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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Monday July 11, 2022

 
Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal's exit from Wimbledon stirred up debate, and the champions earned our admiration.

Photo Source: Rob Newell / Camera Sport

Another Wimbledon is done and dusted, and today we’re looking back at a brilliant Championships, in order to make sense of what we’ve learned.

Tennis Express

Novak Djokovic is a Grass God

Nick Kyrgios summed it up aptly after the Wimbledon men’s singles final: “He’s a bit of a god,” Kyrgios said. “I’m not gonna lie – I thought I played well.”

With seven Wimbledon titles to his name since 2011, Djokovic has emerged as a threat to pass Roger Federer’s record of eight men’s singles titles at SW19.

It’s stunning, just how thoroughly the Serb has dominated Centre Court, where he has not lost since the 2013 final against Andy Murray, over the last decade. During that time Djokovic has notched three wins over de facto men’s grass GOAT Federer and, crazily, he seems to get better and better each year on the surface.

At some time his age will reverse the trend, but at 35, Djokovic shows no signs of slowing as the gap between himself and the competition on the surface continues to grow.

He's not there yet, but there is a chance that when it is all said and done, we'll be calling Novak Djokovic the best men's grass court player of all time.

Elena Rybakina winning Wimbledon makes sense

It’s unlikely that Elena Rybakina will win 10 out of every 11 matches she plays at Wimbledon, but what her 10-1 lifetime record at Wimbledon does say is that she’s naturally suited to the grass, and has the potential to be a force on the surface for years to come.

The first Kazakh to ever claim a Grand Slam singles title is still relatively new to the grass game, and the Grand Slam stage for that matter. She just made her second Wimbledon appearance, and her 12th at a Slam. Imagine Rybakina with a few more years of seasoning under her belt. She won 74 percent of her first-serve points at Wimbledon and held serve in 70 of 82 service games.

It’s not unreasonable to think that she can improve on those numbers, as well as her return numbers.

Most impressive was the way that Rybakina was able to defeat Jabeur in the final despite managing only 25 percent unreturned serves, which was much lower than her tournament average of 37 percent. She found ways to win without free points - a great sign.

Also of note was the quality of competition she faced to win the title.

R1 - Vandweghe
R2 - Andreescu
R3 - Zheng
R16 - Martic
QF - Tomljanovic
SF - Halep
F - Jabeur

Imagine what she’d do to a cupcake draw!

Nick Kyrgios could win Wimbledon day (if he wants to)

Nick Kyrgios showed the world that he can keep it together mentally and physically to reach a Wimbledon final and - surprise - he acquitted himself nicely once there. Now, we wait and see if the talented Aussie has enough desire to come back to get the last piece of the puzzle in the next few years.

If he plays his cards right, manages his schedule, his body and his mental health the way he has in 2022, there’s no reason why he can’t.

The only question is whether or not Kyrgios has enough desire in his heart to truly take on the task. He’ll have to be even better than he was this year, and he’ll likely not have those kind of breaks (the Covid withdrawals of Berrettini and Cilic, plus Nadal withdrawing from the semis) again.

The question about Kyrgios’ talent were resolved a long time ago. This year he answered a lot more questions about his professionalism (improving?) and his competitiveness (solid). He had a brilliant tournament and he could do it again, but only if he commits.

Jabeur is a future Wimbledon champion as well

It was disappointing to see Ons Jabeur fall at the last hurdle on Saturday, but we have no doubt that the Tunisian will be back to make more history for herself and the Arab World at Wimbledon. Unlike Kyrgios, whose future commitment is a question mark, Jabeur is one of the most dedicated players on tour, with a game that is perfectly suited for grass.

If Iga Swiatek isn’t going to be a force on the surface like she is everywhere else, then Jabeur is going to have many chances to raise the Venus Rosewater Dish in the years to come.

Jabeur, who radiated positivity after her difficult loss in the final, pledges to use the experience as a fuel for the next mission.

“Definitely huge step for me,” she said. “I felt things really amazing those two weeks. Like I said, I want to be a top-five player, I want to win more titles, I want to win a Grand Slam. Almost there at the last step. You know, I'm really a positive person. It is what it is. I'm very happy. That will give me definitely a lot of confidence to play more.”

At 40, Serena has game, just not enough

Serena Williams’ return to Centre Court was one of the highlights of the first week, and it was thrilling to see the 23-time champion take her place in a Grand Slam draw once again, but her loss to Harmony Tan also served as a reminder that she can not simply show up at a tournament and do damage without playing herself into form.

