USA TODAY International Edition

Five things we learned while at All England Club

- 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.
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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