, but some players’ natural games are still putting them at a big advantage when the grass-court ‘season’ rolls around. The lefty play and pure power of Petra Kvitova, attacking instincts of Roger Federer and devastating serves of Milos Raonic and Nick Krygios being just three examples to shine through at the All England Club. Sabine Lisicki’s Wimbledon record is unrecognisable when compared to the other three grand slams, while two-time Queen’s Club finalist Marin Cilic was another player to perform above expectations. Wimbledon still presents a unique set of challenges and some players are much more naturally suited to deal with them.
The time has come for Dimitrov and Bouchard
They were hardly new names heading into the Wimbledon fortnight, but the performances of Eugenie Bouchard and Grigor Dimitrov at the All England Club confirmed the true star potential of each player. Both won the Wimbledon title as juniors and went into the third grand slam of the year in the midst of breakthrough seasons. Bouchard, who became a full-time professional at the relatively late age of 18 in the second half of 2012, reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open and French Open earlier this year, while Dimitrov won three ATP titles including the grass-court tune-up at Queen’s Club.
Whether that warranted the men’s 11th seed being given a show court slot for all six of his matches is a point for debate, but he certainly showed he was worthy of the Centre Court stage when he disposed of defending champion Andy Murray in the quarter-finals and his four-set semi-final defeat against Djokovic was no shame, especially as he lost two of those in tie-breaks. Bouchard went one better, reaching her first grand slam final before being blasted off the court by an inspired Petra Kvitova.
With both the men’s and women’s games seeming ripe for a new challenger to join the regular grand slam winners, Dimitrov and Bouchard are as good candidates as any to make the step up.
Murray struggling to find direction
Twelve months after the finest hour of Andy Murray’s career, the British No 1 has plenty to ponder if he is to again reach the heights which saw him end the 77-year wait for a home male winner at the All England Club. Murray has not reached an ATP final since his triumph at Wimbledon, although that can be partly explained away by his recovery from back surgery and change of coach from Ivan Lendl to Amelie Mauresmo. But even with those distractions taken into account, his lack of success this year is more than a slight worry.
Despite solid clay-court performances in Rome and at the French Open, Murray seemed to regress on the grass, losing to Radek Stepanek at Queen’s and failing to reach the last four at his home grand slam for the first time since 2008. He bowed out in bizarrely tame fashion, being outclassed in straight sets by the impressive Dimitrov in a performance reminiscent of his comprehensive defeat by the then up-and-coming Stanislas Wawrinka at last year’s US Open. His trademark on-court ranting, which was curtailed under Lendl, also seems to be making a comeback.
Murray has now slipped all the way to 10th in the world rankings and the emergence of talents such as Dimitrov and Milos Raonic mean his ascension back into the tennis elite is not a foregone conclusion.