Winds of change at Wimbledon

Last Updated: Fri, Jul 05, 2013 13:41 hrs

The 2013 Wimbledon is probably the tennis version of an apocalypse. Those who had backed Nadal, Federer, Serena and Sharapova to win the titles have been diving for cover with a rash of hitherto nobodies writing their own script to silence the big guns.

Thus, we have a field that has few familiar names and some which are absolute tongue twisters. In fact, none of the four women's singles semi-finalists have won a Grand Slam while only two of them, Radwanska and Bartoli have played in a final, both at Wimbledon, but finishing runner-up.

Thanks to Djokovic and Murray, there is still some sanity left in The Championships 2013 that will probably go down as epochal as it looks highly unlikely that we will ever see Federer or, for that matter, Nadal rule the grass courts on Church Road. A new chapter in tennis has just begun.

Never mind that Federer marked his exit with some brave words that would have cheered only the sentimental amongst us rather than reflected the reality which is that tennis is on the verge of transition in more ways than one.

While the old order is gradually making for the young and brash, so also the playing style that is fast losing individuality with virtually all players looking the same with their double-fisted strokes. No wonder then that Virginia Wade branded today's generation of players as robots that are separated only by ability.

The past week at Wimbledon has also seen much acrimony, especially among women players with some name-calling, uncharitable remarks over physique and boyfriends, but stopping just short of racism. Such a pity that top level tennis has degenerated to unimaginable depths and to an extent that there is little love lost among players, something that is more obvious in women's tennis.

Truth to tell, I stopped watching Wimbledon on the telly the night Federer lost. At best, a few minutes just to catch the results that however I can barely relate to given the fact that so many new faces have sprung up pushing out the older generation.

Also, the classical serve-volley grasscourt game that was synonymous with Wimbledon is on its way out with players opting to camp on the baseline to slug it out. Though occasionally the rallies are long and exciting, it hardly makes for a pretty sight. Add to the mix all the screaming, screeching, grunting and yelling the players indulge in. It is a concoction I find wholly unpalatable.

Conversely, the Wimbledon results only reflect the strength and depth of talent in professional tennis where not even the top ranked players can afford even an iota of complacency even against relatively unknown opponents. Title favourites Federer, Nadal, Serena and Sharapova all came up against dangerous floaters to capsize in spectacular fashion.

Adding to the upset results was the many pullouts due to injuries, some of the suffered following falls on the courts in the first week. In fact, the carefully manicured Wimbledon courts did come in for some close scrutiny with several players finding it far too slippery, while others aggravated the niggles that they were carrying.

Whatever, as a spectacle, this year's Wimbledon might have fallen sharply with the marked absence of established names deep into the tournament. The many vacant courtside seats that are usually prized were a big surprise. So much so that people lining up outside the All-England club for tickets were pleasantly surprised that the wait was considerably shorter than usual.

Thus, going into the business end of the tournament, the women's singles is still very much an open affair while Djokovic and Murray are inching towards another showdown in the men's final, and should the duo make it that far, it will be a fitting climax to an otherwise tepid event that if anything has seen winds of change in pro tennis.

Closer to home, the passing away of Rahul Dravid's father Sharad came as a shock though he had been ailing for a while. I remember the days Sharad used to visit us in the sports department with scores of his shy son and requesting 'headline' that would catch the selectors' eyes. I have had only a few interactions with Sharad who was a gentleman to the core, something that he passed on to Rahul. Adieu, Mr Sharad Dravid.

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