Roger Federer deserves 7th career Wimbledon win. But…

8 07 2012

Wimbledon has come and gone for another year. The men’s final today, one way or another, was going to be history-making. This year, the final was between Roger Federer (a victory would tie him with Pete Sampras for the most titles, with 7) and Scotland’s Andy Murray. Murray’s appearance marks the first time since 1938 that a Briton has reached the men’s final at Wimbledon. If Murray were to win, it would be the first time since 1936 that the Wimbledon men’s champ would hail from the British Isles.

Murray seemed to throw down the gauntlet right off the bat in the final, breaking Federer’s serve in the opening game of the match. Federer had broken back a short time later, but Murray broke Federer again and came away winning the first set, 6-4.

The second set was won by Federer 7-5. One set apiece.

In the third set, both players held their serves, going to 1-1. At that time, the skies opened up and it started raining, causing the players to leave the court, while the tarp was put on the court and the Centre Court roof was closed. But not only do they close the roof when threatening weather begins, work also gets under way to get the temperature and humidity under control. The whole process, before play could resume, took nearly 40 minutes.

Eventually, play resumed. At 3-3 of the third set, Murray, unfortunately, on three occasions, apparently found damp places in the grass, causing him to slip. Those slips proved to be costly, as his serve ended up being broken, and Federer didn’t look back, winning the third set 6-3, and the fourth set 6-4, to earn the Wimbledon title.

Now, I’m of the mind that Wimbledon’s handling of the roof – not just today, but the entire tournament – was not good. On a number of occasions, in the middle of a match, the rain came, and play had to be halted in order to close the roof and get the interior conditions under control. Each time, there was a loss of about 40 minutes of playing time. Now, in any other sports event where there is a retractable roof, such as Major League Baseball games at the Rogers Centre in Toronto (the home of MLB’s Blue Jays), if there was a significant chance of serious weather coming that could delay action, the roof would be closed before the event started, so it could be played without interruption. Apparently, this thinking doesn’t occur in Wimbledon. They apparently prefer to keep the roof open as long as possible, not closing it until it is absolutely necessary. If there wasn’t as much of a delay in resuming play, that idea would make sense. However, a wait of 35-40 minutes waiting for the roof and the stadium to get to playing condition is unforgivable. The roof has been in place at Centre Court since 2009. The folks at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club need to be more proactive on this. If it means a few more matches are to be played indoors, so be it. I believe that a retractable roof is there to be closed before play begins when weather threatens to delay a match; to avoid a significant period of delay in play.

Such a delay took place today in the match between Federer and Murray. The delay, while waiting for the roof to close and Centre Court to be ready for game play again, was nearly 40 minutes again. It is my strong belief that during the delay, though he’d been fighting tooth and nail against his opponent until then, Murray lost something – call it “the edge” or “the will”, or whatever – and the slips that occurred when he was serving at 3-3 in the 3rd set certainly did not help (If the roof had been closed before the start of the match – assuming organizers knew the storm was coming – the wet patches Murray had slipped on would not have been there, and the rain and the delay would not have been a factor). I believe that if Wimbledon had been more proactive regarding the roof, to make sure that the final could play in its entirety uninterrupted (which, to me, should be the reason for spending millions on the roof in the first place), we may have seen a different result to the final. Today’s result seems a little tainted to me, for that reason.

Of course, I’m not taking away from Federer’s work on the final. The handling of the roof was done according to the Wimbledon rules. Like any champion, he saw a weakness in how Murray was playing and took advantage of it. Roger Federer is one of the best tennis players the world has ever seen. One does not become a 17-time Grand Slam event champion without being able to take advantage if his opponent falters in some way.

Meanwhile, by even making it to the final, Murray became the first British player to make it that far since 1938. He played very well, and represented Britain very well, under the circumstances. But when you’re playing against someone of the calibre of Roger Federer, you pretty much have to play perfectly the whole match. You cannot allow even the slightest opening to your game, for whatever reason, or Federer will take advantage of it.

Congratulations to Roger Federer – seven-time Wimbledon men’s champion! No question – you’ve earned this title, and you have, even more, cemented your place in tennis history with today’s win.