Wimbledon Rewind: A Look Back At The 2009 Tournament

Roger Federer Wimbledon Middle Sunday

In an era when it might be said that tennis’ foremost grass competition continually fell into the same patterns–odd shock result in first week, usual suspects in final–its 2009 vintage provided storylines that were both surprising and infinitely pleasing.

A Look at Wimbledon 2009

Stars of Tomorrow?

In the boys’ contest, there were players with potential flying in from all angles, though in retrospect it is worth noting that only seven of the 64 participants went on to reach the Top 100 of the senior game: Bernard Tomic, Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Andrey Kuznetsov, Tennys Sandgren, Denis Kudla, Jozef Kovalik, amd Liam Broady. There were another ten who later found themselves in the Top 200, moving in and out of the ATP tour frame rather than consistently flourishing, as have many in the above list; the failure of 2009 junior runner-up Jordan Cox–a product of the renowned Bollettieri Academy–to make any kind of inroads (he retired at 25 with a ranking peak of #449) perhaps proves that age-group success doesn’t merit more attention than the tournament itself.

Fate of the wild cards

As southern England experienced a heat wave and the music world mourned the death of Michael Jackson, the All-England Club had balanced the time-worn–that rule on wearing all-white vesture–with the cutting-edge: a new £80 million roof on Centre Court. The august tradition of bestowing wild cards on young hopefuls was seen in qualifying, where 18-year-old Marcus Willis was one of seven locals to fall at the first two stages (his only main draw appearance was seven years away) and in the main draw, where a new kid on the SW19 block breathed the same rarefied air as the top seeds.

Indeed, “kid” may not be an uncharitable epithet for the teenager then placed at #305 in the world, whose subsequent off-court conduct has at times been anything but mature. Dan Evans has ultimately outgrown and outlasted the restrictive category of “unfulfilled potential” into which he was boxed, but on this occasion the enigmatic Midlander was able to claim just eight games against 12th seed Nikolay Davydenko, the Russian himself having been on the receiving end of a seismic shock in 2003–removed from the event by Lee Childs, a wild card ranked #489.

That was undoubtedly the standout result of the 2000s for home wild cards at SW19–able to muster a collective eleven victories to 37 defeats (ignoring Andy Murray and Greg Rusedski’s brief stints as wild cards and matches between two such players). In 2009, James Ward and Josh Goodall were classic examples of gritty but limited locals; Alex Bogdanovic, on the other hand, had a high and undisguised regard for his own worth, without the mentality to maximize his considerable talent. Eight consecutive wild cards resulted in eight consecutive first round exits, and the Lawn Tennis Association lost patience–to nobody’s surprise but his own.

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A Murray classic under the roof

There was nonetheless one major cause for pride and optimism among those at the LTA and supporters of British tennis: Andy Murray. The 22-year-old from Dunblane had just passed a very public audition before an 8,000-strong panel at Queen’s Club to end our 71-year wait for a homegrown champion there, and the thought occurred, if fleetingly, that one day the Wimbledon trophy would also be his to hoist aloft. Tim Henman had got the nation’s circulation going at times in the late 1990s and early 2000s, though his adventures all too often ended in anticlimactic defeat; when you have seen as many tragi-comedies as Wimbledon spectators, a taste for hero movies is not easy to acquire.

Fittingly, the first full match to be played under that £80 million roof was a Monday night classic between the British #1 and 19th seed Stan Wawrinka, with whom he had been engaging in regular rivalry (five meetings during the previous year) and would continue to. Back then, the Swiss was “just another good Top 20 player”, with no indication that late-career brilliance would be his chosen specialist subject, and was finally defeated at 10:38pm, leaving us in no doubt that future British summers could be looked forward to with a sense of expectation, but not expectancy; fervor, not fever.

Other stars of 2009

The 2009 edition will also stand out in the scrapbook of Ivo Karlovic, for it was to be the sole quarterfinal in a career of some 63 Grand Slam appearances. Whilst there were admittedly serious technical flaws in the Croatian’s game, it is surprising that such an outstanding exponent of the serve-and-volley style, who continued to play into his forties, could not replicate the feat. What also ranked as a surprise was nominal clay specialist Juan Carlos Ferrero joining him in the last eight–as a wild card ranked #70–though 34th-ranked Tommy Haas, one of few surviving connections with the late 1990s, reaching one stage further was rather less of a shock–preluded by his remarkable and merited title on the home grass of Halle. That he found a way past Novak Djokovic in both competitions gives him admittance to an exclusive club; aside from the rest of the “Big Four,” only Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2008), Andy Roddick (2009) and Fernando Verdasco (2010) also got the better of the Serb twice in a calendar year during his first career peak in 2008-16.

As one former US Open champion bowed out in hideously subdued fashion–the sometimes exasperating, always enthralling Marat Safin falling in Round 1 to qualifier Jesse Levin– another came within ball-striking distance of the championship. Few people acquainted with grass court tennis were ever in the slightest doubt that Andy Roddick would come close to its holy grail; the big-serving American could barely have been any closer than he was in 2009. 39 games won, 37 consecutive service holds, four set points for a two-set lead–yet after four hours and 17 minutes, the intoxicating nectar of supremacy was Roger Federer’s once more. That, in essence, is Wimbledon at its best: a fortnight-long television narrative more entertaining than any soap opera.

Main Photo Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

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