Djokovic, Kvitova left Wimby with the big wins
By Scott Riley,
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The 2011 edition of Wimbledon was yet another grand tennis event, one that welcomed a pair of first-time singles champions in Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova.
Djokovic headed into the third major of the year ranked No. 2 in the world, but left the All England Club at No. 1 and possessing two of the three Grand Slam trophies.
Kvitova, meanwhile, had been knocking on the big tennis door, having reached the Wimbledon semifinals last year, won three tournaments already this year, and recently charged into the Top 10. She was already the best left-hander currently in the women's game, and she may be on her way to being the best player, period, on the women's tour.
The 24-year-old Djokovic needed to reach the final in order to supplant Rafael Nadal as the new No. 1, and that's exactly what he did by dousing fine Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semis to reach his first career Wimbledon title bout. Djokovic also beat Tsonga in the 2008 Australian Open final.
|Novak Djokovic became a first-time Wimbledon champion and improved to 48-1 this year.
Djokovic then handled the defending champion Nadal in four sets in the blockbuster final on Centre Court, as the soaring Serb improved to an amazing 48-1 this year, including a pile of titles -- eight to be exact. The Djoker's lone 2011 loss came against Roger Federer in the French Open semis last month. The super Serb was riding a 43-match winning streak at the time, including a 41-0 start to his season.
Other than that one setback, the Serb has been flat-out phenomenal.
Dating back to December of last year, Djokovic has won 50-of-51 matches; helped his beloved Serbia capture its first-ever Davis Cup championship; has won two-of-three major titles; and tallied no less than four Masters wins on the grueling ATP circuit.
He's now No. 1 for the first time in his career and is the first-ever Serbian male to reach the top. Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic had already achieved that status on the women's tour.
The steady Djokovic also captured his first major title that wasn't the Australian Open, where he's a two-time winner.
|Petra Kvitova captured her first-ever Grand Slam title by upsetting former champion Maria Sharapova in the final.
The 21-year-old Kvitova landed in her first-ever Grand Slam final and captured her first career major title by upsetting former champ Maria Sharapova in the final. The three-time Grand Slam titlist and former No. 1 Sharapova headed into the world's most prestigious tennis event as the pre-tournament favorite, and the 2004 champ still appeared to be the favorite heading into the 2011 final...but nobody told Kvitova.
The Czech native pasted Maria in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, to become the first lefty woman to run the table at Wimby since another Czech native, Martina Navratilova, captured a ninth Wimbledon title back in 1990. There just haven't been that many great lefties in women's tennis history.
Note: The legendary Navratilova boasts the Open-Era Wimbledon record with nine singles titles.
Speaking of Sharapova, you'd better keep your eye on her as a favorite at the U.S. Open. Kvitova will be among the faves in New York, as well, but her big game will slow down a bit on the hardcourts in Flushing.
Nadal headed into the men's final riding a 20-match winning streak at the AEC, where he hadn't lost since the 2007 final against Federer. He was the winner in 2008 after beating Federer in the final in one of the greatest sporting events of all-time; missed Wimbledon 2009 because of injuries; titled there again last year by whipping Czech Tomas Berdych in the final; and was flawless in his '11 run until he ran into Djokovic, who's now an eye-popping 5-0 against the mighty Spaniard this year -- all in finals. The Serb has also beaten Nadal in four ATP Masters final this season.
Prior to this latest major event, Djokovic had been 0-5 lifetime against Nadal in Grand Slam meetings. That all changed over the weekend.
|Rafael Nadal had won 20 straight matches at the All England Club.
The 25-year-old Nadal headed into Wimbledon as its' defending champ, and he also held (and still holds) the French Open and U.S. Open titles. He bested Djokovic in last year's U.S. Open finale.
Nadal has now appeared in five of the last six Wimbledon finals, winning two and losing three. He's actually appeared in the title tilt in his last five trips there.
This also marked Nadal's first loss in a Grand Slam final to someone other than Federer.
Wimbledon 2011 also marked the Grand Slam comeback of Serena Williams, who had been sidelined for more than 11 months because of a foot injury and a health scare that included blood clots on her lungs and a hematoma on her stomach. But let's leave all the medical stuff for the doctors and talk some more about Serena's tennis.
She returned to action last month at a Wimbledon tuneup in Eastbourne, where she went 1-1, and then hit the grass at Wimbledon, where she was the reigning two-time champion and is a four-time winner overall on the hallowed lawns.
The 29-year-old seventh-seeded Serena fell at the hands of former runner-up Marion Bartoli in the round of 16 at the All England Club. The ninth-seeded Bartoli lost to Serena's older sister Venus in the 2007 Wimbledon finale. Serena beat Russian Vera Zvonareva in last year's final.
|Maria Sharapova reached her first Wimbledon final in seven years.
Serena was trying to become the first three-peat winner at the Big W since Navratilova won six straight there from 1982-87.
Due to her recent inactivity and the fact that she was unable to defend her championship points at Wimbledon from a year ago, Serena has now plummeted to No. 175 in the world, her lowest ranking since 1997. She was ranked 25th in the world last week.
The highest-ranked American woman now is Bethanie Mattek-Sands, at No. 31.