For whatever reason, Williams chose to warm up with a light doubles appearance at Eastbourne, and took the singles court for the first time in a year against Harmony Tan of France.

The result was both impressive and disappointing. From her form, it was clear that Williams can still be competitive, but simultaneously it was apparent that she’s unlikely to win many matches without making a bigger commitment to training and playing herself into match toughness.

She’ll be 41 in September. It would be incredible to see Williams rock up at the US Open, but it’s difficult to see her turning back the clock too far without a few more wins under her belt.

Covid continues to play a role at the majors

Restrictions are easing. Covid – and the fear of the virus – is less of a factor in our everyday lives. But it still found a way to wreak havoc on the draw at Wimbledon, forcing Matteo Berrettini, Marin Cilic and Roberto Bautista Agut to withdraw.

The tours are not testing for Covid, which is a development that is very welcome by the players, but the Covid is, and likely will continue to be, a factor going forward.

Sinner and Alcaraz - a future Wimbledon final?

Anybody who watched Jannik Sinner battle past Carlos Alcaraz in the fourth round can feel pretty good about the future of the men's game on the grass.

Both players are way ahead of their peers. Sinner, making his second Wimbledon appearance, edged Alcaraz in four sets to reach his third Grand Slam quarterfinal. It was nice to see the explosive Italian expanding his influence to the grass. He had never won a match on the surface prior to Wimbledon.

Ditto for Alcaraz, who at 19, entered the main draw with one grass win to his name. It appears that Alcaraz is a quick study on the slippery surface as well. He improved with every match, notching wins over Jan-Lennard Struff, Tallon Griekspoor and Oscar Otte, despite some slow starts and his relative lack of experience.

Sinner went on to take the first two sets of his quarterfinal against Novak Djokovic before falling.

Both Sinner and Alcaraz have significantly increased their grass-court stock with their exploits during the Wimbledon fortnight. Next year should be interesting.

Iga Swiatek’s Wimbledon future is unknown

Iga Swiatek’s third Wimbledon appearance wasn’t as hopeful as her second. In 2021 Swiatek, then toting a much lower profile, the Pole reached the second week and fell to Ons Jabeur in three sets. This year, riding a 37-match winning streak and considered the favorite to win despite her trepidation about playing on grass, Swiatek was bounced by giant-killing Alizé Cornet, 6-4. 6-2.

It doesn’t mean that Swiatek doesn’t have bright future at Wimbledon, it just means that she will need to spend more time on the surface moving forward. Going from Roland-Garros to Wimbledon without any matches might work for her later in her career, but for now she’ll need to get a better feel for what works and what doesn’t on grass.

Most important, she’ll need to get her footwork firing for her, just like it does on clay and on hard. Until that happens, it will be hard to see her as the favorite at Wimbledon, no matter how much she dominates everywhere else.

Tatjana Maria is a grass wizard

Not only is she a supermom, Tatjana Maria can thrive on grass. The 34-year-old puts a well-deserved Wimbledon semifinal on her career CV, and while we may never see her achieve at this level again, this run was by no means a fluke. Wins over Sorana Cirstea, Maria Sakkari, Jelena Ostapenko and Jule Niemeier showed us the best of what Maria has to offer.

Hard to say what we can expect from Maria in the future, but if she’s in the draw next year at Wimbledon, look out. Maria has played 35 majors, and ten of her 17 wins at the Slams have come at Wimbledon. Must be the grass.

An injured Nadal is better than a healthy Fritz?

As tough as it was to take, Taylor Fritz owned his loss to Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon quarterfinals when he took to Twitter amidst debate about whether or not the Grand Slams need to think about letting lucky losers replace players who are forced to withdraw midway through tournaments.

“Not looking for handouts,” said Fritz. “If I couldn’t beat him I don’t deserve to be in semis.”

Unfortunately for Nadal, another opportunity to get back to the Wimbledon final passes him by due to injury. Not since 2011 has Nadal graced Centre Court with his presence in a Wimbledon final, and yet it feels like he has been playing well enough to win Wimbledon over the last few years.

In 2018 he was close to taking out Djokovic in the semifinals, but lost 10-8 in an epic fifth set. In 2019 Federer got him in the semis. This year, he felt that his game was gelling nicely, but the body simply wouldn’t hold up. As sad as it was to see Nadal depart the draw, at least he didn’t have to retire against Fritz. Imagine if that was Nadal’s last Wimbledon (a possibility) and he went out via retirement?


 

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