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Reginald Brace: Wimbledon never lets you down for surprises and drama

Angelique Kerber in tears after her shock win over Serena Williams in the women's singles final (Picture: Steven Paston/PA Wire).
Angelique Kerber in tears after her shock win over Serena Williams in the women's singles final (Picture: Steven Paston/PA Wire).
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So what do I remember most about Wimbledon 2018? Well, the first week was dominated by the ferocious heat and a cascade of top seeded women falling into the abyss of defeat. Not forgetting the flying ants.

Otherwise hardly a stirring six days for timeworn observers like myself.

Yes. There is life after Wimbledon. But for two weeks every year and, give or take the odd football match, it still seems to be the centre of the sporting universe.

Reginald Brace

However, this is a tournament that never lets you down in terms of surprise and drama.

The second week yielded several matches that qualified for the description of epics: Rafael Nadal bringing down Juan Martin Del Potro, Roger Federer breaking a few hearts when he succumbed to Kevin Anderson after missing a match point in the quarter-finals and John Isner falling to the same player in a remarkable contest that lasted six hours 36 minutes.

Anderson produced what was arguably the shot of the tournament in the fifth set when he fell awkwardly and lost grip on his racket. The towering South African not only regained his feet and the racket, but played a left-handed winner. An amazed audience erupted as if he had won the title.

Then, of course, there was Novak Djokowicz’s gruelling conquest of Nadal in the second longest Wimbledon semi-final of all time, spanning two days and played under lights in a roofed centre court.

Would the combative Serbian have anything left physically and mentally for the final against Anderson?

The answer of course was yes. For the first two sets he was totally in control, but in the third he faltered against a resurgent opponent before succeeding in an edgy tie-break.

After a worrying absence from tennis following an arm operation he crowned a battling comeback with a fourth Wimbledon singles title that showed that he remains one of the game’s great competitors.

Serena Williams ended an inspiring run in the women’s singles by losing in straight sets to Angelique Kerber, who became Germany’s first winner wince Steffi Graf in 1996.

Kerber was more mobile than Williams, who nevertheless could look back on a stirring tournament considering the physical toll of recent motherhood. The American dedicated her Wimbledon efforts to “all the mums in the world”.

To end on an unashamedly Yorkshire note, it was good to see Jonny Marray back in action on the courts where he won the men’s doubles title partnering Freddie Nielsen in 2012.

Admittedly he was tucked away in an invitation doubles event alongside an old friend, Jamie Delgado, but the Sheffield player clearly enjoyed his return to the hallowed turf of the All England Club.

Marray is 37 and retired from the professional circuit last year after a career that began in 1999 when he arrived to play in an Indian tournament to find that his rackets and clothing had been lost in transit.

The Wimbledon doubles crown was the pinnacle of his career and he has now reached the stage of deciding what to do next. Last year he travelled with the Australian/Finnish doubles pair of John Peers and Henri Kontinen, did some work for the Lawn Tennis Association, and contributed to the coaching programme at the Hallamshire club in Sheffield.

Playing at Wimbledon has enlivened his summer, but what next for the former doubles titleholder?

“I still have a passion for tennis,” said Jonny. “But maybe I would like to do something which involves less travelling. A different life style. I’ve had a long career and I’ve enjoyed it, but I’m looking for a new challenge. I’ll tell you one thing – I’m a survivor.”

Yes. There is life after Wimbledon. But for two weeks every year and, give or take the odd football match, it still seems to be the centre of the sporting universe.