Wimbledon 2011: Players of the Tournament

10. Feliciano ‘Deliciano’ Lopez:

This long haired Spaniard has caused quite a stir at Wimbledon over the past fortnight, just ask Judy Murray… Aside from his rise to prominence amongst the attentions of the female public, he played some good tennis as well. He has often flattered to decieve, but this time around he delivered in a Grandslam event. Though he is unlikely to win such a Tournament, it was encouraging to see him put his great power in to effect, defeating the likes of fans favourite Andy Roddick along the way. It was a shame to see him sell himself a little short against Murray in the Quarters and perhaps he should have pulled out of the Doubles competition in order to focus on his Singles efforts.

Judy's favourite

9. Andy Murray:

What on earth can you say about Murray that hasn’t already been said? He is undoubtedly a fantastic talent and is undoubtedly one of the top four players in the world. Sadly this has once again proven too little to take him to a first Wimbledon final, but three semi-finals is indicative of a build in consistency and momentum and we look forward to seeing if he can go one step further next year. He demonstrated a greater level of control and maturity on and off the court throughout these championships which should serve him well.

Another close-call for Andy

8. Victoria Azarenka:

With the women’s game stuck in something of a rut at present, it is encouraging to see the likes of Azarenka coming to the fore. She is young, plucky and her movement is superb. Whether she has quite reached the level of a world number four is unclear, and this ranking may well be courtesy of a weaker generation of female players, but she is the sort of talent which the women’s game is crying out for.

Young Belarusian hope

7. Laura Robson:

The former Girl’s Champion at Wimbledon went slightly under the radar in the build-up to the tournament amidst the slightly quicker rise to professional prowess of fellow young Brit Heather Watson. However, Robson joined other British hopes Anne Keothovang and Elena Baltacha in the second round at SW19 whilst Watson succumbed to injury in her first round. The only shame for Robson was the misfortune of being drawn against former Ladies Champion Maria Sharapova. At this level Robson was still a little short, but she far exceeded many people’s expectations even going a break up in the first set before losing it to a tie-break. There are several areas of improvement in her game, most significantly her poor movement, but the way in which she fought right until the end of the defeat has impressed many.

Britain's Ladies future in safe hands

6. Sabine Lisicki:

The young German lady with the huge serve conjured up some moments of sheer magic over the first ten days of the tournament. Her recovery from career threatening injuries was timed well as she went in to the tournament high on confidence following a grass-court title win in Birmingham prior to the Championships. This confidence turned itself into huge performances knocking out high seeds Li Na and Marian Bartoli en route to the Semis. Eventually she met her demise at the hands of Sharapova and she has the right to feel a little aggrieved given Sharapova’s inconsistencies throughout the match. Despite not going all the way to Saturday’s final she has had a fantastic fortnight, and is another great sign of encouragement for the Women’s game.

Injury-plagued Lisicki comes good

5. Rafael Nadal:

It seemed for a while that not even injury could stop the Spanish ace from notching up his 11th Grandslam title. However, Rafa was eventually defeated in the final by the ludicrous form of Novak Djokovic. This defeat is his fifth straight defeat against Djokovic which will be a cause for concern, but once again Rafa displayed outstanding mental and physical strength and fought from behind against Juan Martin Del-Potro and Andy Murray. Another great campaign from the Majorcan, but this time no title.

More injury worries for the ever-impressive Nadal

4. Jo Wilfried-Tsonga:

The French’s new favourite and everyone else’s second favourite player after these past few weeks in London. Tsonga followed up his incredibly exciting and sometimes unnecessarily dramatic displays from his road to the final at Queens with a similar range of showings at SW19. He powered, dived and entertained his way to his first Wimbledon semi, and it appears that the athletic Frenchman is starting to realise his potential. His real glory moment was his outstanding comeback from two sets down against Federer, in which he demonstrated a new found maturity and some real moments of class. He has a great game for the grass courts at Wimbledon and his brave showing against Djokovic in the semi-final will also stay long in the memory. This match saw three incredible points at least, and he has gained a whole army of new fans.

3. Maria Sharapova:

Double-faults aside, Sharapova has had a fantastic tournament. It is a delight to see her injury-free and smiling again on the grass at Wimbledon. The women’s game has lacked real characters and presence in recent times, and the return to form and prominence of the talented and glamorous young Russian is so important. If she can eradicate the needless errors on serve then it seems likely that she will go one step further soon and add to her collection of three Grandslam victories.

A welcome return to form

2. Petra Kvitova:

The young Czech female Champion has proved the pick of the Ladies game this fortnight. She has played out of her skin and has demonstrated her comfort when playing on the grass at Wimbledon. Her forehand has been the key to her success as she has hammered her way to a first Grandslam success. With time on her side as well it seems likely that Kvitova is here to stay and that she can go and secure further successes at Wimbledon and in other future Grandslams. She had to see off five seeded players en route to her first Grandslam victory and made former Champion Sharapova pay for her needless errors throughout the final.

