A brand new period in tennis

Wimbledon this yr sees the fading out of outdated stars and the rise of recent ones and likewise the return of the baseline sport to the famed grass courts.

IT was a boring Wimbledon, despite the fact that it signalled the daybreak of a brand new period. Two vibrant younger champions, 21-year-old Lleyton Hewitt and 20-year-old Serena Williams emerged because the superstars of the long run.

Prime-seeded Hewitt, ranked No.1 on the earth, stamped the fortnight with uncommon authority. He broke the basic serve-and-volley mould of former champions and dominated the event from the baseline. His fierce aggression is harking back to the nice Jimmy Connors and he’s the quickest participant this author has seen in 5 many years. Hewitt appeared like, as one of many newspapers put it, “an murderer with a mission”. His one little ‘wobble’ through the championships occurred within the fifth set of his quarter-final encounter with the tall Dutchman Sjeng Schalken. Schalken fought again after he was down to 2 units to like and his massive groundshots had Hewitt scampering everywhere in the court docket to degree the match. Within the closing phases of the ultimate set Hewitt missed just a few forehands and was visibly shaky. Pumping his fist and shouting ‘Come on’ on the prime of his voice he discovered that little further to shut out the match 7-5 within the fifth.

Lleyton Hewitt with the trophy after beating David Nalbandian of Argentina on the Centre Courtroom on July 7-GERRY PENNY/AFP

Hewitt’s finest match was within the semi-finals in opposition to Henman. After England’s defeat within the World Cup soccer, British sporting hopes had been lodged on the slim shoulders of Tim Henman. Even the Queen in her jubilee yr saved her Sunday free, hoping to see Henman within the finals. You may think about the stress on poor Henman. Henman performed nicely, however failed to search out the abandon and keenness that stems from the deep religion of a champion. When the second of fact comes and the sword is to be thrust deep and firmly, Henman is discovered wanting. However, 4 semi-final appearances at Wimbledon isn’t any imply achievement and deserves the very best reward.

David Nalbandian, an Argentine of Armenian extract, a tenacious baseliner, enjoying his first event on grass, reached the ultimate. His finest victory was in opposition to the large left-handed Australian Wayne Arthurs who many fancied would attain the ultimate from the underside half of the draw along with his massive serve. Nalbandian’s success was no much less a fairy story than Ivanisevic’s victory in 2001.

The horse-tailed Xavier Malisse of Belgium, seeded 27, one place increased than Nalbandian, was the participant of the decrease half. Malisse’s victories over Kafelnikov, seeded 5, and Rusedski and Krajicek, the final two in 5 gruelling units, sapped his power, else he would certainly have made the ultimate. A tremendous all court docket participant with a clean sport and a robust serve, Malisse may simply hit the highest echelons of the sport. However the very best match within the decrease half was the encounter between the 2 patched-up outdated gladiators, Richard Krajicek, 6’5″, the champion of 1996, and Mark Philippoussis, 6’4″, of Australia. For this author, it was classic Wimbledon stuff, as they served and volleyed via 4 tie breaking units, earlier than Krajicek wrapped it up at 6-Four within the fifth. Each gamers had been out of the sport for someday nursing accidents. However the odor of freshly mown grass and the scent of battle pumped up the outdated warriors to push the clock again and produce a scintillating encounter.

The daybreak of a brand new period is inevitably linked to the top of the outdated period. Sampras and Agassi, the ‘twin towers’ of United States’ tennis, fell within the first week. It was so unhappy to see Sampras, one of many biggest gamers of all time, slumped in his courtside chair after his second spherical loss to George Bastl, who obtained into the event as a fortunate loser, having didn’t win a spot via the qualifying rounds. An indignant however bewildered Sampras mentioned that he can be again and that he was not going out of the sport on such a notice. Alas, time has taken its toll and Pistol Pete has run out of ammunition.

Andre Agassi, all the time widespread and charismatic, graciously blowing kisses to the group, appeared paralysed in the intervening time of defeat. The glazed take care of his surprising defeat to Shrichapan of Thailand reminded one in all a knockedout prize fighter. Shrichapan, from the lazy ‘klongs’ of Bangkok, unleashed a thundering serve and sharp searing groundshots to outplay Agassi at his personal sport. He gained the hearts of the Centre Courtroom along with his prepared smiles and good behaviour. In the meanwhile of victory Shrichapan bowed deep with folded fingers, in conventional Thai customized, to all of the 4 corners of the court docket to a standing ovation. From aggressive western hype with raised fist to oriental appeal and humility was a welcome aid.

For the primary time since 1922 the U.S. had no participant within the final 16 of the lads’s singles. The brand new era represented by Andy Roddick and James Blake succumbed to the serving energy and volleying of skilled old-timers similar to Rusedski and Krajicek respectively. Roddick is the much-touted way forward for U.S. tennis. Extraordinarily proficient, the 6’2″ Roddick has all of the credentials of a future champion. Solely 12 seeds within the males’s singles managed to achieve the third spherical and virtually all of the matches had been performed from the baseline. The looks of way more put on of grass on the baseline moderately than on the ‘T’ junction of the service court docket, the place volleyers perch earlier than they strike, was irrefutable proof of baseline domination. Tennis has reached a degree of velocity, accuracy and consistency that it has worn out the serve-and-volley participant. Invariably, the passing photographs deliver up the chalk past the vary of the volleyer. However I nonetheless really feel that on a quick grass the ‘massive bombers’ with serves of 130 mph and above have the sting over the baseliners.

Serena Williams along with her defend after defeating sister Venus on July 6.-TED S. WARREN/AP

THE girls remaining took ladies’s tennis to a brand new excessive. Serena’s childlike smiling innocence belies the brutal aggression with which she performs each level. She doesn’t grunt however roars like a martial arts fighter who’s delivering the deadly blow. Her perspective is summed up by what she mentioned when requested if she believed in luck. “I do not consider in luck. I simply wish to go on the market and make it occur.”

The Williams sisters are a category aside and are entrenched on the summit of the sport. Their challengers, should you can name them that, are Jennifer Capriati, Amelie Mauresmo, Henin Davenport and Martina Hingis. The final two had been injured whereas there appears to be no additional scope for enchancment within the case of Capriati and Mauresmo. The remainder of the sector are means down within the valley. To get to the summit all of them want extra bodily power and velocity. It will imply extra muscle and bodily coaching. Female grace, or no matter is left of it, might be overcome with bulging thighs and bristling biceps and triceps. It appears an excessive amount of of a worth to pay that tennis won’t ever once more see the silken grace and class of the likes of Evonne Goolagong, Maria Bueno and Chris Evert. Considerably, the curvaceous pouting blonde Anna Kournikova all the time loved a full home on whichever court docket she performed, whereas the extra expert and higher-ranked gamers had been ignored.

Mahesh Bhupathi gained the combined doubles with Elena Likkovsteva of Russia to maintain the Indian flag flying at Wimbledon. It’s a improbable achievement. Quiet, well-behaved however filled with resolve Bhupathi has executed India proud and deserves the very best reward. Within the males’s doubles partnering Miruji, ranked within the twenties in singles, Mahesh misplaced to the eventual winners Bjorkman and Woodbridge within the quarter-finals. Leander Paes, unable to discover a good associate within the males’s doubles, misplaced within the first spherical, however reached the quarter-finals of the combined doubles partnering Lisa Raymond with whom he gained the title in 1999.

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