Wimbledon: Chapeau, Gentlemen

It may not have been a traditional grass-court match, but DelPo and Djokovic played a 4h48 minute thriller in their SF, in front of a crowd that included grass-court legend Stefan Edberg.  In the longest SF in Wimbledon history, Djokovic defeated DelPo in 5 sets, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (6), 6-3.

Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

Although it feels strange (and a bit pathetically self-serving) to say this after a DelPo loss,  this match is undoubtedly one of the best semifinals I’ve seen at Wimbledon.  It’s up there on the list for match of the year.  The competitive atmosphere, the quality shot-making and the drama-within-a-drama kept the crowds involved for close to 5 hours.

It was a high-quality match, from start to finish.  Interestingly enough, both players found themselves struggling with one powerful weapon: DelPo’s first serves, which were at 74% in his QF win over Ferru, were a lowly 51% in the 1st set.  In the SF, DelPo only had 4 aces to Novak’s 22.  Novak’s trademark shot, the BHDTL, was misfiring as well.

Nevertheless, the level was high, with DelPo throwing the kitchen sink at Djokovic, which gave Djokovic the chance to show off his incredible “Gumby-like” defense.  Oftentimes,  a point would end if Djokovic splayed out on the grass, having run from side to side.  In terms of offense, DelPo made great use of his own BHDTL to win points.  This was clearly a tactical decision from DelPo, who is often reluctant to use the DTL shot.

However, DelPo was facing more pressure on his serve, as he DF-ed and struggled to hold.  At 3-all in the 1st set, Novak seemed to be the player more at ease with his game.  In a mark of how competitive this match was, DelPo stepped it up and played against the odds.  He hit a murderous CC FH, the first of many he would hit in this match.  Fans may be tired by now of hearing about DelPo’s flat FHs, but the ones he hit in this match were jaw-dropping.  It’s amazing to see the speed and angle he’s able to achieve on that shot, given his languid swing and his lanky frame.  However, he had early troubles with his other trademark shot, the running FH.  He overhit several of those in the 1st set.  DelPo faced scoreboard pressure at 5*-6 in the 1st set (DelPo had won the toss and chosen to receive first).  From 0-30 down, Novak cruelly brought out his BHDTL to get to 15-30.  A BH drop shot followed.  DelPo missed a BH slice (this was a costly error) and Novak would eventually take advantage of BP to take the first set, 7-5.  This was the first set DelPo had lost at Wimbledon, and the first time in four matches his serve was broken.

At 2*-3 in the 2nd set, Novak had 3 BPs on DelPo’s serve, after a FH sailed long.  DelPo would save the two BPs with a diving volley and an ace.  He would save a 4th BP with strong serves.  Incidentally, DelPo’s first serves in the 2nd set was 73%.  Spurred by that save, DelPo gained 3 BPs on Novak’s next service game, after some tremendous scrambling and 2 FH winners.  He broke Novak at love to take a 4*-3 lead in the 2nd set and would consolidate with another BHDTL and an ace.  DelPo would take the 2nd set, 6-4.

From DelPo’s perspective, his performance in the 3rd set TB will probably linger on his mind.  He’d faced continued pressure on his serve all throughout the 3rd set, having saved 3 SPs at 5*-6 and missed several BP chances on Novak’s serve at 3-all (after which he chastised the ball at the net).  There were some remarkable points in the 3rd set and it seemed fitting that it would go to a TB.  At 2-3 in the TB, DelPo netted a straightforward overhead, after missing a chance to put away the first overhead.  That point plays like a nightmare in my mind.  From that point on, Novak easily took the TB, 7-6(2).  DelPo walked back to his chair in shame, visibly disappointed with the last few points of the TB.  That DelPo had kept it so competitive in spite of serving at 59% in the 3rd set probably contributed to the disappointment:


Given the level of tennis and the drama, the 3rd set seemed a viable contender for one of the best sets of tennis played at this year’s Wimbledon.  Yet the 4th set would prove to top that one.  DelPo held his first service game after going down 0-30.  Even if he was disappointed after the 3rd set, he was still here to play.  Somewhat surprisingly, he even had time to indulge in a cute moment with Novak after debating a Hawk-Eye challenge.  Hawk-Eye proved to be a third actor on Center Court, as DelPo would not challenge a ball that was called out, which was confirmed by TV to be in.  He would have had a great chance to take the 4th set much earlier, if not for that call.  As it was, Novak held for 5-5.  That errant call did leave an opening for DelPo to showcase some of his finest forehands, as one registered at 114 mph and another registered at 121 mph.  Insanely ridiculous.

In the 4th set TB, Novak would gain 2 MPs.  DelPo showed his heart was still very much in the match, when he came up with two spectacular points to save them both.  He ripped his FHs, followed by a BHDTL and a reflexive volley to save the first MP.  Then he went crazy on his FH to save the 2nd MP.  A serve and BHDTL would give him SP on Novak’s serve.  DelPo let out a roar.  After a sharp CC BH return off Novak’s serve, DelPo broke to take the 4th set.  This was show-stopping stuff:

The first SF headed into a decider, as many wondered how the 2nd SF would ever live up to the drama of this one between DelPo and Novak.

