Europe has had a wild week in its sports world. Spain’s football team defeated Italy in the Euro Cup, and Swiss Roger Federer beat Scottish Andy Murray at Wimbledon to tie with American Pete Sampras for all-time most Wimbledon wins.
Let’s look chronologically. Just a few days ago Spain became the first country to win three consecutive major football tournaments. They were the Euro Cup winners in 2008, World Cup winners in 2010 and now they won the Euro Cup again for 2012. Congratulations to the Spaniards—well deserved.
But now I want to look at the sport that has my heart—tennis. The Wimbledon Championships, played at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Southwest London just south of the Thames, is considered the premiere tennis event of the year. It is the only grand slam tournament still played on tennis’s original surface—grass. This year’s tournament was, in my opinion, one of the best in recent memory. The top four seeded players—Serbian Novak Djokovic, Spaniard Rafael Nadal, Swiss Roger Federer and Scottish Andy Murry (respectively—all provided for a spectacular tournament. I’m going to dissect this piece by piece; indeed, player by player.
Rafael Nadal, a Spaniard for whom I’ve had a strong loyalty, was beaten in the second round this year by an unseeded player—hardly the exit the number two player hopes to make in tennis’s most “prestigious” tournament. In a five-set, three-hour match, Nadal was taken out by an unknown, first-time-at-Wimbledon player from the Czech Republic named Lukas Rosol. Rafa only gained one set in the match—the third, winning it 6-2. The final match score was 6-7 (Nadal winning the tie breaker 11 to 9), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. Just a month ago, Nadal won the French Open—a clay court tournament, statistically Nadal’s best-played surface—over Djokovic.
Djokovic lost to Roger Federer in the Semi Finals, as would be expected when two of tennis’s modern-day greats face one another. Djokovic went down in four sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Djokovic beat Nadal just earlier this year at the Australian Open. When it comes to the current top three seeded players in gentlemen’s tennis, there’s no denying Djokovic, Federer and Nadal are neck-and-neck for the number one spot. Just this year alone, they’ve all won between 36 and 41 matches. Nadal has won 41, Federer 39 and Djokovic 36.
This year’s Wimbledon final was a thing of beauty. Scotsman Andy Murray took on Roger Federer. The match was remarkable before the players even set foot on Centre Court. Murray was the first Briton to make it to the Wimbledon final in 74 years. Being played in London, England, United Kingdom—the fact that a Briton made it to the finals after that long brought that much more pride to the match. Brits crowded Centre Court, filled in other (empty) courts just to watch the match on the big screen, and “Henman Hill”—the hill just outside Centre Court just to watch Andy Murray go for the glory—for queen and country.
Andy Murray, a shy, soft-spoken and emotional fellow had the pressure of every Brit pushing him forward. There were constant calls for quiet by the chair umpire because the crowd so frequently burst into applause for the young Scotsman. This was not Murray’s first time taking on Roger Federer. The two have played each other 16 times, and they’ve each won eight of their 16 meetings. Murray’s nationality was not the only cause for positive crowd uproar at the match; the win gave Federer his seventh Wimbledon title, which ties him with Pete Sampras for most all-time Wimbledon wins, and his seventeenth grand slam win. Federer, at the height of his career, held the number one spot for 237 consecutive weeks. Sports Illustrated ranked Federer the best tennis player in recorded history—better than Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal and Bjorn Borg. This win just keeps stacking Federer’s already lengthy list of achievements. There is no denying Federer is one of the best players who ever played the game.
The match between the two great players was one of the most emotional and captivating I can recall. It was on par, if not better than some of the rival matches between Sampras and Agassi. The first set was full of attitude and high-powered play from Murray. He won the first set 6-4, and two of the games Murray won were broken games. Federer broke Murray back for one game, but he still lost the set to Murray. Federer came back in the second set with a new-found passion, and he beat Murray 7-5; in that set Federer broke Murray once of the two break opportunities, but Murray failed to break Federer in any of the four opportunities he had during the second set.
The third set saw only one break point, but because Federer served first in the set, he won it 6-3. Then came the fourth set and the rain delay. After the delay and the closed roof, Federer took off and solidified his win. The match ended after three hours and 24 minutes of play.
But, for all the upset of a lost Wimbledon, Murray still has a lot to be proud of. The first Brit in 74 years to reach a final, and, as ESPN showed today, Murray has brought a new light to the Scottish town of Dunblane. Dunblane has been known since the mid 90s as the location of a school massacre. Compared by ESPN to Columbine High School’s tragedy, Andy Murray was in the school on the day of the mass shooting, but he was not in the class affected. The town hoped he could help Dunblane make a new name for itself, and he certainly has. Although Murray has never talked about the tragedy, the town knows how much he has done to change things.
There was no shortage of royalty or high-profile attendees at today’s finals match. British Prime Minister, David Cameron, famous footballer David Beckham and his wife, pop star Victoria (or Posh Spice) were there.
Quite probably the most emotional part of the match occurred after it. Just after the Duke of Kent, Prince Edward, awarded the trophies, Murray made his way to the on-court, post-match interview. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player be handed the microphone before, but Murray asked for it and got it. He started crying and told the entire United Kingdom—nay, he told the world how much it meant to him to have made it that far, all through sporadic tears. Take a look at it here; it’s pretty amazing.
For queen and country, as they say, there’s always next year. Even Federer knows Murray will win “at least one major,” but by the way things look, Murray may very well be headed toward several.