One week ago, as the men began play in Montreal and the women started play in Toronto, the main talking points were about the performances of Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams and how they would start their preparation for the upcoming U.S. Open, as well as the performances of the Canadian stars playing in their home country’s Masters/Premier event. But the tennis fans were treated to a whole lot more than they ever expected this week.
Finally, At Long Last, About Time!
The numbers were repeated over and over again. Andy Murray had not beaten Novak Djokovic since his dramatic win at Wimbledon in 2013. The losing streak had built up to eight consecutive losses. Murray would play outstanding tennis in a tournament, only to be turned away time and again by Djokovic. Even when Murray demolished Kei Nishikori in the semifinals, there was still the feeling that Murray may challenge Djokovic but in the end fall short as always. The turning point came in the fifth game of the third set. The 18-minute game went to deuce 10 times and Djokovic had six break points, but on this day Murray refused to surrender. Somehow, he held on to that game. Still, Djokovic fought off three match points serving at 2-5, and then had his own chance to get back on serve in the next game but Murray finally sealed the 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win on his fifth championship point. A big old monkey jumped off Murray’s back and the upcoming U.S. Open just got a whole lot more interesting.
A New Star Arrives
We have another Swiss Superstar coming onto the scene. This may not have been a Grand Slam, but when you defeat the home crowd’s darling and former Wimbledon finalist in round one, a former World No. 1 and the current No. 5 in round two, another former Wimbledon finalist in round three, another former World No. 1 and the current No. 6 in the quarterfinals, the World No. 1 and the holder of all four Grand Slams in the semifinals, and finally a former French Open finalist and World No. 3 in the final, people are going to notice. Belinda Bencic won her second title of the year and will move up to No. 12 in the new rankings. There is no doubt all eyes will be on her at the U.S. Open. Bencic could be the real deal.
World No. 1′s Denied
Most expected Djokovic and Serena to come away with the titles this week, but shockingly, both were denied. Djokovic just couldn’t finish off Murray in his usual style, and Serena let Bencic back into the match after dictating things through most of the first set. Still, even though they left town without a title, you get the feeling that they will fine tune their tennis in Cincinnati, and will be raring to go when the year’s last Grand Slam rolls around. They are still the ones to beat and that’s not going to change any time soon.
Clicking on the website of the Rogers Cup last week, tennis fans’ computer screens were immediately covered with huge pictures of Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard. Along with Vasek Pospisil and six other wild cards to represent Canada, expectations were there despite Raonic’s recent struggles and Bouchard’s dismal season. Raonic was upset by Ivo Karlovic in his first match, Bouchard lost to eventual champion Bencic in the first round, and the only Canadian wildcard to win a match, Vasek Pospisil, lost in the third round to John Isner. It was a tournament to forget for the Canadians.
The Walking Wounded
We’re only halfway through August but there are a disturbing number of absences, dropouts, retirements, and injuries. Both World No. 2′s Roger Federer (cutting back on schedule) and Maria Sharapova (injury) were absent. Simona Halep had to retire in the final set of the women’s final. Kei Nishikori was clearly hampered in his one-sided loss to Murray in the semifinals. Raonic still does not seem to be fully recovered from his foot injury. Stan Wawrinka retired during his infamous match with Nick Kyrgios. Caroline Wozniacki was also struggling with an injury in her early round loss. The hard-court season only gets tougher from here so this could be a chance for some young players to break out of the early rounds and even score some upsets, just as Bencic did in Toronto.
How many people really knew what “sledge” meant before this tournament? Everyone has seen multiple reports of what happened whether they wanted to or not. In one of the ugliest matches in recent memory, Kyrgios managed to insult Stan Wawrinka, fellow Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis, a young WTA player from Croatia, and pretty much the entire tennis community. He was fined $10,000, and still could be suspended by the ATP. There are some serious problems with Kyrgios, and it appears that no one really knows what to do with him. Tennis Australia has asked fellow Australian and veteran Lleyton Hewitt to act as an advisor for the young Australian, but boy does Hewitt have his work cut out for him.
In the End, It’s All About Tennis
Despite all of the media storm over one comment made by a misguided player, tennis proved to be a sport that wipes away the sludge and the sledges with inspiring performances. With Murray’s spirited effort to finally break through Djokovic and Bencic’s fantastic string of wins, the hard-court season finally seems like it’s here — and it’s only going to get more interesting.
Cover Photo (Creative Commons License): kulitat / mirsasha