Read a fabulous recap of highlights from Wimbledon 2014, as seen by Ground Pass holder @lizcurran *Sigh* I miss it already….
We’ve enjoyed a fantastic month of beautiful grass court tennis here in the UK culminating in the Wimbledon Championships. The players in the ATP / WTA travelling circus have left our sunny shores for a myriad of destinations: Newport, Stuttgart, Bastad, Baku, Umag or training camps in warmer climes. So before our thought turn to the final Grand Slam of the year in New York, I wanted to share a few highlights and favourite things from my Wimbledon 2014.
I attended Wimbledon this year exclusively on grounds passes so this is therefore a slightly alternative view of the tournament. I am happy to confirm that you can still have a very enjoyable and interesting Wimbledon on grounds passes.
Tennis highlights Nick Kyrgios #NKRising
My personal highlight of the tournament was watching 19 year old Australian wildcard Nick Kyrgios, whose progress I have followed online and in person, for the last 18 months, reach the quarterfinals. Along the way he beat 13th seed Richard Gasquet, 2nd seed Rafa Nadal (world No.1 at the time) and top 100 rising star 20 year old Jiri Vesely.
I watched every ball of the rain interrupted third round Kyrgios v Vesely match on a packed and noisy court 17. I’m glad I chose this match, and stuck with it through the rain delays. It was an entertaining battle over four sets between these two tall strong talented rising stars with both players treating us to some exciting tennis.
Vesely started the stronger taking the first set on a single break. Kyrgios looked very uncomfortable at the start and I wondered whether his epic five set match against Richard Gasquet had taken its toll. However when the match resumed at 6pm after a long rain delay Kyrgios looked and played much better and the momentum gradually began to swing towards him as he won the next two sets.
In the fourth set Vesely’s resistance faded and Kyrgios closed out the win with relative ease, much to the delight of the Fanatics who, along with the majority of the crowd, had cheered their man loudly from the start.
Kyrgios d Vesely 36 63 75 62
I love it when new players break through. It’s part of the regeneration process that is so important to keep our sport fresh. I still remember the excitement of watching an 18 year old wild haired John McEnroe reach the semifinals of Wimbledon many years ago. And who this year would have predicted Nick Kyrgios in the quarter finals and Grigor Dimitrov in the semi finals?
Whilst success may appear to come overnight, preceding every breakthrough fairy tale tournament are a serious of tough losses. I witnessed Kyrgios’ late night loss in five sets (from two sets up) to Benoit Paire in the second round of this year’s Australian Open. He could hardly walk for cramp in the fifth set and yet he didn’t retire and he even managed to win some service games in that final set due to the strength of his serve. He earned my, and his opponent’s, respect that night. He was also part of the Australian team that lost 5-0 to France in the Davis Cup early this year losing to both Gasquet and Monfils in singles. That can’t have been easy but he would appear to have used these losses as an opportunity to learn and improve creating the foundation for his success at Wimbledon.
Nick writes a blog which can be found on his website http://nickkyrgios.org/category/blog/ – I think this is fairly unique amongst tennis players. I have enjoyed reading his reflections on his tennis adventures and I shall continue to follow his progress with interest.
Junior Wimbledon – future star spotting
Continuing with the theme of new stars emerging, I am also a big fan of the junior Grand Slam competitions. These inject new life and energy into the championships when they kick off over the middle weekend, just as the senior competitions are whittling down to the last 16 players. So I spent much of my second week sitting courtside watching Junior Wimbledon matches.
I like to see if I can predict who will break through in 2 or 3 years time, onto the main tour. Genie Bouchard won singles and doubles of Junior Wimbledon in 2012 and Nick Kyrgios won the junior doubles title with Thanasi Kokkinakis in 2013 so you really can be watching the next generation of stars. The matches are usually very high quality and competitive and they are free to grounds pass holders except for the finals which are generally held on show court1.
