Tag Archives: Wimbledon

Competitiveness: Tsonga and Dimitrov at Wimbledon

I love competition.* In athletics competition provides a picture of justice; there is no place for mercy. At its highest level the goal in competition is to exploit, with honor, any weakness that can be exploited. It is the duty of an athlete to pursue victory, anything less than complete effort is disrespectful to the opponent and to the sport itself. This does not apply to recreational athletics, where the primary goal is usually recreation instead of competition.**

Today at Wimbledon Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Grigor Dimitrov competed. I only saw the final set, but it was very entertaining. Both players were playing the highest quality tennis. Passing shots were flying, diving volleys were made, and both players showed controlled abandon on the court. What really made the match great though, was the ending.

In a fourth set extended tie break Tsonga finally prevailed after a long rally. The match was over. Dimitrov had fought off five match points up to then, and after all the high pressure tennis and exertion he just collapsed to the ground as his last shot missed. He had given everything he had and lost. Tsonga raised his arms in celebration. It is a scene of victory common in tennis tournaments.

But then it become extraordinary. Tsonga noticed Dimitrov fall to the ground, he ran forward and jumped over the net, knelt beside his opponent and offered a hand to help him up. Then he gave him a hug, not a wimpy and awkward hug but a real one. As they walked off the court Tsonga patted Dimitrov’s back while offering some words of encouragement. It was a touching scene.

I love what that moment captured. While the match was under way Tsonga strove to defeat Dimitrov. He had no mercy. Yet as soon as the match ended he offered genuine sympathy and encouragement to the man he had bested. It fulfilled the conscientious competitor’s goal: I will crush you and comfort you.

*In some respects I am ridiculously competitive, yet I can normally turn it off when I want to, because of this many people think I’m not competitive. I find outlets for it where I am not likely to alienate others. I think a strong desire to win is not a bad thing in itself, but it can be dangerous.

**A major source of contention is the mixing of people with a primary goal of serious competition  with those that are seeking mere recreation. The two are often incompatible. In athletics I love ruthless competition, so I’ve usually stayed away from organized recreational sports. It pains me greatly to hear “Nice try!” and “Good job!” being offered as encouragement to athletes who failed due to lack of effort or terrible technique.

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Smoking Aces: Isner vs Mahut

Over the past few days John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played an epic first round Wimbledon match. Records fell like confetti. Longest match, longest set, most aces in a match, most aces in a set, most winners in a match, most winners in a set, and likely others that I missed. In the end Isner was victorious, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68.

I did not see the first two days of the match live because I was working. Last night I reviewed most of it on ESPN3 to get a feel for it before watching the conclusion this morning. For some reason my internet connection failed right as Isner hit his serve for what would be the winning point, so I did not see the final rally live (when my service was restored a few moments later the match was over, talk about anti-climactic).

The match was most definitely historic. Nothing like that has happened before, and I doubt anything like it will happen again in my lifetime. After the match ended I was left wondering what I had just seen. Was it a great match? Was it an example of good tennis?

The match took  11 hours and 5 minutes to play (that’s court time, it actually stretched over three days). In that amount of time you could watch The Godfather trilogy, Zoolander, and an episode of The Office and still have a few minutes left over.

The final set alone was 8 hours and 11 minutes long. If you had begun watching The English Patient at the start of the 5th set you could have seen the movie three times and then watched the final game of the set.

So does longer mean better? No. I found this match interesting because of the perfect storm that occurred, but it was not tennis at its best. Isner has a massive serve and mediocre court movement. Mahut has a lesser serve but better court movement. Isner caused the high ace count. On his own serve he hit the ball very hard with precision and on Mahut’s serve his court movement became very poor late in the match, which resulted in aces.

The previous Wimbledon record for aces in a match was held by Ivo Karlovic, with 51 in 2005. Federer had 50 aces against Andy Roddick in his classic Wimbledon final last year. Ivo Karlovic also held the record for most aces in a match at any venue, he registered 78 at the 2009 Davis Cup.

Isner and Mahut now sit atop the list when it comes to aces.

During the 5th set Mahut looked to be in much better physical shape than Isner. He was able to move quickly, kept his head up, and seemed very determined to win the match. Isner looked extremely fatigued, slow, and unable to make adjustments.

