Michael Emmett: “Observations from a Memorable Fortnight”

Written by: Michael Emmett


***Michael Emmett is the Director of Tennis Operations at all Mayfair clubs.  He is a certified Tennis Canada Coach 3 with a Journalism degree from the University of Texas. Michael spent several years working in sports television at TSN and Sportsnet.  Michael is a former National champion who finished his last year of junior tennis ranked #1 in Canada.  Michael has coached several National champions when he worked for the All-Canadian Academy at the National Tennis Centre at York University in the early 90s.  Michael spent 2 years traveling the world playing the ATP tour satellite circuit as a member of the Molson National Team in 1985 and ’86.***


There were so many great things from this past Wimbledon fortnight that it might take me a week to list them all.  Quickly though, some of the things that stood out were our Canadian juniors – Eugenie Bouchard and Felip Peliwo – who became the first Canadians to ever win this prestigious title.  Bouchard also won the doubles with an American partner, while Francoise Abanda was a semi-finalist in the girls’ singles event.  This is gigantic news, and I don’t feel that it has hit the media scribes in this country with enough force. The message is loud and clear:  Canadian tennis is more than just Milos Raonic and Daniel Nestor.  We’re now a player on the world scene and a country to be reckoned with.

Roger Federer was so good Sunday, it’s hard to imagine a human being playing better tennis than he did on the lawns at Wimbledon. There is no question he is the best player to ever strike a tennis ball.  The creativity he exhibited Sunday was jaw-dropping. He continues to add shots to his repertoire that make him virtually unbeatable on the grass courts. The shot-making we witnessed July 8th was off the charts and demonstrated his enormous talent. What a pleasure it is to watch such artistry with a tennis racquet. He is a better player today than in his hay day when we was winning Slams with regularity. Roger Federer of 2012 would outlast Roger Federer of 2006. The emergence of Nadal, Djokovic and even Murray has made Roger a much more complete player, including better groundstrokes –especially, on the backhand wing. When The Fed Express is wielding his frame with freedom and confidence, he’s on a different plateau than anybody in the history of the game.

In the chronicles of tennis, I’m not sure we’ve ever seen a more significant win with so many ramifications.  This win – his 17th career major – probably distanced Federer enough from Nadal and Djokovic to keep his all-time mark safe until at least the next generation. His 7th Wimbledon championship tied him all-time with his boyhood idol Pete Sampras. With the win he regained the world #1 ranking for the first time in over 2 years and tied Sampras for most weeks at this lofty position. No doubt, with little coming up on the calendar, Federer is sure to pass Sampras’ 286 consecutive weeks at number one before the start of the Olympics in a few weeks.

And we can’t forget about Serena Williams.  After some scares in the early going, the American serving machine was at her best in wins over Kvitova, Azarenka and Radwanska in the quarters, semis and finals. With her 5th Wimbledon title – tying her big sister Venus – we must consider her near the top of the all-time greats to win the prestigious Wimbledon trophy.  After a health scare that had her in hospital for many weeks shortly after her last Wimbledon victory in 2010, Williams seems to be back serving better than at any time in her storied career.

Now to the stories that grabbed much less attention.

The Wimbledon committee has the power to seed the players for the various events not solely based on world rankings. This is the only tournament in the world that has this flexibility.  For example, players who have shown grass court acumen during their careers – like Venus Williams – a five time champion – could be seeded in the top 32 if the committee thought it was warranted. I’m not suggesting this should have been done, especially, after her early first round exit.  But for Kim Clijsters not to be seeded – this is absolutely wrong.  She is a top 10 player who is still in strong form. Not seeding a player of this magnitude wreaks havoc on a draw and makes it that much tougher for the seeded players who come up against her in the early rounds.  Even Serena Williams being seeded #6 is absurd. This is a 4-time champion (at the time) who has been awesome on the grass in her career. She absolutely deserved to be at top-4 seeding – no question about it. The person who was penalized by this poor decision was Petra Kvitova; the defending champion should not have faced Serena in the quarter finals. These were the two best players in the draw, and it’s ridiculous that they played on Tuesday instead of Saturday.  But the most egregious error came with the omission of Serena and Venus in the doubles draw. How the committee did not seed this dynamic duo, I’ll never know. They were the 4-time champions and were clearly a favourite to make it 5. This decision drew little scrutiny from the masses, but it was a massive mistake. I don’t care if they haven’t played a tournament in months, if they are together and on grass, they need to be seeded.

The other controversial subject was the roof at Wimbledon. At times, it seemed like they flipped a coin to decide whether to play open air tennis or climate controlled tennis.  No one benefited more from these lackluster decisions than Roger Federer.  He loves the indoor environment and with his dominating skills on a fast court in perfect conditions, he’s never going to lose. I understand all of the thought processes that must be considered before making these weighty decisions, but I think they jumped the gun on several instances and panicked when waiting it out might have been the more prudent thing to do.  Federer, in his stickiest of situations, escaped down 2-sets-to-love to Julien Benneteau in a 3rd round match, in part because they shut the roof and allowed him to play in immaculate conditions. Federer dominated Djokovic winning in 4 sets in a semifinal match, yet, hours later, Murray and Tsonga played with the roof open.  It seems like the committee lost patience and allowed the greatest indoor player of all time to get his wish – play in a utopian environment.

Part of the reason for this panic was due to the fact that they refuse to play on the middle Sunday. Once again, tradition rules the roost. They play the Men’s singles final on Sunday – so this so-called HOLY day can’t be that sacred if they play the most important match of the tournament on the second Sunday.  The middle Sunday was the best weather day of the second week. Had they played a large chunk of matches on day #7, they would have had more breathing room for the rest of the tournament, and maybe the Federer/Djokovic match could have been played outside in grand-slam-like conditions. Major championships have always been contested outside, and this is the way it should remain. The roof should be a last resort.  The Rogers Cup has had many rain issues over the years.  Mayfair West has been the go-to club in past championships. But tournament organizers refuse to change the dynamics of the tournament and go inside unless it’s absolutely necessary.  A similar strategy should be employed at Wimbledon.

In closing, and to end on a high note, for me, the most refreshing moment of the tournament was watching a choked up Andy Murray try to articulate his feeling to a nation starving for a Wimbledon champion. I don’t consider myself a fan of the Scottish tennis player, but wow did his words tug at my heart strings. What an emotional speech that was! As Mr. Federer eloquently stated – “Andy – I’m sure you’ll win at least one Grand Slam.”  And here’s hoping it’s in the not too distant future, in front of his biggest supporters, on the green grass at Wimbledon.  A gargantuan win like this would turn that nation upside down!

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