My current favourite junior player is 16 year old American Stefan Kozlov whose progress I have tracked over the last year since I first saw him play live. He plays beautiful effortless tennis and I would recommend you take the opportunity to watch him play if you have the opportunity. Last year aged just 15 Kozlov reached the Wimbledon singles quarterfinals, losing to talented 18 year old Briton Kyle Edmund in three sets. He was then runner up in Australia in January. At this year’s Wimbledon he reached the final of the singles, losing in three sets to his compatriot 18 year old Noah Rubin. He also reached the final of the doubles with his partner Andrey Rublev; they lost a close match 6-8 in the third set to Loz/Zormann. It’s not an exact science predicting who will be a star of the future but I definitely think Stefan Kozlov (who I understand is named after Stefan Edberg) is one to watch.
In the girls tournament 17 year old Jelena Ostopenko from Latvia won the trophy. I saw her play here for the first time and she impressed me with her cool focus and talented shot making.
On a lighter note for the benefit of any Rafa fans that are wondering who they might follow when he retires my friends introduced me to a player that bears a startling resemblance to a young Rafa Nadal in the form of Filippo Baldi of Italy.
Here’s the photographic evidence!
Doubles and Mixed Doubles
As a grounds passer you can certainly watch some fantastic fast and furious doubles and mixed doubles matches on the outside courts. You can stand or sit right by the side of the court and watch top players, grand slam winners and former number one players such as Lleyton Hewitt. Martina Hingis, Sam Stosur as well as more regular stars of the doubles circuit such as Paes and Stepanek and the Bryan brothers.
As the second week progresses courts 2 and 3 also become unreserved so you can watch some of the quarter and semifinal matches in comfortable raked seating.
This year on the final Saturday of the tournament and after the ladies final I stood in the ticket resale queue to get into Centre Court. After half an hour of standing in the rain, sheltering under my tiny umbrella, I and a friend had secured a fantastic pair of seats in centre court for £10 each (original price £125 each) to watch the ladies and the men’s doubles final.
This was our view ☺
We saw the second set of the Errani/Vinci v Babos / Mladenovic and then were treated to the Jack Sock / Vasek Pospisil match where they beat Mike and Bob Bryan in the thrilling five set match. This match showcased the best of the doubles game and it was great to be there.
Thank you Wimbledon for running the resale scheme. It really is one of the best things about the tournament.
Early round mini triumphs
Given there can only be one winner (or winning pair) of each of the competitions what I love about Grand Slams is the mini triumphs and stories that unfold through the two weeks.
From a British point of view the early days of Wimbledon usually consist of seeing whether any of the home wildcards can beat their higher ranked opponents and progress to round 2.
This year’s best story was Naomi Broady who reached the second round on the ladies singles competition as a wildcard giving her the opportunity to play Caroline Wozniacki on Court 1 in the second round. In her press conference She talked about having almost given up tennis a year earlier to become an au pair because it was so hard to keep going financially.
Naomi Broady with her partner Neal Skupski (a specialist doubles player) also massively exceeded expectations by reaching the quarterfinals of the mixed doubles. I saw Neal and Naomi taking photos with fans outside the press centre in the evening following their third round win and their smiles could have lit up the whole of Wimbledon.
Sometimes it’s enough to put in a great performance and do your very best against overwhelming odds and a much higher ranked player. Debutante Wimbledon wildcard Dan Smethurst (world rank 234) did just this playing some excellent tennis against John Isner (world rank 11) and winning more games that anyone expected.
Isner d Smethurst 75 63 64.
Another mini triumph for me was British No.1 Heather Watson’s continued improvement and return to form, after an injury plagued 2013. She won her first round match v Ajla Tomljanvic in straight sets in a little over a hour.
Note: all world rankings are quoted as they were during the tournament.
Note from GSG: Huge thanks to Liz Curran for the Wimbledon articles she contributed this year. I do my best to regularly publish content but sometimes life gets in the way. I know how much time and effort it takes to write blog articles and totally appreciate that friends like Liz make it easy for me to keep bringing you quality articles that share the fan experience.