Czech-Mate

1. Novak Djokovic:

Another fortnight, another Grandslam victory for the irrepressible Serb. It has been yet another fantastic tournament for Djokovic, artfully defeating the likes of Bagdhatis, Llodra, Tomic, Tsonga and Rafael Nadal on his journey to success. A maiden victory at Wimbledon will on Monday see him deservedly assume the number one world ranking in Men’s tennis from his latest conquest Nadal. If his year continues in the same manner as it has begun up to this point, then we could well be witnessing one of, if not, the finest year of Men’s tennis ever played. At the moment he seems to have a hold over his greatest rivals and in particular Rafael Nadal, a man who has never really been matched by anyone in his career to date. Nadal conceded that Djokovic is pretty much the only player in the world who can beat him at the moment, and this is great testament to the mind-blowing form of the outstanding Djokovic. He will have to come back next year and defend his new-won title against some of the greatest players the game has ever seen, but I am sure he is already relishing the prospect.

Another magical day in 2011 for Djokovic

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Moody Murray No Longer?

The public perception of Andy Murray both on and off the court has always been a little strained.

He has established an on court persona which has led many to believe he is just a spoilt kid with a lot of talent. This perception has always seemed immensely unfair to me given the circumstances existant within contemporary tennis. He is, as we are constantly reminded, still a young man. Not only this but he is a young man that is desperate to achieve highly in what is arguably the most competitive era that men’s tennis has ever seen. To outclass and outshine all comers and then fail to jump the final hurdle against the likes of Nadal, Federer and Djokovic must hurt him. As such it must be incredibly frustrating for a talented individual like Murray who arguably would have already won a handful of Grand Slam titles if he were competing in a slightly weaker era.

Murray beginning to show a lighter side

Such frustration does tend to manifest itself in on-court agitation and tantrums, but this is true of legends such as John McEnroe also. Could it be that such strops became rather an endearing quality within McEnroe’s game? There was certainly a greater air of comedy about his personal outbursts and umpire conflicts than Murray’s expressions of his own low temper threshold. Is Murray really that much more negative though that he is deserving of the wave of stick that he tends to be subjected to? Perhaps not.

In addition to his on-court problems, Murray has forever endured public scrutiny for his media relations. Of course we would love all the world’s major sports stars to be at ease in front of the media and rattling out streams of memorable press conferences, but that simply isn’t Murray. It is not in his nature. Naturally he is a fairly shy man off the court and as such he doesn’t exactly relish being constantly thrust into the gaze of the media. He has needed to accept that such attention comes as part of the package of status and privilege, but still it is hardly surprising that he often loathes such spotlighted treatment.

Downcast Murray in a Press Conference

Murray has become accustomed to such criticism, however, in recent times he has seemed to break these shackles. Whether this is resultant of a conscious decision to boost his public image or not is unclear. One thing is clear though, and that has been this recent transition and increasing popularity.

Maybe such a transition can be attributed to an ever-increasing realisation that Murray is well and truly up against it. Perhaps the public are merely beginning to demonstrate a greater understanding of the depth of competition which Murray must face in order to go on and win a Slam. Couple this understanding with Murray’s improving on-court temperament and the predicament begins to make more sense.

We know for sure that Murray has invested time in improving the psychological side of his game. This has included meetings with fellow British sporting talents such as David Haye, a man Murray admires greatly. Scarcely could you encounter two sports men with more differing approaches to the media spotlight, and the very fact that Murray has sought Haye out could be indicative of his desire to enhance his public image. It could well be that such meetings and advice have contributed to Murray’s recent exhibitions of ‘show-boating’ on the court.

This has been evident in his recent grass-court victories over Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Ivan Ljubicic. These performances have seen Murray unleash what is in danger of becoming a trademark shot where he elegantly performs something of a step-over combined with the cheekiest of dinks through his legs. Such ‘peacock-ing’ in high profile victories is something which requires immense confidence and self-belief coupled with a desire to entertain beyond the call of duty. Perhaps this arrogant edge and willingness to amuse the public is a major sign of Murray’s growth into a greater sporting personality.

His now famous Trick Shot

Murray has dismissed his new trick shot as just something which he does to mess around in training and something which he is scared will make him look a “plonker”. So far in competitive matches though it has a 100% record of success as each of these audacious strokes have been winners.One would think that if he continues to play the role of the exhibitionist that ┬áit will provide himself and the media with a point of interest for all that surrounds his game, something which is likely to allow Murray to gain admirers.

After a couple of days away form the court Murray will have to return on Monday to take on the wiley Richard Gasquet in what on paper appears to be a very tough and attractive match. We await to see if he will again take on the role of chief entertainer as the anticipation and hopes of the nation begin to reach fever pitch once again.