Wimbledon MVP: Serena or Federer?
What a Wimbledon it was. From the early-round losses of Venus Williams and Rafael Nadal to the controversial comments from Gilles Simon. We had untimely rain, roof dilemmas and ordinance restrictions. And, of course, there was that golden set. What else could we have wanted?
After a captivating couple of weeks, our writers unveil their Wimbledon awards.
Most Valuable Player
Peter Bodo: Andy Murray whipped the entire U.K. into a frenzy and stimulated a lot of interest in other places simply by virtue of his situation, vying to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry last did it in 1936. That he was asked to accomplish this against Roger Federer, the holder of 16 Grand Slam titles (including six at Wimbledon) -- a daunting assignment. Although Murray lost his fourth Grand Slam final, he gave his countrymen plenty to appreciate and justifiably fired hopes in a high-quality four-set final. Kudos to Murray for being so consistent at a tournament where he's always under a tremendous amount of pressure. It will truly be a bummer if and when he loses in the first week because the tournament would not be the same without this storyline.
Howard Bryant: Roger Federer. He said he wasn't done, and he meant it. He said he thought he could still be the No. 1 player in the world when few others did. Roger Federer wasn't just terrific in winning his 17th major and seventh Wimbledon, he put on a clinic against Andy Murray. His performance in the third and fourth sets was some of the best tennis he's ever played.
Greg Garber: Serena Williams. After a terrible year off the court she was winless in her past seven Grand Slam events, but here at Wimbledon she regained her championship form. The greatest serve in the history of the women's game was in the rarest form. Serena hit 102 aces (against only 10 double faults) -- the most important ones coming in a 49-second span of the third set of the final against Agnieszka Radwanska. Serena went 4-for-4 in aces and never lost another game. She seems healthy and, more importantly, happy. Watch out, WTA opponents.
Kamakshi Tandon: The two 30-year-old resurgent champs came out on top, but this unfolded very much as Andy Murray's tournament. He had the trickiest draw of the top seeds through to the semifinals, then all the pressure of not facing Rafael Nadal. But he came through it all, playing well from the very first round. He then stole the show with his teary postmatch speech, despite losing the final.
Ravi Ubha: The old guy, Roger Federer, fought, fought and fought some more to win major No. 17. What I'll remember most isn't Federer beating Andy Murray in the final, but Federer staying calm and focused after dropping the opening two sets to Julien Benneteau in the third round. No sign of panic, even with a back that wasn't 100 percent. Head down, he went to work like he has so many times in the past. If that doesn't give you an indication of his motivation -- at the age of 30 -- nothing will.
Matt Wilansky: Tough pickings between two 30-year-olds, who, by the way, won a Slam at the same event for the sixth time. But the edge in this geriatric bowl has to go to Serena Williams over Roger Federer. Not only for overcoming a couple of really bad performances, but for winning the doubles championship just hours after she hoisted the singles trophy. Serena was able to maintain her focus after a cathartic match against Agnieszka Radwanksa in the final. Serena has had her share of shortcomings, for sure. Most notably, she was kicked out of the French Open in the first round and looked like a shadow of her former self. But a few weeks later, she's sparked the same old debate all over again: Is Serena truly the best player in the game?
Least Valuable Player
Bodo: Victoria Azarenka, Madame Whoooo, was the invisible woman at this tournament. This despite reaching the semifinals, ending up ranked No. 1 and losing to Serena Williams. Azarenka has taken some giant steps backward since she earned the No. 1 ranking with that great start Down Under early this year. Maria Sharapova stole Azarenka's thunder in Paris, and by the time Vika got to Wimbledon, it seemed that nobody cared how she did, or what she had to say for herself. She was not touted going in or mourned going out. Azarenka can be very dismissive, and her sarcasm wears thin. And the fact so many people find her shrieking off-putting didn't help her cause.
Bryant: Rafael Nadal. After winning his seventh French Open and ridding himself of the specter of Novak Djokovic, it appeared that Nadal was ready to make another title run. Then Lukas Rosol sent Nadal into a tailspin. It is now unclear which Nadal will enter the Olympics and the U.S. Open. Suddenly, Nadal is now third in the world, and again it is uncertain how much wear and tear is on Nadal's body and psyche.
Garber: A tie between Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki. Kvitova, the defending champion, struggled against Francesca Schiavone in the quarters and got dusted by Serena Williams in the semifinals 6-3, 7-5. As she proved a year ago, Kvitova has the big game for grass but just doesn't take enough off her shots when things get tight. Wozniacki, the former world No. 1, crashed out in the very first round when Tamira Paszek, an eventual quarterfinalist, pounded her in three sets. Neither result was exactly a shock.
Tandon: If this is code for worst showing, it goes to Samantha Stosur. She should be able to adapt her game to this surface but has never made it further than the third round at Wimbledon. She has lost here in the first round six times. This year, she lost in the second round to Arantxa Rus by the suitably bizarre score of 6-2, 0-6, 6-4.
