Britwatch Sports reviews the 2019 season. The third part covers all that happened during the grass-court season
Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer amidst a barrage of “Let’s go, Roger, let’s go!” chants. Serena Williams lost to Simona Halep her third straight major final
Andy Murray played alongside Serena Williams adding an unprecedented glamorous note to the mixed doubles tournament
LONDON, UK – Britwatch Sports looks at some of the best moments of the 2019 season. The third part of our coverage covers Wimbledon and the previous warm-up events
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Moving from clay to grass remains one of the toughest transitions in tennis. The contrast in court speed and bounce, the quick turnaround, the ever-changing conditions made it hard to adapt quickly. Grass requires also more conservative movements, obscuring the explosive agility of modern players. Playing on grass is a form of art and it takes time to master it.
Born in 1981, Roger Federer and Feliciano Lopezshowed they could play on a high level at the age of 37. At Halle and Queen’s, they became the oldest duo to win an ATP singles title in the same week. Only seven players won an ATP tournament after turning 37.
World no.3 Federer beat David Goffin to lift the tenth crown in Halle, the first event he won at least ten times, and the 102nd overall on the Tour.
Lopez became the oldest Queen’s singles champion as he beat Frenchman Gilles Simon in a thrilling three-set clash to become the lowest-ranked champion in the tournament’s history since 108th-ranked Australian Scott Draper in 1998.
Playing alongside a rejuvenated Andy Murray, competing in the first round since undergoing hip surgery, Lopez was the third player to win both the singles and doubles titles at Queen’s Club, after Pete Sampras in 1995 and Mark Philippoussis in 1997. They saved two set points in the first round and went on to clinch the title with a three-set victory over Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury.
In Eastbourne, Kyle Edmund beat compatriots Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans, who had previously won Challenger titles on grass at Surbiton and Nottingham, to progress to the semi-finals of the Nature Valley International. In the opening game, the game was twice interrupted by a fan choking and a seagull landing on the court. Edmund began to assert himself on the contest and needed four match points to seal the victory. Evans, who trained with Federer, offered a new version of himself, fitter and improved on different levels.
Edmund lost to the American Taylor Fritz, who earned his maiden triumph three years after his first ATP final. Fritz defeated compatriot Sam Querrey to win the Nature Valley International, where he made his ATP Tour debut in 2015, although at the time it was held in Nottingham.
Great Britain, where lawn tennis was born, remains the centre of the tennis world leading to Wimbledon. Particularly on the WTA Tour, hosting three events before the Championships. Caroline Garcia outlasted Donna Vekic in a three-set tussle to claim her first title of the season at the Nature Valley Open in her Nottingham tournament debut. The Frenchwoman claimed her second trophy at a grass-court event, following her victory at Mallorca in 2016, completing a wild week where most of the matches were played indoors due to persistent rain.
World No.61 Alison Riske saved five championship points, came back after losing the opening set 6-0 to upset the top seed Kiki Bertens and seal her second career WTA singles title at the Libéma Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. The American had lost six straight finals since her maiden title at Tianjin in 2014, but showed her prowess on grass following her victory in the ITF event in Surbiton and completed her second career victory over a Top 5 player.
Also Ashleigh Barty lived a dream summer that continued in Birmingham, where she claimed the Nature Valley Classic and reached the WTA World No.1 spot for the first time in her career. In her run, she beat Vekic, Venus Williams, Barbora Strycova and her doubles partner Julia Goerges in the final without losing a set.
In Mallorca Sofia Kenin, who won the WTA Most Improved Player of the Year award for 2019, picked her second title of the season defeating Belinda Bencic in the final. She finished the campaign ranked at No.14 as one only six players to have won at least three trophies.
Karolina Pliskova reigned in Eastbourne in the last grass court warm-up event, joining the first trophy she won there in 2017. The Czech dropped serve just once during the week and offered a dominating performance to outpower No.4 seed Angelique Kerber in the final.
Murray-Serena, a mixed doubles duo made in heaven
At Wimbledon, Murray made an unexpected but pleasant discovery – even mixed doubles can turn into an awaited event, like the reunion tour of an old rock band. He played with Serena Wiliams, slowed by knee pain for months. The Mur-Rena couple, as it was nicknamed, was such a big deal that their first two matches were scheduled on Centre Court. They thrilled the fans, like two rock stars joining forces for a couple of special concerts.
After those wins, they lost in the third round to the top-seeded team of Nicole Melichar and Bruno Soares, able to dominate the net game.
Murray also lost in the second round at Wimbledon with Pierre-Hugues Herbert. The Frenchman had announced his decision to focus more on singles but Murray persuaded him to change his mind. Herbert’s compatriot, longtime friend and former doubles partner, Nicolas Mahut, struggled to accept his behaviour and returned to talk Herbert only during the Us Open. Later this year, they returned to play together winning the Paris Masters title and the ATP Finals.
In singles, Rafael Nadal took his revenge over Nick Kyrgios after their tense match in Acapulco but Federer stopped his run in a classic semi-final clash. The Swiss used his backhand to control the cross-court rallies and managed to outlast the Spaniard in the long rallies.
In the second semifinal, Novak Djokovic defeated Roberto Bautista Agut, forced to delay his travel to Ibiza to celebrate his bachelor party. Evidently not believing in his chances to progress that far, he was expected to fly to the Balearic Islands with his pals as he announced his marriage with his longtime girlfriend Ana Bodi Tortosa.
In the final, Djokovic and Federer pushed each other to the limit in what became the longest final in the history of the tournament, eclipsing by nine minutes Nadal’s five-set win over Federer in 2008.
For nearly five tight, tense and terrific hours, Djokovic and Federer traded the lead. Federer missed two match points at 8-7 in the decider, then Djokovic took the initiative until an unprecedented fifth-set tiebreaker at 12-12 was required to settle one of the most memorable Grand Slam final of the decade. Djokovic won the three tie-breaks that decided the match and earned his 16th Grand Slam trophy overall.
In the women’s singles event, Johanna Konta emerged as the last British player left standing in the draw. She raised her level in a battle between the British No.1 and the American No.1 to come back from a set down against former US Open champion Sloane Stephens. It was the pair’s fourth meeting of the year, and Konta extended her perfect record with a fourth victory.
Konta, the 2017 semifinalist, reached the second week of the tournament and on Manic Monday she upset two-time champion and No.6 seed Petra Kvitova, who lost two of their three meetings on grass. Konta had never earned back-to-back wins over Top 10 players before. The Centre Court thrilled that day, but Konta later failed in her bid to reach a second career semifinal and eventually become the first British women’s singles finalist since Virginia Wade won the title in 1977. She raised to a 4-1 lead against Czech Strycova, before collapsing after an error-strewn match.
In the other semifinal clash, Simona Halep crushed Elina Svitolina, showing the same ferocious determination that brought her to lose any sign of intimidation against Serena Williams in the title match. Astonishingly, Halep committed three unforced errors to Serena’s 26 and lost just four games in a one-sided clash. Halep played one of her best matches ever, while Serena suffered the third defeat in a row in a major final. And all of them came in straight sets. The ambition to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 major singles titles continued to hunt her like a curse.
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