How I would sum up Wimbledon 2019 in a sentence for those who might want the super condensed versions: It was the best, saved for last or the “slice” stole the show or will we see the same rematches in the 2020 Wimbledon final? or those pesty tie-breaks!
If you prefer the more detailed Wimbledon recaps, here they are: The best of the best certainly filtered through and made it into both the women’s and the men’s finals this year.
Simona Halep, from Romania, certainly deserved her win over Serena Williams. This will no doubt propel her confidence going into the U.S. Open, and beyond. She looks so petite on the court, especially standing next to Serena Williams, but she is a sturdy player at 5-foot-6. I see her as a solid contender for world No. 1 for the next few years for sure.
Probably the most utilized, point-extending and point-saving shot this year at Wimbledon on both the women’s and men’s side was the backhand slice. A well-executed slice shot starts with the racket face higher (about shoulder height), then swinging down sharply and then to level with the racket face slightly tilted back upon contact with the ball. Rather than topspin, the slice shot should have backspin that will keep the ball low through the air and then bounce, or skid, to stay low after the bounce. Taller players prefer a high bounce, and they usually hate dealing with those low, skidding balls. Trying to hit an offensive shot after a low slice is very difficult for many players. The slice is one of the favorite shots of what I call “the anti-player” — an opponent who aggravates you by giving you no rhythm and who takes you out of your comfort zone of hitting shots that you are used to hitting in practice. Players should make sure they have a hitting partner that can deal a good slice in practice.
If Serena, Simona, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic can stay healthy for the next 11 months, I would not be surprised, at all, to see all four players back in the late rounds of next year’s Wimbledon. Readers of my column know that I am not a big fan of playing modern tennis on a grass surface. Wimbledon started out as a baggy-pants, amateur tournament. Today’s players are much more athletic and aggressive, and grass is just not safe or practical. The U.S. Open was originally played on grass, but then switched to clay and then to hard courts. However, all four Wimbledon finalists this year have stated they are accustomed to the grass surface and that it suits their game style very well.
Men’s world No. 1 Novak Djokovic even likes to eat some of the Wimbledon grass after every final he wins, and he did it again on live TV after winning this year.
In the historic men’s final that went into a fifth set 12-12 tie-breaker, Roger actually won more games than Novak, but he still lost the match. Roger had two match points, but he seemed rushed on a few key points and made some unforced errors at critical times.
So how should the pros, and us recreational players, handle those pesty tie-breaks if confronted with one? Your serve must be a weapon. In the past, it was common for coaches to tell their players to always let their opponent serve first. This strategy was made popular by Brad Gilbert, who coached Andre Agassi for a time and wrote a book entitled “Winning Ugly”. Andre Agassi had success with this but has also been called one of the game’s best serve returners, ever.
When Roger Federer wins the coin toss he always elects to serve first. This strategy suggests that you have confidence in your serve and that you plan to win the first game, and then let your opponent play catch-up with you. Allowing your opponent to serve first may send the message that you lack confidence in your serve. You get to practice your serve during the match warm-up, so if you win the toss, I tell my students to always elect to serve first because mathematically serving first gives you a slight edge when it comes to playing those pesty tie-breaks.
Doubles players should therefore always elect to serve first. Since I can not emphasize this enough, I would like to say it again for clarity: Your serve must be a weapon, you must practice your serve often enough so that you have complete confidence in it, and whether playing singles or doubles you should always elect to serve first if you win the opening coin toss or racket spin. Mathematically speaking, you will have an advantage should you get into a tie-break situation, and very often matches are decided by just a point or two, as in the case of the men’s Wimbledon finals of 2019.
You heard it first, you heard it right and you heard it here. Now get out there and practice your serve and win more matches.