The former world No. 1 Serena still owns 13 major titles, and I still expect that number to increase over the next couple of years.
Venus, meanwhile, also recently returned from injury, as she was out for five months with hip and abdominal issues before also returning in Eastbourne.
At Wimbledon, Venus also suffered a fourth-round exit, as she and Serena lost on the same day there for the first time. Venus succumbed to pesky Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova for a second year in a row. A 32nd-seeded Pironkova doused the former No. 1 Venus in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3, just as she had done a year earlier, in the quarterfinals, by an identical 6-2, 6-3 score. Pironkova also upended a second-seeded Zvonareva in the third round this year. Zvonareva was not only last year's runner-up at Wimby, she was also the runner-up at the 2010 U.S. Open.
|Roger Federer came up a quarterfinal loser for a second straight year.
Venus is a seven-time major champion, highlighted by a whopping five Wimbledon titles.
Note: The six-time finalist Serena and eight-time finalist Venus had combined to win nine of the previous 11 Wimbledon championships.
Back over on the men's side, it would appear as though Federer's best tennis is behind him. The 29-year-old Swiss great lost in the quarterfinals for a second straight year after reaching seven straight Wimbledon finals.
Federer has won six Wimbledon titles, including five straight at one point (2003-07), but failing to reach at least the semifinals there for a second straight campaign could be a telling sign for him.
The remarkable Swiss still owns a men's record 16 Grand Slam titles, but he hasn't nailed one down now since last year's Aussie Open, or a stretch of six majors, his longest such drought since 2003 when he captured his first major title, at the All England Club.
Pete Sampras continues to hold the men's record with seven Wimbledon titles in the Open Era (since 1968), with Federer still trailing by one.
Federer was this year's French Open runner-up to Nadal (of course) and he currently sits at No. 3 in the world, which no one could argue with at this point.
As for Andy Murray, he failed once again in trying to give Britain its first male Wimbledon champion since 1936 (Fred Perry). The Scot lost in the semis at the AEC for a third straight year, including a second straight setback against the 10-time Grand Slam stalwart that is Nadal.
|Serena Williams was unable to produce a third straight Wimbledon title.
Note: The last British woman to capture Wimbledon was Virginia Wade in 1977.
Murray was this year's Aussie Open runner-up to Djokovic, he's a three-time major runner-up overall, and is still seeking that elusive first-ever Grand Slam title. Will it come in New York in September? I wouldn't think so.
Back over to the women.
What happened to "world No. 1" Caroline Wozniacki? The Dane was sent packing by diminutive Slovak Dominika Cibulkova in only the fourth round.
Wozniacki is No. 1 in the world despite having ever only reached one Grand Slam final, and that resulted in a loss against Kim Clijsters at the U.S. Open two years ago. She's somehow on top despite having never won a major championship?
I don't know how that's possible? I guess a computer does.
And Wozniacki has yet to even reach a Wimbledon quarterfinal in five trips there.
|Andy Murray lost in the Wimbledon semis for a third straight year.
Li Na had been all the rage this year, having given China its first-ever Grand Slam finalist at the Aussie Open back in January (lost to Kim Clijsters) and also given China its first-ever major champion at the French Open last month (beat defending champion Francesca Schiavone in the final). But the veteran slugger was stunned by big-serving German Sabine Lisicki in only the second round at Wimbledon, which prevented her from reaching a third straight major final. Lisicki wound up soaring all the way into the semis last week.
At least capable Belarusian Victoria Azarenka broke through with her first trip into a major semifinal. Unfortunately for the world No. 4 she ran into the formidable Kvitova, who would bounce her in three sets.
How 'bout Andy Roddick? Is it near the end of the road for him?
The former top-ranked American star bowed out in only the third round against Spanish southpaw Feliciano Lopez, who wound up in the quarterfinals last week.
Roddick is a three-time Wimbledon runner-up, with all three setbacks coming against the iconic Federer, including a heartbreaking five-set loss there two years ago.
It's actually Mardy Fish who is currently the highest-ranked American in the world. The No. 8 from Minnesota enjoyed his best-ever showing at Wimbledon, where he climbed into the quarterfinals before falling against Nadal.
Could Fish go even further in New York later this summer?
|Caroline Wozniacki has yet to reach a Wimbledon quarterfinal.
The Aussies now have their hopes up for one Bernard Tomic, the 18-year-old who stunned fifth-seeded Robin Soderling in the third round. Tomic made it all the way to the quarterfinals, becoming the youngest male to reach the round of eight at Wimbledon since Boris Becker captured a second straight title there in 1986.
Tomic ultimately gave way to Djokovic in the quarters.
Oddly enough, American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut met in the opening round at Wimbledon for a second straight year. They were one year removed from their epic battle on Court 18, where they played that unbelievable record-smashing 11-hour, 5-minute match over three days. This time around, the 6-foot-9 Isner won again, but it ended in one day, in just over two hours, on Court 3. Last year's odyssey featured a 138-game fifth set, which Isner captured 70-68.
The 2011 fortnight marked the 125th edition of The Championships, which was first staged in 1877, when the only event held was gentlemen's singles.
The fourth and final Grand Slam tourney of 2011 will be the U.S. Open, which will get underway August 29 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Who do you like there?