The 5th set proved to be a competitive one, but DelPo missed a key BP chance at 2-2 when he hit a wide FH.  That was a “key point.”  Novak would go on to break DelPo at 4*-3, to serve for the match and a place in the final.  The world no. 1 had shown stunning defense to get himself in a winning position.  DelPo had one last BP chance to level the set, but Novak saved the BP and he ended up winning the match with his most favored shot that had gone astray for vast portions of this match, the BHDTL.

I’ve never been a fan of Novak’s shirt-ripping celebrations, although Berlocq and Janowicz’s later renditions of the act have sort of brought it back into fashion for me.  Thankfully, Novak was a bit more restrained in his celebration this time.  Despite this match having all the makings of a final, it was after all (and maddeningly so), only a SF:

Photo: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps it was also a sign of respect toward his opponent, who’d challenged him to a very memorable match.  The two players shared a hug at the net and Novak was classy as he applauded DelPo in front of the appreciative crowd:

Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images


Both DelPo and Djokovic gave their post-match interviews, but Novak’s quote about this SF being one of the best matches of his career reminded me of DelPo’s previous matches on grass.  Fed has said his Olympic SF win over DelPo, 19-17 in the 3rd set, was one of the matches of his career.  Ferru said his straight-set win over DelPo in R4 at Wimbledon last year was the best match he’d ever played on grass.  Now Djokovic contributes his piece to the gallery.

It’s certainly a sign of how far DelPo has come on grass, which has always been his weakest surface.  Now he leaves Wimbledon with a SF appearance, after months of lackluster results due to poor health.  This is a great result for DelPo, given the questions surrounding his recovery from the virus and his knee.

Unfortunately, this match will be brushed aside by some as another example of why DelPo will never recuperate his 2009 form.  Some will cross over into outright stupidity and suggest his 2009 USO win was a fluke.

Clearly, I disagree with these dismissive takedowns.  It would be nice for DelPo to one day emerge as the victor in these epic matches he takes part in.  Still, he’s due a large amount of credit for playing a match whose result was undecided until the very last point was played.  I’d say it’s time we stop acting so surprised when he plays so well.  Some journalists made out like this was the first time they’d seen DelPo play so well or try so hard, as if they hadn’t seen him play the Olympic SF or his finalist run at IW this year.  They’ll continue to reference his 2009 USO win as if he were “lucky” to win it.  I say DelPo’s performance at Wimbledon this past fortnight is evidence of why he’s one of the few deserving others to actually have won a Slam.


About mariposaxprs

I play favorites with Juan Martin Del Potro, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, Gilles Simon and the long line of mercurial talent that drives me to despair in front of the screen at odd hours during the week.
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5 Responses to Wimbledon: Chapeau, Gentlemen

  1. sambria says:

    that moment when you had a long comment typed and miss and hit the back button and the entire thing disappears….

    i think we can retire the whole grass is delpo’s weakest surface stuff. it’s never going to be like him and hard courts. doesn’t have to be. he’s learned to play well on it, he’s learned to win on it. now, for him to take that final step and win the biggest prize on it (and i can absolutely see him winning it).

    that match was amazing. again, so proud of him. if he would have gotten that third set he would have won. i have no doubts in my mind he would have. or even if he got the first set. so close and yet… he’ll win one of these matches. hell, he has won one of these matches (oh how quickly the tennis community forgets) and it was a BIG one. so yeah, these will go in his favor one day. i just hope that day is soon. I think the tennis community and the fans fell in love with delpo again. between his play and his playful behavior on court and in press it’s like everyone remembered what made them at the very least like delpo from the get go. wimbledon has been a win. well, outside of that whole winning the entire tourny thing.

    my biggest thing is coming off of this. my spanish is not good to put it mildly but i think a journalist at the press conference said on twitter that he was taking a few days off and then will start back training. Um, what? someone tell him to take off like two weeks. rogers cup doesn’t start until like the second week of august. there is no need to get training right away. get that knee back up to 100% and then start. i just hope he isn’t pushing himself when he just doesn’t have to right now. and while i’d love for him to play washington simply because i think i would have tried to make it there, he is smart to only schedule the big tournies leading up to the uso. unless washington was paying him a pretty hefty appearance fee, no need.

    bring on the us hard courts. i think delpo can do big things on them.

    • mariposaxprs says:

      It’s strange how DelPo’s started to play better on the quicker surfaces after his comeback — he’s always been solid on clay and outdoor HCs, but grass had been tough. Before 2012, he didn’t have an indoor HC title and he’d been so-so on grass. Now he has 4 indoor HC titles, bronze medal at the Olympics on grass and a SF at Wimbledon. I don’t mind this change at all, esp since clay is tougher on the body. If he wants to do better on the quicker surfaces, that’s fine by me 🙂

      DelPo won the coin toss and he chose to receive at the start of the match. He always chooses to receive but I wonder if the 1st set would have turned out differently if he served first and he didn’t face the scoreboard pressure at 5*-6? That 3rd set TB against Djokovic was really decisive. The 3rd set TB was probably the one truly disappointing part of the match. That miss and the next few points that followed were missed opportunities.

