The Championships at Wimbledon is quite an event. Everything from the pomp and decorum to the refreshing lack of courtside advertisement - and let's not forget the traditional strawberries and cream all point to this annual event being the ultimate in tennis grandeur.
How do you suppose the players who qualify for these contests feel?
Think back to a time when you finally earned something that you really worked hard for, maybe acceptance into your first choice of university courses or finally being able to afford a new car or home. The getting is only half the battle; after you finally land that most coveted of things, you still have to work on it and/or take care of it.
You might think of tennis players finally earning the privilege of playing at Wimbledon in the same way. It's not just a matter of entering a contest; these players have to maintain a certain ranking, play in a certain number of international tournaments... and those qualifications are only preliminary.
Once they meet the criteria to play in The Championships, some players then have to qualify again, particularly if they've received no wildcards and haven't satisfied the other entry requirements.
So, there they all were, all of the best of the best, ready to get their tennis on. And we were ready to watch them.
Let's find out how they did.
Perhaps the biggest highlight was The Championship's triumphant return. After last year's cancellation, it was downright glorious to see populated lawn courts and hear the solid thwacking of tennis balls again.
Of course, the pandemic was never far from anyone's mind. The Duchess of Cambridge emerging from self-imposed isolation just in time to deliver the Women's Singles trophy was great timing but how could we forget the reason she had to isolate?
Those two snapshots underscore Wimbledon 2021. With all of its dizzying highs and not-so-great lows, this year's Championship was unlike any other.
Take Emma Raducanu, for instance. She debuted at Wimbledon this year on a wildcard and made it all the way to the fourth round before having to retire due to medical reasons. Before then, she played in the Nottingham Open, again gaining entry through a wildcard. Is Ms Raducanu just phenomenally lucky or are the tennis Fates smiling on her?
While we can't say that Ms Raducanu isn't devoted to tennis, she hasn't shown the same drive as Coco Gauff. As soon as the rules governing Junior play permitted her to, Ms Gauff travelled the world, playing in every tournament she could and boosting her rating along the way.
Unfortunately, Ms Gauff was eliminated in the fourth round but that loss afforded her more time to prepare for the Olympic tennis contest, in which she will take part.
A decidedly low point in this year's Championship is Serena Williams' injury and retirement from the event in her first round of play. Ms Williams has been plagued with injuries this year, starting with the WTA Yarra Valley Classic, wherein she made it to the semi-finals. She was due to face off against Ashleigh Barty - this year's Wimbledon Singles' winner but withdrew, citing a shoulder injury.
Pundits say that Ms Williams could have had a better, less injurious year if she hadn't been so intent on tying with or besting Margaret Court, who holds the record for the greatest number of Grand Slam titles. Ah, Serena!
As for the gentlemen, play was no less dramatic or exciting. Novak Djokovic earned his place in the pantheon of tennis all-time greats; he now stands equal with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for the number of Grand Slam titles; 20 of them, to be exact.
And, speaking of Roger Federer...
He's one of the greatest tennis players of all time. His lengthy career and multiple titles and wins have inspired legions of up and coming tennis players; the annals of tennis history will list his name alongside André Agassi and Björn Borg - maybe even ahead of them.
So why are so many talking like this was Mr Federer's last Wimbledon? Like he's all done for and that he's likely ready to retire from professional competition?
Indeed, the dismal talk about who's played their last Wimbledon and how many more Championships each of the senior players has in them is one of the lowest lights of Wimbledon 2021. For all of this year's Wimbledon highlights, you almost need a second article...
Wimbledon Men's Winners
While the talk ranges between speculative and dismissive about Roger Federer, the buzz surrounding Novak Djokovic is nothing but laudatory.
Long a favourite on the court and off - have you seen some of his goofy dances? - Mr Djokovic surprised... probably nobody in taking the Gentlemen's Singles trophy this year, especially as Roger Federer was upset by Hubert Hurkacz. Still, he won the contest fair and square against a worthy opponent.
