Five things we learned while at All Eng­land Club

USA TODAY International Edition - - SPORTS - San­dra Har­witt

Wrap­ping up the fort­night at Wim­ble­don, the year’s third Grand Slam tour­na­ment. AGE IS NO OB­STA­CLE Wim­ble­don cham­pion Roger Fed­erer, 35, and Wim­ble­don fi­nal­ist Venus Wil­liams, 37, con­firm you’re never too old to play if your heart and body co­op­er­ate. Fed­erer won a record eighth men’s ti­tle and at 35 years, 342 days old is the old­est man in the Open era to lay claim to the Wim­ble­don tro­phy. It’s worth not­ing that Fed­erer won the Aus­tralian Open ti­tle in Jan­uary, mark­ing the first time since 2009 he has won two Grand Slam tour­na­ment tro­phies in the same sea­son. While Wil­liams fell one match short of be­com­ing the old­est Wim­ble­don women’s cham­pion at 37 years, 29 days, her achieve­ments should not be ig­nored as she also ap­peared in the Aus­tralian Open fi­nal this year. It seems al­most au­to­matic that cham­pi­ons start to get asked about re­tire­ment the minute they turn 30. But of late, play­ers are skew­ing older when putting forth phe­nom­e­nal achieve­ments, so why rush them to the exit? They could have plenty more to prove. NO ONE- SLAM WON­DER Newly minted Wim­ble­don cham­pion Garbine Muguruza val­i­dated early pre­dic­tions she would win mul­ti­ple Grand Slam ti­tles. She has now won two in three Grand Slam fi­nal ap­pear­ances: the 2016 French Open and this Wim­ble­don. Ques­tions, how­ever, will con­tinue to swirl around the Spa­niard if con­sis­tency re­mains an is­sue. She seems to bloom for big matches but can be lack­adaisi­cal at reg­u­lar tour­na­ments. It’s hard not to think that some­one of her stature should have more than four tour- level ti­tles in her tro­phy case. A cham­pion needs to com­pet­i­tively per­form to stan­dard through­out the year and not just at cer­tain events. STILL MISS­ING IN AC­TION When No­vak Djokovic dropped an­chor as the de­fend­ing cham­pion at last year’s Wim­ble­don, he was deemed un­flap­pable and un­touch­able. He had just com­pleted a non- cal­en­dar year Grand Slam, an achieve­ment that cli­maxed with win­ning a French Open ti­tle. In the quick­est turn­around imag­in­able, Djokovic left 2016 Wim­ble­don a wounded man af­ter suf­fer­ing a third- round up­set. Dur­ing his post- match com­ments, he men­tioned deal­ing with a pri­vate con­cern. One year later, Djokovic has yet to climb out of his quag­mire. While ru­mors swirled around the tour, it was never shy John McEn­roe who sug­gested on a BBC TV broad­cast last week that Djokovic had mar­i­tal con­cerns and then likened him to hav­ing Tiger Woods- sized prob­lems. Whether true or not, it is a fact that Djokovic and his wife, Je­lena, are ex­pect­ing a sec­ond child this year. On top of all that, a right el­bow in­jury, which Djokovic said he has had for nearly 18 months, was both­er­some enough to force him to re­tire from his quar­ter­fi­nal match in the sec­ond set. Djokovic left the tennis world won­der­ing if they’ve al­ready seen the best of the 30- year- old or whether he’ll re­bound to add Grand Slam ti­tles to his col­lec­tion of 12. PLAYER TO WATCH Of­ten af­ter a young player achieves un­ex­pected great­ness they can find them­selves a bit emo­tion­ally fa­tigued, which man­i­fests in a let­down pe­riod. Com­ing into Wim­ble­don, there was height­ened in­ter­est to see how 20- year- old Je­lena Ostapenko of La­tiva would per­form fresh off be­com­ing the French Open cham­pion. Wim­ble­don de­liv­ered good news on that front as Ostapenko held her own only weeks af­ter win­ning her first Grand Slam tro­phy. No, she didn’t win the Wim­ble­don ti­tle, but no one re­ally ex­pected that to hap­pen. What pun­dits wanted to see is if she would find it too much to deal with and lose early. Muguruza fell prey to that last year when as the reign­ing French Open cham­pion she de­parted Wim­ble­don in the sec­ond round. Ostapenko made it through to the quar­ter­fi­nals, where she was turned back by Wil­liams in straight sets. Ostapenko, how­ever, def­i­nitely has the po­ten­tial not to be­come a ones­lam won­der. GRASS NOT AL­WAYS GREENER Wim­ble­don is wor­shiped as the most im­por­tant tennis tour­na­ment in the world. It is also revered for hav­ing the finest grass courts any­where. To a cer­tain ex­tent, the be­lief that the All Eng­land Club al­ways has well- man­i­cured lawns is folk­lore. The weather con­di­tions lead­ing up to and dur­ing The Cham­pi­onships play a part in the play­ing qual­ity of the courts. This year it was dry and hot, which doesn’t equal per­fec­tion. Dur­ing the fort­night, there were many com­plaints from play­ers that the courts were too slip­pery, the grass turned to dirt way too early and there were even holes in the turf as well. Be as­sured, the All Eng­land Club has an army of lawn care folks tend­ing to the grass all year long and in­crease their num­bers dur­ing Wim­ble­don.

PHOTOS BY SU­SAN MULLANE, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

No­vak Djokovic re­tired in his quar­ter­fi­nal match due to a both­er­some right el­bow in­jury.

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