by Ahmed Olayinka Sule
The recently concluded 2019 Wimbledon Championships had so many twists and turns. I was unable to watch most of the Championship because I had to travel to the USA. However, I was around for some of the pivotal moments of the Championship.
Critics of the Williams Sisters often argue that they are bad for the game of tennis and they can’t wait for the day when the sisters stop playing. They also question the contribution the combined 30 Grand Slam single winners have made to tennis. The emergence of 15-year-old African-American Coco Gauff at this year’s Championship nullified the logic of the Williams Sisters critics. Ms Gauff who was given a wild card by the All England Lawn Tennis Club demolished her opponents in the qualifying rounds to become the youngest person to qualify for the main draw of Wimbledon. She even prevailed over her idol Venus Williams in the first round and reached the round of 16 before she exited the tournament in the hands of Simona Halep. Ms Gauff father was inspired by Venus and Serena’s father Richard Williams and taking his cue from Richard Williams story, he has created a new tennis sensation. Ms Gauff isn’t the only legacy of Serena and Venus Williams. As a result of the Williams sisters exploits, black girls from Angola to Zambia have picked up the racquet in the hope of emulating the sisters. Players such as Naomi Osaka, Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens, Taylor Townsend, Hurricane, Whitney Osigwe who were inspired by the Williams Sisters are now regulars on the women’s tour.
While in America, I monitored the tournament especially Serena’s progress. When Serena defeated Barbora Strycova in the semi-final, I was ecstatic. Since Serena had filled her part of the bargain in reaching the final of Wimbledon, I had to fill my part of the bargain by getting the ticket and making my way to Centre Court to cheer her in the final. On Friday 12 July 2019, I arrived at Washington Dulles Airport to get a flight back to London. The flight was delayed by 45 minutes, so I arrived in London 45 minutes later on 13 July 2019 (the day of the ladies final which was scheduled for 2 pm). After collecting my luggage from the baggage reclaim area at Heathrow, I discovered something was missing from my luggage. I spent about thirty minutes with the BA officials trying to track the missing item. Realising that I was running out of time to be at Centre Court, I took a taxi home, opened the door, dropped my bag and headed straight to SW19 (without bathing). After clearing through the security gates, I ran straight to Centre Court, took the lift and got to my seat a minute before Queen Serena was about to serve. Barely catching my breath, I watched as Simona Halep broke Serena in the first game. From that moment on, I knew it would not be a good day in the office for us. Fifty-six minutes later, the match was over and so the long wait for #GS24 continues. As Ms Halep lifted the trophy, I reflected on Serena’s loss. Though painful, there were some positives. First, she is playing much better than when she came back from her maternity leave. Second, Serena is capable of playing so much better than she did at Wimbledon, where she entered with few matches play under her belt. Moreover, Serena’s #GOAT status is not dependent on reaching #GS24. She already holds the record of the most titles in the Open Era, she has dominated her rivals for almost 20 years. Her place in HERstory is assured.
The brevity of the ladies final was compensated by the length of the men’s doubles finals featuring the Colombian pair of Juan Sebastián Cabal and Robert Farah playing against the French pair, Nicolas Mahut and Édouard Roger-Vasselin. After four consecutive tie breaks, the Colombian pair took the fifth set to win their first Wimbledon crown in a match that lasted four hours and fifty-seven minutes.
A lot was at stake in the men’s final which featured Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic. Federer was aiming for a 9th Wimbledon title to equal Martina Navratilova’s Wimbledon haul while Djokovic was attempting to equal Bjorn Borg’s 5 Wimbledon crowns. The match will go down in history as one of the greatest Grand Slam finals. While watching the match at Centre Court, I could sense that I was witnessing history especially after Djokovic saved two match points in the fifth set. The Wimbledon crowd who are considered the most respectful crowd on the tennis tour threw all caution to the wind to tilt the match in Federer’s favour and were disrespectful to Djokovic. The crowd cheered at Djokovic’s unenforced errors and double faults and jeered him when he complained to the umpire about a call and later on when he smashed his racquet. After both players were tied 12-all in the fifth set, the first tiebreaker to decide a Wimbledon final went into play. Djokovic dug deep, blanked out the crowd’s hostility as he prevailed in his third tie break of the match. Having secured victory, Djokovic sank to the ground, patted the grass and picked a piece of the grass and ate it. With this victory, Djokovic has moved a step closer to securing his place as the greatest male tennis player of all times. At 32 years of age, which is 5 years younger than Federer and having a superior head-to-head count against his two closest rivals, it is only a matter of time before he becomes the Male GOAT. In the ladies doubles final, Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova overcame Gabriela Dabrowski and Xu Yifan in straight sets 6–2, 6–4.
The pictures that follow are the images I captured at the beginning and end of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships.
Ahmed Olayinka Sule, CFA