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Wimbledon 2021: an extraordinary adventure

The grass tournament returns in all its glory: a recap.

by Alessandra Puglisi

Photo courtesy of Carine06 via Creative Commons

Last Sunday, the oldest tennis tournament in the world came to an end. Of course, we are talking about no other than Wimbledon. The much-awaited tennis competition on grass-court held many surprises in store and did not disappoint the loyal fans. To the world, Wimbledon is synonymous with tennis, and so each year the battle to conquer its glory begins.

The return of Scottish star Andy Murray.

The two-time former champion of the tournament returned for the first time to Wimbledon since 2017, when a hip injury knocked him out of the quarter-finals. Murray was given a wildcard to enter Wimbledon 2021 after beating Frenchman Benoit Paire in two straight sets. Murray seemed comfortable in his first Wimbledon round beating No. 24 Nikoloz Basilašvili and losing only one set. The second-round match against German Oscar Otte showed some extraordinary tennis from Murray, having to fight back from 2-1 down to win the fourth and fifth sets. In his interview at the end of the match, the 34-year-old said: “What an atmosphere to play in at the end. The whole crowd was amazing but there were a few guys in there getting me fired up. I needed everyone's help.” Murray’s quest was stopped by 22-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the third-round match. Despite the crowd’s wide support for Murray, the Scot surrendered to Shapovalov in three straight sets (6-4, 6-2, 6-2).

Emma Raducanu: a bright future for England.

Young tennis star Emma Raducanu also received a wildcard to enter Wimbledon; the 18-year-old was ranked No. 338 at the beginning of the tournament and played exceptionally well. Sailing through her first, second and third-round matches, Raducanu became the youngest English player in the Open era to reach the round of 16 at Wimbledon on her first try. During the second set of her fourth-round match against Australian Ajla Tomljanović, Raducanu suffered breathing problems and had to abandon the game. Following Raducanu’s exit from the match, Tomljanović said: “I’m really sorry for her because I wish we could’ve finished it, but it’s sport, it’ happens so I’m wishing her all the best.”

Missing key players: the absence of Naomi Osaka and Rafael Nadal.

The spotlight has never moved from Naomi Osaka since she has withdrawn from Roland Garros this year due to mental health reasons. Osaka entered Roland Garros winning her first-round match but then entered in a dispute against tennis officials regarding her decision to not attend mandatory media commitments. At first, she was fined $15,000 and threatened with disqualification from Roland Garros and after a week-week-long confrontation, Osaka decided to pull out of the French Open. Osaka's agent, Stuart Duguid, announced that Osaka was taking time to be with her family and friends and she would not be playing in Wimbledon 2021, but reassured that she would take part at the Tokyo Olympics where she is expected to fight for the gold medal for her home country.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal also announced he would be skipping this year's tournament as well as the Olympics. After a semi-final defeat against Djokovic at Roland Garros this year, Nadal announced that entering Wimbledon would have not given his body enough time to be ready for the grass tournament. He said that the difficult decision was made in order to prolong his career and continue to compete at maximum levels.

Williams power: is the sisters' light dimming?

Wimbledon 2021 was an unfortunate adventure for the Williams sisters. No.6 and seven-time champion Serena was forced to abandon the grass tournament during her first-round match following an aggravated hamstring injury. Serena already started the match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich with heavy strapping on her thigh and then slipped in the fifth game for the first time. When the same thing happened again in the seventh game she went off court for treatment and returned with a heavy limp, she tried to continue before it soon became apparent she would be unable to. Supporters on Centre Court rose in unison to give a heartfelt standing ovation as a teary-eyed Serena Williams waved goodbye. Serena was hoping to pursue her 24th Grand Slam victory before the injury forced her to an early out of Wimbledon. “I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg. My love and gratitude are with the fans and the team who make being on Centre Court so meaningful. Feeling the extraordinary warmth and support of the crowd when I walked on - and off - the court meant the world to me.” Williams said on a later Instagram post. All hopes are for her to recover and make her come back stronger.

The older Williams sister, Venus, received a wildcard for Wimbledon and won her first-round match against Romanian Mihaela Buzărnescu in three hard-fought sets. However, the 41-year-old run was stopped in the second turn by Ons Jabeur with a 7-5, 6-0 defeat, losing ten games straight. Venus Williams was also competing in the mixed double along with Australian Nick Kyrgios. The pair sailed through the first turn in three entertaining sets but had to abandon at the second turn due to an injury suffered by Kyrgios in his third-round singles match. Questioned if this would be her last shot at Wimbledon, Venus replied “When it’s my last, I’ll let you know.”

Roger and out: will there be another Wimbledon for Federer?

Swiss legend Roger Federer leaves tennis fans around the world in the unknown once again. After returning to Wimbledon having had two knee surgeries the year before, the Swiss progressed until the fifth round of the grass tournament before conceding to Polish Hubert Hurkacz in three straight sets. It was his first straight sets defeat since 2002. The eight-time champion announced that he is unsure if he will play again at Wimbledon: “Of course I would like to play it again but at my age you never know what is around the corner. I will talk with my team and go from there, see what I need to do to get in better shape and be more competitive.” The Swiss did not seem in the best shape during his first round and was not doing very well before his opponent, Adrian Mannarino, was forced to retire due to an injury. After that, Federer increased the pace and played better with each round defeating Richard Gasquet, Cameron Norrie and Lorenzo Sonego. After his loss to Hurkacz, Federer said: “My goal for the last year was to play another Wimbledon, I was able to make it this year, which I was really happy about. Everything that comes after Wimbledon we will sit down and talk about it.”

A champion in the making vs the legend: Berrettini and Djokovic for the title.

For many, it has not been a surprise to see Novak Djokovic reaching yet another Grand Slam final. The five-time Wimbledon champion has added another trophy to the list. Fresh out of a triumphal run at Roland Garros only a few weeks earlier, the Serb beat Rafael Nadal in the semifinal and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final, winning the French Open for the second time in his career. Curiously enough, in the quarter-final game of Roland Garros against Matteo Berrettini, the fans had a first taste of what was about to come in Wimbledon too. The two players, in fact, reached the final of the grass tournament putting up a magnetic game for their supporters in Central Court. The young Berrettini is a bright star of tennis; at 25 he is the only Italian tennis player to have ever reacher the final of Wimbledon. In 2019 he reached the semifinal of the US Open but lost to Rafael Nadal in three straight sets. In 2021 he has advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open, the Quarter Final of Roland Garros and the Final of Wimbledon with remarkable matches and style of play. During the final match against the Serb, Berrettini won the first set before surrendering to Djokovic, despite losing the following three sets the Italian did not surrender easily and forced the game to continue to try and snatch it back, stopping two match points from the Serb. However, it seems that no amount of challenge is too big for the legend itself, Novak Djokovic. The Serb has the mark of a true champion and in spite of getting older he keeps getting better, constantly at the top of his game. The champion made his glorious return to Wimbledon, collecting the twentieth Slam victory after playing an incredible tournament. In the final he was not just in a battle against Matteo Berrettini, he was also battling a crowd that was mostly rooting for the Italian.

But this is not the end yet. With only a few days to go before the Olympics, it has been announced that Berrettini will not be competing in Tokyo due to an injury, while Djokovic feels ready to conquer the gold medal, the only silverware that seems to be eluding Novak’s trophy cabinet.


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