Sportswriter and broadcaster David Fearnhead, Women’s Tennis Blog’s loyal supporter, shares his Top 5 talking points that marked his 2015 Wimbledon experience.
THE SERENA SLAM IS ON!
There are few adjectives left to describe Serena Williams. Surely the debate about the greatest exponent of the women’s game must be almost won. Having seen Martina Navratilova – admittedly in her later years and not at her peak – and Steffi Graf, I can only conclude that Serena is the greatest ever. Her will to win and keep winning exceeds all.
In the 2015 Wimbledon final, when the crowd and the momentum swung in favour of Garbine Muguruza, and the weight of expectation caused Serena to start double-faulting, she somehow managed to summon up the will not to be beaten. Will to win is something all good athletes must have, but the defiance not to be beaten is something which separates Serena from the rest.
THE C WORD
Any talk of Serena’s rivalry with Maria Sharapova always amuses me. Their head-to-head currently reads at 18 to 2 in Williams’ favour. In the last five years, Sharapova has only been able to get a single set of the world number one. Meanwhile, Williams has accumulated over double the ranking points of her nearest rival. Sharapova may lead the earnings, but that is wholly down to her off-court activities and the fact that she’s tall, blonde, and appeals to American sponsors. In tennis terms, she’s not even in the same league.
If that sounds cruel, it’s merely statement of fact. Sharapova is not well liked on the tour. She seems to have plenty of supporters off-court, but those who have to play against her are not so enamoured by her. She reminds me of a boxer who tries to intimidate an opponent because they can’t fight fair. It’s sad because she has the talent to not need to resort to such antics. Last week on BBC radio, I called her out as a cheat and I stand by my accusation. Sharapova is turning people off the women’s game, or at least forcing them to hit the mute button. In addition to the ever-increasing level of noise and her deathly glares across the net at her opponent, she’s added a new trick to her bag of mischief – moving when her opponent is preparing to serve in an effort to put them off.
Her defendants will claim all players move and many make noise, but not in the way Sharapova does it. When Coco Vandeweghe asked the umpire if she was afraid to speak to Maria, she highlighted the problem. Maria is good box-office, she brings in the sponsors, and the majority of the media fawn over her. Maria’s fame exceeds her talents and umpires seem genuinely intimidated by her name rather than calling her out for clear violations of the hindrance rule.
TROUBLE AT THE TOP?
Serena’s dominance at the top looks stable, less so is the pecking order further down the list as a new generation emerges. Once again the frailties of the top ten players were exposed. There was a time when the Australian Open was the place for an upset, now it appears to be Wimbledon.
Petra Kvitova was downed by a resurgent Jelena Jankovic, only for the Serb to then be picked apart by Agnieszka Radwanska. You have to feel for Aga, a player with tremendous touch and ability, but seemingly always lacking the power from her slight frame needed to land a Grand Slam. It was so near and so far again for Caroline Wozniacki, and Ana Ivanovic never really got going as the media focused once more on her latest celebrity sporting boyfriend.
The brightest stories came from those further down the rankings, with Timea Bacsinszky continuing her dream comeback and Heather Watson keeping British hopes alive even against Serena Williams. Most worrying, though, is the form of Simona Halep. A career which promised so much seems to have been broken under the weight of expectation.
A STAR SHINES ON CENTRE
I hope Garbine Muguruza will not succumb to the same fate. She has the build and game to become a multiple Grand Slam winner. Her relentlessly aggressive approach powered her to a surprise final, and she delivered on the biggest stage of all. Too often a Serena Williams final has been a procession. Not so this time. It may have been a straight sets victory, but the drama Muguruza provided ensured it to be a contest worthy of its status. As tennis fans we can only hope that now she has proven she can deliver, the pressure to deliver will not encumber her game.
Finally an honourable mention must go to Martina Hingis, who did a doubles double by winning the ladies’ and mixed doubles. She’s only a year older than Serena Williams and you can’t help but wonder what she would be capable of if she ever came back into the singles game. (photos: Jimmie48)