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Fresh faces among old timers: 2022 Wimbledon recap

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(Photo by Neil Tilbrook under CC BY 2.0)


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JULY 13, 2022

Last weekend, tennis fans witnessed two Wimbledon finals with three first-time Slam finalists. While the finalists were unexpected, the tennis whites and highbrow, typically-British atmosphere were not. With the championship a crowd favorite, this year’s finals made headlines and broadcasts around the world. Fans also welcomed their newest Wimbledon champions at the close of the two weeks: Novak Djokovic and Elena Rybakina.

The ladies’ singles draw, as usual for Wimbledon, bore witness to unpredictable results across the board. Seven-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams lost an intense three-set match on Centre Court to Harmony Tan of France in the first round, 5-7, 6-1, 6-7 (7). While it was good for the tennis world to see the most dominant woman of the last two decades return after a one-year layoff, it does seem that the winning days of Williams, who turns 41 in September, may be over.

Other surprising early exits include world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, No. 5 Maria Sakkari and 2018 Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber. The 2022 French Open champion Swiatek had ridden a historic 37-match winning streak going into the third round of Wimbledon, where she lost surprisingly to Frenchwoman Alize Cornet in straight sets, 4-6, 2-6.

No. 16 seed Simona Halep, winner of Wimbledon in 2019, had an impressive showing at the championships, dominating her way to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion, No. 17 Rybakina of Kazakhstan.

On the other side of the draw, unseeded German Tatjana Maria, who had previously advanced to the third round of a major just once (Wimbledon 2015), fought her way through to the semifinals with wins over Sakkari and No. 12 seed Jelena Ostapenko. Maria fell in the semifinals to No. 3 seed Ons Jabeur, 2-6, 6-3, 1-6.

Hailing from Tunisia, Jabeur became the first ever African woman to reach the final of Wimbledon with her win over Maria. Jabeur’s hard-hitting shots at the baseline, in combination with her insane touch and hand softness to make beautiful dropshots, were not enough to win the tournament, as she fell to Rybakina in the final, 6-3, 2-6, 2-6.

The 23-year-old Rybakina is the first player representing Kazakhstan to win a Grand Slam singles tournament. Born in Moscow, Rybakina began representing Kazakhstan in 2018 after moving to Kazakhstan due to financial problems. While the Russian Tennis Federation has attempted to claim credit for Rybakina’s win, she continues to vocalize that she is proud to represent Kazakhstan as she did in the 2020 Olympics.

In the gentlemen’s draw, some championship favorites had troubles early on. 19-year-old star Carlos Alcaraz made it to the fourth round before being beaten by Italian Jannik Sinner. Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, 21, also suffered an early loss. Out in the first round with three out of four sets going to tiebreak, the Canadian lost to American Maxime Cressy.

American fans saw a glimmer of hope for their male compatriots, who rarely have a chance to shine at Grand Slams. Californian Taylor Fritz, 24, had the best Slam showing of his career by making it to the quarterfinals, losing only to Rafael Nadal. And before that, eight Americans had qualified for the third round — the most since 1995.

For this year’s championship, some of the men’s biggest tennis stars were absent from the courts. Wimbledon veteran Roger Federer is still out with a knee injury, and Russian players including Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev are banned by the tournament organizers following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.

Former No. 3 Dominic Thiem similarly finds himself out in recovery from a wrist injury, and 2021 finalist Matteo Berrettini withdrew late in the game after a positive COVID-19 test, as did 2017 Wimbledon runner-up Marin Cilic.

Withdrawals didn’t just happen before the tournament, though. Crowd favorite second-seed Nadal was forced to withdraw from his semifinal match against Nick Kyrgios, citing an abdominal injury. This sent Australian Kyrgios to his first-ever Grand Slam final, despite a career-high ranking of 13.

In reaching the final, Kyrgios beat fourth-seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in what could be considered an upset match in the third round. Trailing in aces and net points won, the Australian had 61 winners over Tsitsipas’ 57, as well as 154 total points won, 10 more than his opponent. This handed Kyrgios a 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(7) win — and, arguably, a place in the final.

It also handed him a $4,000 fine.

Both players ended up receiving fines — Tsitsipas’ reaching $10,000 for “unsportsmanlike conduct” — for the match. Tsitsipas hit a ball into the scoreboard, for which he received a point penalty, in reaction to a legal but rare underarm serve from his opponent. He also received a warning for nearly hitting a spectator after hitting a ball into the crowd. Kyrgios was fined for “audible obscenity” after arguing with the chair umpire.

“You’re a disgrace,” Kyrgios said to the umpire, arguing that Tsitsipas should have received more than a warning. “I’m not playing until we get to the bottom of it. You can’t hit a ball into the crowd and it’s not a default.”

In the final, Kyrgios faced Djokovic, the No. 1 seed. Djokovic, with six Wimbledon titles under his belt ahead of this year, was always going to be a tough opponent for Kyrgios, a player who has historically struggled with taking the game seriously and focusing during matches.

And tough he was. In four sets, the Serb beat Kyrgios 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3), dropping only the first set. Djokovic’s consistency and solid groundstrokes from the baseline trumped Kyrgios’ typically flashy points — he was only thrown in the first set before regaining composure. The win puts Djokovic at 21 singles Slam titles, one away from tying for first place with Nadal for the most ever.

While the winner in the gentlemen’s draw was arguably expected, the final matchup and ladies’ winners were not. This gave fans globally a whirlwind of a championship to follow, highlighting the often chaotic nature of tennis. As Wimbledon has come to a close, fans and players alike set their sights on the next Grand Slam, the U.S. Open, held in New York City at the end of August.

Abhi Erra covers men’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected]. Maria Kholodova covers women’s tennis. Contact her at [email protected].

JULY 18, 2023

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