Why 8? Why Not?
- Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber staged a final in which one player played quite well and the other played even better. In their Australian Open final earlier this year, Kerber and Williams combined to break serve 3 times in a 10 game first set. Over 21 games, there were only 2 breaks of serve in their Wimbledon final. Kerber served far better than her averages against a great returner. Serena served even better offering the tennis equivalent of a no-hitter.
- Andy Murray left Roland Garros with a sense of what-ifs in many people’s view. Sure he had ended many droughts for tennis in the UK, but even with his 2015 Davis Cup heroics a sense of so many near misses seemed to be his lasting legacy. Murray now has 3 majors (2 Wimbledon titles, 1 USO title), 2 olympic medals, 1 Davis Cup title, and a slew of Masters 1000 shields/historic titles at places such as Queen’s Club. He will likely add to his win tally, and to his runner-up tally. While what-ifs will be part of his career analysis (as they are for every player), I don’t think Murray will be primarily remembered for where he came up short, but he will be remembered for what he accomplished.
- Milos Raonic has the demeanor to do well as his game progresses and time takes its toll on those ahead of him. Milos did not play great tennis in the Wimbledon final. I predicted a 4 set win by Murray, and Raonic didn’t win the set I expected him to win. Despite not playing his best tennis, he held serve 16 out of 17 times in a match he largely played from behind. Andy Murray is a great returner, but Raonic didn’t fall to pieces when he was broken or when he eventually lost the first set. His play in the tie-breaks could and should have been better. However, compare this to his first Masters 1000 final versus Rafael Nadal in 2013. Mentally he locked up in the final of a much smaller event. This time, Milos was not at his best, but he was far from his worst.
- Roger Federer has an unclear path ahead. Roger Federer rescued himself from a disappointing injury plagued year by posting three semifinal finishes at 3 different grass court events. His comeback win vs. Marin Cilic instilled hope in Fedfans (I admit to Federer being a player I love to watch). His loss to Raonic in 5 sets was a missed opportunity in terms of the 4th set, but he did not appear to be totally exhausted in the 5th set. Milos just outplayed him in the final set. Jimmy Connors reached the Wimbledon and US Open semifinal rounds in 1987. Connors turned 35 during his US Open run. Connors would only reach one more major semifinal in his career during his unexpected 1991 US Open run. Federer, unlike Connors, has been competitive in his 2 major semifinal rounds as a 34-year-old. Federer took one set off of Novak Djokovic in Melbourne. He lost in 5 sets to Milos Raonic. In contrast, Connors lost in straight sets to both Pat Cash and Ivan Lendl in his 1987 semifinal showings. At the 2016 US Open, Federer will be the same age Andre Agassi was when reaching the 2005 US Open final (Federer d. Agassi in 4 sets). Agassi played well in that match outside of the 4th set. By US Open 2006, Agassi limped out of the sport with a bad hip. Can Federer succeed where Agassi and Connors struggled?
- Novak Djokovic should finish 2016 strongly. Novak took a bad loss to Sam Querrey. Querrey is a 6’6″ player with a rocket serve and a history of some success on grass. Still, Djokovic and Querrey alike would say that match did not end as expected. If Novak’s shoulder is injured, he needs to rest it. However, Nole should be the top threat on hard courts in 2016 once he is mentally and physically rejuvenated.
- Venus Williams is still a player to watch. Venus is a top 10 player on the WTA Tour at 36-years of age. She played well in her Wimbledon semifinal loss to Angelique Kerber and won her 14th major in doubles with her sister Serena. I would expect Venus and Serena to be dialed in during their olympic doubles matches. A 4th gold medal for the pair seems quite possible, but a 4th medal of any sort at 4 different olympic games would set the Williams Sisters as a team apart from many other doubles duos.
- Marin Cilic could win a second major. When Marin won his 2014 US Open title, ESPN asked how many majors he would hold at the end of his career. My thought was it all depends on his level of play (I am a genius for coming up with that). Despite a few titles in Moscow and a few second week finishes at majors after his US Open title, Queen’s Club 2016 and Wimbledon 2016 was the first time I really saw a similar level of play to what he produced in New York almost 2 years ago. When Cilic is clicking he produces frightening tennis. His serve, his return, and his ground strokes can deliver paralyzing power. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic return and move well enough to survive such a barrage and perhaps gradually lower Cilic’s level of play if he is clicking. Who else? For that reason, Marin could be dangerous versus anyone if he finds and keeps that form (genius analysis again).
- Nick Kyrgios needs to put together a trusted team. Kyrgios produces what can be described as easy power. His serve and forehand have a lot of snap so to speak. He is a good athlete. He, like several tennis players before him, seems to be unsure of what he wants out of tennis and out of himself. Boris Becker went through this. Andre Agassi wrote a book about hating tennis until late 1997. Maybe Kyrgios should seek out a super coach who has been through some of these same internal struggles. Maybe he should seek a super coach who will tell him that sort of internal angst is a joke and he should get to work (largely Jimmy Connors’ response to Agassi’s book). Maybe he should pick one coach and one trainer who have good credentials in those fields even if they aren’t “super coaches” and trust in the process. What is clear is that practicing with Lleyton Hewitt when their schedules coincide is not working for Kyrgios. His round of 16 effort versus Andy Murray was a lowlight of the tournament. Murray won the title with 6 straight set wins out of 7 matches, but in that match Kyrgios showed a lack of effort.