THE old guard is not ready to yield just yet. Two of the great contestants of our time fashioned a classic men’s final yesterday to remind us that their days at the top are far from over.
Novak Djokovic prevented Roger Federer from cementing his place in tennis history with a record-breaking eighth Wimbledon singles title, but it was a match for connoisseurs of all that is good in the game.
The tectonic plates of tennis are shifting. Federer snuffed out the challenge of Milos Raonic in the semi-finals, but the promise of the rising if tactically limited Canadian cannot be denied.
Djokovic ousted the hugely impressive Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in a wonderful clash which spoke eloquently of the loser’s potential as well as his conqueror’s battle-hardened prowess.
However, to suggest that these two warriors are drifting towards the sunset of their careers as feisty new boys emerge in growing numbers is to deny what they still have to offer in terms of talent, skill and determination.
Yesterday’s match bristled with enthralling rallies which could only have been fashioned on the anvil of experience at the highest level.
Silky slice, booming aggression, artful angles. All the nuances of the game were on display.
Seldom have the dimensions of the Centre Court been explored with such stunning accuracy.
It was one of those contests where it was a shame there had to be a loser. In this instance it was Federer, who carried the support of the crowd but was eventually ousted by a worthy victor.
Eugenie Bouchard , the 20-year-old Canadian being hailed as the new Maria Sharapova before we have finished with the old one, was brought down to earth by a ruthless Petra Kvitova.
In a one-sided women’s final, the left-handed Czech conceded only three games as she reclaimed the title she won in 2011.
Bouchard will no doubt justify all the publicity in future seasons. Meanwhile a warm welcome back to the winner’s podium for a wholehearted player who suffered a bleak spell after her triumph three years ago.
Looking back on the championships, there was a touch of the surreal about play on the second Tuesday.
Angelique Kerber needed seven match points before sealing a monumental victory over Sharapova.
This could have been the performance of the tournament until the 19-year-old Australian wild card Nick Kyrgios achieved one of Wimbledon’s all-time upsets by uprooting the No 2 seed Rafa Nadal in four sets of pure drama and tension.
Then there was the sad departure of an ailing Serena Williams who could not pick up a ball let alone serve before retiring after three games of a women’s doubles where she partnered sister Venus. That particular story continues to unfold.
Deflated Kyrgios went out in the next round to Raonic , but not before receiving a collective nod of approval from a quintet of Australian legends, Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, John Newcome, Neale Fraser and Ashley Cooper, who see him as the start of an Australian resurgence.
Kerber went out to the seemingly unstoppable Bouchard.
The headlines came and went; it was quintessential Wimbledon. Crowned by a great men’s final.