Ubha: When the year began, I'll admit that I thought Petra Kvitova could win two of the first three majors. She started off well in Australia and, of course, was the defending champion at Wimbledon. However, Kvitova -- and I'm aware she was ill and injured in the winter and spring -- hasn't done enough. It's time to hone her game and not go for too much, too soon in rallies. Yes, Serena Williams won Wimbledon, but I expected Kvitova to push her more in the quarterfinals. Hey, Jie Zheng, Yaroslava Shvedova and Agnieszka Radwanska all took Serena to three.
Wilansky: Imagine stringing together the perfect set: No double faults. Not one mental lapse, a pratfall on the slick grass or one unforced error. Imagine an opponent who couldn't muster one lousy ace, one go-for-broke winner or one lucky drop shot. Yaroslava Shvedova won the first set of her third-round match at Wimbledon 6-0 and, in the process, did not lose a single point. But it was who she beat in this golden set that was just as mind-numbing. Sara Errani, the 10th seed and this year's French Open runner-up, suffered an unthinkable loss. This is only the second known time in the Open era a player has won (or lost) 24 straight points. Certainly Errani was not among the favorites here at Wimbledon considering her diminutive stature and lack of firepower. But c'mon, man, win one paltry point. Serve underhanded, if you must. Serve and volley. Do something. Do anything. But save yourself from that awful place next to Marcos Hocevar in the record books.
Bodo: The upset of No. 2 seed and two-time champ Rafael Nadal by Lukas Rosol in the second round was one of those events so shocking that any tennis fan is bound to remember where he was when he watched the match or heard about the upset. More surprising yet was the way Nadal lost, firing on all cylinders in a fifth set that almost everyone uniformly expected him to win, especially because it was played after a rain delay and under the roof. Theoretically, Nadal had ample time to regroup and Rosol, the 26-year-old Czech journeyman, had sufficient time to get all weirded out for the final set. Nadal's loss opened many doors, including big ones for Andy Murray (whom Nadal had beaten in their past three Grand Slam meetings, all semifinals) and Roger Federer. You could almost say that he inadvertently took a bullet for the team, because of the way the big three have dominated lately. It wouldn't be far off from the truth.
Bryant: Serena Williams. She is the greatest player of her time. She is a favorite when she's healthy. She was a four-time champion. She has the best serve in the women's game. All of these things are true, but no one expected her to serve so well, to dominate the field as though the years were turned back. She served 102 aces against 10 double faults. She erased the memory of losing in the first round at Roland Garros and built a mandate. The lesson not to underestimate her was well taken.
Garber: Rafael Nadal, in a bad way. He was terrific in Paris, lifting his seventh French Open title, but the effort seemed to cost him here. He went out in the second round to a Czech Republic player ranked No. 100 in the world. Lukas Rosol pushed Rafa to five sets and, unbelievably, prevailed. In his postmatch news conference, Nadal intimated that he wasn't quite right. Later, it came out that his knees are bothering him again. Going forward, that is not good.
Tandon: Don't see how you can pick anything other than Rafael Nadal going out to Lukas Rosol. It wasn't just that Nadal lost. It was who he lost to. Rosol was ranked No. 100 and barely familiar even to close tennis followers. Rosol simply hit Nadal off the court in the fifth set. Nadal later pulled out of a scheduled exhibition with knee tendinitis, but even then, it remains a shocker.
Ubha: I shouldn't have been so foolish to think David Ferrer couldn't reach the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. After all, he's been to the semis at the three other majors. He upset (for me) Andy Roddick in the third round and crushed Juan Martin del Potro in the fourth. Then in the quarters, Ferrer played the best match of his life on grass -- extending Andy Murray to four tight, dramatic sets. His performance outweighs the fact he cracked late in the second set. The respect I had for him (already substantial) elevated.
Wilansky: Murray couldn't do it, so how about Marray? Jonathan Marray became the first British man to win a Wimbledon title since 1936, the same year Fred Perry won the singles title. Marray and his partner, Frederik Nielsen, overcame four five-set matches and shocked the Bryan brothers in the semifinals en route to the men's doubles championship. This is even more astonishing considering this was only the fourth tournament Marray and Nielsen had ever played together. But somehow, I don't think this consolation prize will satisfy a nation bereft of the ultimate goal, a hometown singles champ.
Bodo: I'm a little tired of the high-profile parents in tennis, and the way the media tends to cater to them, right down to those endless cuts of mom and pop in the player guest box. Well, when Andy Murray came off the court following his semifinal win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the BBC's Garry Richardson was entrusted with the task of the first off-court interview for the television audience. Richardson worked hard to squeeze a little drama out of Andy, who eschews overt displays of emotion off the court. So he segued to the subject of Murray's parents, who were prominent in the guest box. The interviewer asked, "What can it possibly have been like, Andy, for your parents watching there?" Perfectly deadpan, Andy replied, "I've no idea. I'm not really that bothered. It's a lot harder for me, that's for sure." I don't think Richardson knew what to say to that, but he deserved it for going with such a weak and smarmy question. And I swear, a mischievous little smirk crossed Murray's lips as he left.