      Which makes his performance in the 4th set TB all the *more* impressive. I was so knackered after that match. I felt like someone smashed concrete over my head! But his performance was truly impressive and it made me very, very proud to be his fan. It was great tennis and great show of heart. If he keeps believing and playing like this, he has better chances to win one of these epics in the future!! I believe that too. After the Olympics last year and his performance at Wimbledon this year, it’s a reasonable goal, for sure!

      There was an ESPN Deportes article that said DelPo would take a few days off and then resume training. I think tennis players are often doing some sort of training every day, even if it’s not 100% full-on training. Maybe a light hitting and gym session, just to keep the mind sharp and body alive. So far, I haven’t heard much news about the state of his knee — I’m hoping we get good news and that it will be fine after a bit of rest. From what I’ve read, DelPo’s skipping Washington this year, so that’s reassuring. At least he’s not overburdening himself with unnecessary commitments (…although if his knee is fine, maybe he should try to make it there, so you can watch him play? 🙂 )

      Grass court’s been a blessing in its own way, after all the difficulties DelPo faced during clay season (he barely had a clay season!) Like you say, bring on hard courts!

  2. Candy says:

    I think this is the first time that I could still manage to smile after Delpo lost a close, tough match. I’m so glad that Delpo played that well on grass. I’m proud that he showed his heart once again.

    Before the tournament, we really didn’t expect TOO much (although we silently hoped that Delpo would make QF and even win the QF as well). Now, he really made QF and won the QF against Ferru, whom Delpo had never beaten since his comeback, with an injured knee. What’s more? He gave us a very competitive SF, against the world no.1, where he showed that he could compete with the best and that he could play very well on grass. So many positives to take. It also would give him the confidence and encouragement he needs. 🙂 This match is an example of why he is a GS champ. Not the other way.

    With the bronze medal at Olympics last year and SF showing at Wimbledon this year, we probably can’t say grass IS his weakest surface anymore. 😉 It shows the progress and also the improvement of Delpo’s game. It’s funny that his two biggest achievements since his comeback are from grass court tourneys. 😉

    One of our expectations this year is that Delpo would make SF at a Slam. He made it, despite all the setbacks (i.e. injuries, illness, etc.). It reassured us I think. I hope his Wimbledon run is also a sign of him having recovered completely from his illness. And I hope his knee will be fine soon.

    • mariposaxprs says:

      It’s strange how much my expectations change based on his last performance. After the way he lost to Hewitt at Queen’s, I thought he’d truly be lucky to reach R3 at Wimbledon. I got drawn into negative thinking and I was convinced he would lose to Dimitrov in R3. Thanks in part to the tennis gods, that didn’t happen.

      As crazy as this Wimbledon has been, I also like how it’s given life to some of the more unusual characters — DelPo is among these unusual characters. I think he genuinely takes inspiration from the upsets. Which he did!

      And then he threw in this heroic display (despite losing) against Djokovic. I know it seems like DelPo keeps playing epic matches (epic matches that actually deserve to be called by that name), which he ends up losing. Still, I think there are positives to take away from this. After all, not everyone is a Federer who keeps winning Slams through his peak years. Remember in 2012, when DelPo kept losing to Fed, but then he kept getting closer to beating Fed, until he actually did, 2x in a row? I want to feel the same way about his prospects against Djokovic. In spite of these losses (and the injury/illness setbacks), he’s showing us progress.

      In that sense, this SF was a happy moment, in spite of the very important fact that he lost the match. I’m so proud of DelPo. I love how he keeps proving us wrong when it comes to grass. It’s no longer credible to say grass is his weakest surface — I wonder if clay is now his weakest surface?! I used to laugh at the thought of him playing on grass. Now he’s won an Olympic medal, reached a Wimbledon SF, and then played one of the most memorable Wimbly matches on that surface!

      He has a mystery element:) Just like Bartoli did, and it ultimately worked out for her! There’s much to look forward to for DelPo’s progress ahead! I’m glad he’s decided to skip the Washington tournament and is focusing his efforts on the Masters HC tournies. He’s finally acting like a top player!

      • Candy says:

        Yes. We should adopt this keep-trying-and-one-day-you-will-get-that mindset! He will win some of those epic matches, on the biggest stage, I believe. 🙂

        I was being so thankful throughout the Wimbledon, especially after Delpo injured his knee but still managed to play. I think I should make some offerings to Tennis Gods. 😛 Lol

        I’m looking forward to the US hard season and the indoors hard season! I hope Delpo will be able to keep up his progress. Delpo did well in the 2nd half of last year! I hope he at least will do as well as last year. Then, the realistic goal here is to try to win a Masters?! As long as he’s healthy, there’s so much to look forward to! But again, him being healthy is always a big ask. *Pray*

        Hey, we went through this frazzling period once again! Seriously, I was very tired. For me, it all started from the Champions League’s Final in the end of May. Between now and then, there’re so much tenis+futbol+basquet for me. Lol Time to recharge! 😉

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