Wimbledon 2007

Fulljgetty74808440mt242_the_champ_3 On Saturday, Venus Williams, last year’s leading spokeswoman for equal prize money, fittingly won the first Wimbledon women’s singles title since the success of that campaign.  The match was a lopsided one, with Williams too powerful and too fast for Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli to make an impression other than one of courage against all hope of winning.  Afterwards, Venus paid tribute to Billie Jean King for her efforts in making tennis the most visible and well-remunerated women’s sport in the world.  All to the good, and hopefully her graciousness will quiet some of the detractors who seem to surround the Williams sisters, who are, after all, perhaps the most exceptional story in sports, even a decade after their emergence on the pro tour.

Sunday, Roger Federer earned his (equal) slice of the pie, winning a stunningly well-played and epic five-set Wimbledon final against Rafael Nadal.  Together, these two men occupy a plateau far, far above the rest, and Nadal is the only man alive who can test Federer.  This picture (you may want to click on it to enlarge) should tell you how draining the effort of fending him off once again was for the Rajah, as his fans call him.  Notice anything strange about it?

Answer after the jump…

He put his pants on backwards.  I guess breaking down in tears after winning the toughest final of your career might have made things a bit swimmy.  My guess is that Roger will find this hilarious for years to come.

Capt4ddbd7dd333f47c79bd5885e3b442_2Many observers called it the best Wimbledon final since the endlessly cited McEnroe-Borg contest of 1980.  Like that match, this one was a melodramatic affair in which the winner showed amazing resilience, but the loser gained new levels of respect; Rafa Nadal played liked a man possessed.  He ended any talk that he is a one-surface clay wonder by repeating last year’s run to the final, this time blogging about it on the way, often detailing his cooking.  (Sample: “The other day I cooked a cake for all of us staying at the house, so I decided to cook another one today and give Albert a surprise. Benito had gone to buy the eggs, sugar and the candles and I prepared two cakes.”) He certainly improved on his performance once he got to the final, hitting most of the spectacular shots in the match, many of them his trademark backhand from outside the television screen past a stunned Federer.  Rafa also showed a newish shot that I particularly liked, a slicing forehand, sort of half dropshot, half angled drive, that is his answer to Federer’s lethal short backhand slice.  Rafa: anything you can do, I can do lefty.

But Federer shouldn’t get short shrift in all this.  He came to court dressed in a full throwback ensemble of jacket, vest, and trousers, inspiring both amusement and charges of pretension.  Fashion still compromises one’s masculinity, apparently, in the eyes of many (though not Federer’s – Anna Wintour sat in his box during the tournament).  This was his best performance in a huge match, and maybe his most impressive career win, redeeming his close five-set loss to Safin at the Australian a couple years ago.  Roger did have a slightly unhinged sounding fit about the Hawkeye challenge system, which, weird as it was, demonstrated the depth of his sheer desire to win the match, ordinarily hidden underneath the Eurocool demeanor he has evolved.  He also channeled the greatest Wimbledon champion, one Peter Sampras, by serving with relentless precision in the tiebreaks and the fifth set, and by dominating play with the game’s heaviest forehand.  It was a superb match featuring two superb champions, won by the greatest player in the game.  This stuff scripts itself.