Breaking Point: Wimbledon 2018

Breaking Point: Wimbledon 2018

Let me just get one thing straight right off the bat.  The feelings that I’m about to express in regards to the men's final at Wimbledon are in no way determined by waves of wounded patriotic pride surrounding Kevin Anderson, writes Damien Kayat

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There was every possibility that Anderson would have lost the final regardless of the circumstances dictating the match. Djokovic is a living legend of the game with a superior head-to-head record against Anderson. My issue is with a system that blatantly robbed us of the final it could have been. And all in name of that most wondrous thing: tradition.

I’ll admit, I’ve always had a certain affection for the romantic notion of these epic five set matches of seemingly interminable duration.  It had a whole gladiatorial vibe that appeals to young kids.  It is unique to Grand Slam tennis and perhaps satisfies some psychological urge for permanence.  But the fiasco that was the Anderson-Isner semi-final has finally rid me of such fanciful notions, leading me to believe that all Slams should adopt the US Open’s approach of a 5th set tie-break.

The players ultimately resembled two punch-drunk prize fighters in depression-era America, slugging it out in the 37th round while you wondered whether the fix was in. Even the commentators couldn’t ignore the masochistic dimensions of proceedings.  But that wasn’t even the saddest part. What really depressed me was seeing the shell of a man that Anderson was in those opening two sets. The final was over before it began, with Anderson’s marathon encounters against Federer and Isner essentially rendering him helpless to Djokovic.

Anderson broke the record during this championship of games played in a Grand Slam. I’m sure that will soothe his pride after he was made to look like a sub-standard finalist with nothing to offer.  Sure, Djokovic also had that herculean tussle with Nadal to contend with, but the Serb’s fitness was always one of his greatest attributes. A big-serving one-two puncher like Anderson was always going to be the one crippled by time on court.

Wimbledon surely should have learnt their lesson from the Mahut-Isner debacle that they so proudly flaunt as their longest match. The most maddening thing is that the Djokovic-Nadal match would never have had to be played on Saturday, with the notorious Wimbledon weather actually playing nice for once.  But this is an institution that guards its tradition as jealously as Smaug and his gold.  Just think back to rabble-rousing Andre Agassi ultimately relenting to dress code restrictions.

But you will notice that none of the so-called advocates of tradition so much as uttered a word when the Aussie Open organizers decided to close the roof in this year’s final. It seriously hampered Maren Cilic’s chances of defeating indoor demigod Roger Federer.  But there’s the rub. Roger Federer- arch traditionalist as he is- fits perfectly within the framework of back-slappery and formalism that I’m talking about, so Cilic’s perfectly reasonable complaint was chalked up to bitter regret. But the idea that a 72-70 5th set could be a tad overkill is seen as a sacrilegious.

Whether the organizers ultimately heed the calls of John McEnroe remains to be seen. The former infant terrible of tennis is many things, but he does have a preternatural ability to pick up on the tennis ethos of the time. But then again, McEnroe doesn’t fit into that mould of rigidity and thus represents a threat to the status quo. We do not need another Grand Slam final in which another player’s hapless body is sacrificed to the tyrant that is tradition. 

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Written by Damien Kayat for

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