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Tuesday, 9 July 2013


 photo andy_murray_1511718e_zps10d0e1ca.jpg

Photo // Wikipedia

Three weeks ago, we predicted that Novak Djokovic would have a cakewalk to the 2013 Wimbledon finals. We were right. Almost. We didn't see Juan Martin del Potro coming. We should've. After all, Delpo is the only player other than Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray to have won a Grand Slam title since 2006. In 2009, Delpo deposed of both the Fed and Rafa - the only man to have done so in the same tournament - en route to capturing the 2009 US Open crown.

Delpo was in fine form at Wimbledon, never once dropping a set on his way to the semifinals. There, a well-rested Djoko was waiting, and was likely expecting an easy victory. After all didn't Delpo slip badly during the fifth point of his quarterfinal match against David Ferrer? Didn't it aggravate an old injury and, by Delpo's own admission, almost push him to forfeit the match?

This was the beginning of the end for The Djoker.

World-class tennis players are warriors to the core. Tennis is a solitary sport that requires its players to be better than themselves, first and foremost. Apart from demanding superhuman speed, stamina, strength and agility, tennis also requires hard discipline and an unflappable sense that you can - you must, and you will - get the job done because nobody else will do it for you.

Ever wonder why some of the game's best players take forever to serve? They're giving themselves pep talks! This is all the more important in a sport that needs not only innate passion and skill, but also strategy, patience, maturity, will power, and an extraordinary tolerance for pain, in order to win. Otherwise, how else does one survive a match that can possibly stretch up to 11 hours and 5 minutes, over 3 days of play (the Isner-Mahut match at the 2010 Wimbledon Championshiops)?

Roger Federer is famous for his balletic elegance and clinical precision - Bolshoi Tennis, I like to call it. No other player has made tennis look easy, except Novak Djokovic. Djoker's gymnastic flexibility and unbelievable courage in converting impossible shots into winners has made him tennis' ultimate showman. His uncanny ability and chutzpah to impersonate the best players on the ATP - including the women - are legendary. Djoker makes tennis look easy and fun! Oh, before we forget, Djoker also happens to occupy the top spot on the ATP rankings.

You understand better, then, where Djoker's stunning cockiness comes from. He's at the top of the sport that creates the biggest celebrities out of individual athletes.

The 2013 Wimbledon title looked like a bird in The Djoker's hand, with the top half of the draw packed shoulder-to-shoulder with champions: The Fed, Rafa, Murray. Meanwhile, David Ferrer, fresh from a runner-up finish at Roland Garros, looked like the biggest threat on Djoker's side of the draw. But Delpo took care of Ferrer, who was defeated by Rafa at the French Open finals, anyway. And didn't Rafa just say bye-bye after a shocking first round loss to some guy called Steve Darcis? Victory for Djoker is in the bag, baby!

But Delpo's dominance over Ferrer should have raised red flags for Djoker. In a stunning display of mind-over-matter, Delpo shoved a crippling injury aside to book a semifinal against Djoker.

Not facing the sport's top players on his side of the draw exposed Djoker to a handicap he clearly hadn't counted on. The closer he got to the finals, the rustier he got. This was evident when Delpo wore him out in a five-set thriller, lasting 4 hours and 43 minutes. It now holds the record as the longest semifinal in Wimbledon history. Although Delpo lost, he exited the All England Club as a text book example of a true tennis warrior.

In all likelihood, Djoker was completely prepared to face Andy Murray in the finals. But going into it, Djoker couldn't have known just how shell-shocked he'd still be from Delpo's assualt. Or that his 11-7 head-to-head advantage over Murray wouldn't have much merit when Murray had non-quantifiables (home crowd support, momentum from having won the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club just weeks ago, the spirit of Fred Perry himself!) working to his advantage.

As easily as Djoker converted impossible shots into winners, his 2013 Wimbledon aces comically transformed into (what else?!) jokers.

Murray became the first British man in 77 years to claim the title at the All England Club.

"I still can't imagine a luxe sports wear brand called Andy Murray. Doesn't have the same nice ring to it that Fred Perry does," a friend of mine - an Englishman - sniffed.

"I guess he could go the enigmatic route," I mused, "and simply call his line Ostrich."

Doesn't really matter what name Andy's branded merchandise ends up with. At least, not anymore. He has ended the British drought, effectively securing his legacy in sports history.

Look who's laughing now.


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