If you do not have time to watch the entire match but you want to get a feel for how it transpired just watch this:

Isner had the big serve, which was a huge advantage, equivalent to the gun. Isner would win his service game every time, making Mahut serve to stay in the match. At times Mahut seemd finished, but he bounced back again and again. In a final choke-hold-with-fingers-in-the-nose moment Isner secured victory.

That match likely effectively knocked both players out of the tournament, for the physical toll was extraordinary. Isner will get to play a second round opponent in De Bakker who went a long five sets in the first round too, though his match ended at a mere 16-14 in the 5th.

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Equal Wimbledon Pay?

Two years ago the All England Club decided to establish equal prize money for the gentlemen and ladies singles tournaments, making the Champions at Wimbledon the final grand slam tennis tournament to move to an equal pay scale.

My question is this: Is equal pay actually occurring?

The gentlemen play best of five set matches, while the ladies play best of three. This results in longer matches for the men. Take a look at these numbers from the 2009 round 4 and quarterfinal matches.

Round 4 Mean Match Times
Gentlemen = 145 minutes
Ladies = 88 minutes 22 seconds

Quarterfinal Mean Match Times
Gentlemen = 151 minutes
Ladies = 88 minutes 45 seconds 

Here are a few charts to show the individual match times:

wimbledon_times1

Round 4 Wimbledon match times.

wimbledon_times2

Quarterfinal Wimbledon match times.

And these numbers are very normal. In all grand slam tennis events the pay is equal and the men spend a significantly longer time on court due to the difference in number of sets played. 

While the dollars might be equal, I see something very unequal about the work. I’m not complaining, but I think there are times when “equality” becomes bigger than equality.

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Murray Wins Historic Match at Wimbledon

This afternoon I was working at my desk when it suddenly occurred to me that Wimbledon matches were taking place. I signed onto ESPN360 to see what my viewing options were. Three matches were being played; I decided to watch Murray and Warwrinka play a historic match on Centre Court. This match contained three bits of history that I am aware of:

1. It was the first men’s Wimbledon match to begin with the roof closed.
2. It was the latest match in Wimbledon history (10:39pm local time).
3. It was the first non-final match to feature an on court post game interview that was heard by the crowd.

Both players performed well. Warwrinka has arguably the best one handed backhand in tennis and he put on a dramatic exhibition. He used raw power, change of pace, and a variety of spins on his backhands to keep Murray running. Murray has one of the better two handed backhands, but it was his forehand that carried him to victory today.

The crowd was very supportive of Andy. They were loud and enthusiastic. While Andy is not my favorite player, I think it would be great to see him win for the fans. If I had to rank the players that are left, here is my breakdown of who I’d like to see win the championship:

1. Roger Federer – My favorite tennis player; I always root for him.
2. Andy Roddick – I like to see US players do well, and Roddick has worked hard to be an elite player. 
3. Andy Murray – The hometown boy the fans like love.
4. Lleyton Hewitt – Almost everyone wrote him off, but he’s playing well.
5. Novak Djokivic – He seems to be misunderstood at times; I think he enjoyed tennis more before he reached the top ten.
6. Tommy Haas – Had one of the easiest draws, but it gets tougher against Djokovic in the quarterfinals.
7. Juan Carlos Ferrero – A clay court specialist suddenly playing well on grass.
8. Ivo Karlovic – He has one of the greatest nicknames in tennis (Dr Ivo) but he’d have to beat Fed to reach the semifinals.

After watching tennis I always go through tennis withdrawl. It’s been a couple of weeks since I have played. . .

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Wimbledon: Excellent Finals on Tap

Happy Independence Day, may the 4th be with you.

The Championships at Wimbledon have been progressing nicely. In the ladies’ draw upsets were common, yet two proven players reached the final. Venus and Serena Williams will play for the championship on Saturday. It’s an all-American affair. Venus and Serena are also playing as a team in the ladies’ doubles final, so one of them might pull off a dual championship.

Roger Federer has cruised to the final in the mens’ draw. He awaits Rafael Nadal, who is defeating Rainner Schuettler as I type this. Fed and Nadal should play an epic match on Sunday. Both of them are coming into it with all cylinders firing.

Anyone for tennis?

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