Matteo Berrettini has a lot going for him in tennis: a wicked forehand and decent backhand, an aggressive playing style and a smashing serve. However, he should learn to temper these qualities with a bit of focus and strategy; had those qualities been in play along with everything else he brings to the court, it's possible Mr Djokovic might have had a tougher run for his money.
Still, being a Wimbledon runner-up is nothing to sneeze at, Neither are the other winners of the Gentlemen's contests:
- Men's Doubles: Mektic-Pavic v. Granollers-Zeballos
- Men's Wheelchair Singles': Joachim Gérard v. Gordon Reid
- Men's Wheelchair Doubles': Hewitt-Reid v. Egberink-Gérard
- Boys' Singles: Banerjee v. Lilov
- Boys' Doubles: Dmitruk-Schnaider v. Costoulas-Hietaranta
To find out who won these matches and what their scores were, you should read more in-depth about this year's Gentlemen Wimbledon winners.
Wimbledon Women's Winners
Pint-sized and dynamic, Ashleigh Barty is the second female indigenous Australian tennis player to clinch the #1 ranking in the Women's Tennis Association.
For many of us, Ms Barty's story sounds familiar. She started playing tennis at age four, following her older sisters' footsteps. They all played netball, too, a sport Ashleigh gave up because she thought it was too girly. Just as she was peaking in Juniors' tennis, she walked away from the game to take up cricket.
That hiatus only lasted a little over a year. Having gotten her love for tennis in perspective and deciding that would be the sport she would make a career out of, Ms Barty went at it with heart and soul. And what a game she plays!
Karolina Pliskova, the runner-up, had her work cut out for her. It might have felt strange, confronting an opponent whom you tower over but Ms Pliskova, well aware of Ms Barty's tennis prowess, had other things to focus on.
As with the gentlemen, so too the ladies: anyone who plays Wimbledon - and everyone who wins fully deserves their accolades. Those athletes are:
- Ladies' Doubles: Hsieh-Mertens v. Kudermetova-Vesnina
- Ladies' Wheelchair Singles': de Groot v. Montjane
- Ladies' Wheelchair Doubles: Kamiji-Whiley v. Montjane-Shuker
- Girls' Singles: Mintegi del Olmo v. Schunk
- Girls' Doubles: Dmitruk-Schnaider v. Costoulos-Hietarnta
To learn how those contests played out, we've gone in-depth into them in a separate article.
There's recently been a lot of debate over athletes raking in millions in tournament purses and endorsements.
Some contend that, while athletes' efforts are certainly deserving of a payday, it probably shouldn't be more than the GDP of smaller, impoverished nations where people struggle to find enough to eat. Others believe that, for all of the training, restrictions on their life and the joy athletes bring, getting paid millions is their due.
No matter which side of the discussion you fall on - or if you're squarely on the line between arguments, you have to marvel at how efficiently the All-England Lawn Tennis Club distributes the monies allocated for tournament prizes.
First, let's consider how they constantly adjust individual categories' purses.
Until recently, female athletes laid claim to far smaller prizes than males and wheelchair athletes hardly saw any prize money at all. Furthermore, less-renown players, those who might only make it to the third round or, at best, quarterfinals could count on only a meagre share of the club's overall budget allocated to prizes.
Those pay-out sore points have mostly been rectified, with the greatest levelling seen in this year's Championship prize breakdown.
Second, let's consider what happened last year, when The Championships were cancelled. Fully aware that contestants rely on the money they would have earned had the tournament gone ahead as scheduled, the AELTC paid out millions of pounds to the 736 athletes who would have participated.
Granted, that amount is a far cry from the winnings that playing the tournament would have netted the highest-rated players but, still, the disbursed amounts were better than nothing.
So, how much did the AELTC budget for The Championship this year?
Superprof gives you the full scope and how it was spent in our companion article.
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