Bryant: Andy Murray's humanity. The BBC was swept up, as were the reporters in the press room, as were the cab drivers and the die-hards on Henman Hill, as was the whole tennis-loving, pride-swelled U.K. Andy Murray lost. Roger Federer was better, but Murray standing at Centre Court exhausted and emotive was his most endearing moment as a professional. It was once more the business of caring that Murray exemplified. He stood in front of his mix of nations and cried because he fell short of the goal of winning. He had nothing left. The cliché of "leaving it on the field" was illustrated by Murray in losing. All that was left were tears.
Garber: The Golden Set, for sure. This is why you watch tennis: every fortnight of major tennis brings something new. Thank you, Yaroslava Shvedova for providing this most recent example. Against French Open finalist Sara Errani, Shvedova -- with her sporty industrial arts glasses -- pitched a perfect game, winning all 24 points of the first set. Later she said she wasn't even aware that it had happened. History says it happened only one other time. Remarkable.
Tandon: To go a little outside the usual suspects, watching the wild-card team of Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen win the men's doubles titles over five sets, in front of a packed Centre Court crowd, with the match televised in the United States and in prime time in Great Britain was tremendous. A great moment in the spotlight for doubles, and even if Murray couldn't match it in the singles, at least Marray became the first British man since 1936 to win the men's doubles at Wimbledon.
Ubha: It had to be Sara Errani, who needed all of seven seconds to finish off American Coco Vandeweghe in the first round. In case you missed it, the match was halted because of rain with Errani holding match point. When they came back the next day, Vandeweghe double-faulted. There were smiles from Errani, Vandeweghe and the chair ump. Unfortunately for Errani, she wasn't smiling later in the week when on the receiving end of Yaroslava Shvedova's golden set.
Wilansky: The emotional reaction to Andy Murray's effort. And in turn, the tears he shed for leaving his hometown fans without a Grand Slam champion they so desperately desire. It was humbling to see the Murray the media doesn't depict -- the player who exemplifies passion and an understanding of what his title would have meant. The fans on Centre Court and on Murray Mound wrapped their collective arms around Murray because they knew he was hurting. Murray spoke about the pressure of being that guy but also about his appetite to placate his people. It didn't work out for Murray this time. But he showed us his heart is every bit as big as his game, and that's a perfect combination for a future Grand Slam champion.
Bodo: This wasn't my worst moment, but it sure was Sara Errani's. She was the victim of only the second golden set ever recorded in pro tennis, when Yaroslava Shvedova won their third-round match without losing a single point in the first set. Of course, it was a great moment for Shvedova, and tennis history, but you had to feel for Errani. She had just come off an appearance in the French Open final, and she was seeded No. 10. It isn't like she was, oh, some British teenage wild card. Errani put up more of a fight in the second set, losing 6-0, 6-4, and Shvedova's reward for her great accomplishment was a date with the woman who would go on to win the title, Serena Williams.
Bryant: The Roof Fiasco, which recurred. The organizers at Wimbledon deflected the situation with humor, creating a Twitter feed called "Wimbledonroof" that sent out cute, pithy messages. But the truth is that the organizers mismanaged the weather and use of the roof and in turn affected the outcome of matches, including Nadal's upset.
Garber: Kim Clijsters exits. You're always hoping for an uplifting farewell -- why does it so rarely seem to happen? Clijsters, the four-time Grand Slam champion, was playing her last Wimbledon. Injuries have taken their toll and she's eager to start adding to her family. The 29-year-old Belgian worked her way into the fourth round, but was blasted by German Angelique Kerber 6-1, 6-1. It was a tough way to go out and it left you wishing she had checked out at the end of last year, with an Australian Open title in her trophy case.
Tandon: The tournament started in fairly ugly fashion, with fighting words over prize money, Olympic entries and even Ivo Karlovic accusing the linesman of bias. But the controversy with the most staying power had to be the roof. It was closed for an entire day when there was sunshine outside, which got much negative reaction. Then there was a lot of caution about closing the roof, which caused a lot of delays. In the first Wimbledon with really poor weather since the roof was introduced, it became apparent that rain delays will continue to be a big part of the Championships.
Ubha: It was sad indeed to see Venus Williams lose in the first round to Elena Vesnina. Well, not only lose, but get thumped. Williams put so much effort into returning from an autoimmune disorder earlier this year, and it has, apparently, taken a toll. Only once before -- on her first visit in 1997 -- had Venus fallen in the first round. If it was her last appearance at the grass-court major, what a shame. She deserves better.
Wilansky: The way that Venus Williams went down. After coming back from her well-publicized battle with an autoimmune disease, Venus struggled with nearly every step in a listless 6-1, 6-3 loss to Elena Vesnina on the opening day. It was sad to see not only the downfall of a player who had won this event five times, but a player whose performance made us wonder if she'll ever be back. Sjogren's syndrome causes fatigue, which is certainly a massive impediment, and you never know when the symptoms will flare up. But it's safe to say we'll never see the Venus Williams who once dominated year in, year out on these hallowed grounds.
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