If there was one surface that allowed miracles, it was grass. Before they changed the green stuff at the All England Club, it used to have bad bounces, it used to allow the ball to slide.
But while Wimbledon may make whatever noises it does about continuing tradition the fact is that the venue fundamentally changed its nature ever since they changed the basic soil and grass way back in 2001. So we have steady baseliner Novak Djokovic hold on to his gluten-less food hardened nerves subduing seven-time winner and natural volleyer Roger Federer 6–7 (7-9), 6–4, 7–6 (7-4), 5–7, 6–4. It’s just that Federer dared not come up to the net anymore.
Novak Djokovic of Serbia holds the winners trophy after defeating Roger Federer of Switzerland in their men's singles final tennis match at Wimbledon. (Reuters Photo)
It’s just not possible to enjoy Wimbledon for what it was. Those two neat furrows paring the grass — one dug deep by shuffling feet while volleying and the other behind the baseline — no longer exist. Instead what we have is one lonely toil at the back. The surface which was once supposed to be ‘fit for cows’ is now game for any bushwhacker with the right kind of arsenal swinging from his hips – the modern game with its extreme grips favours ground strokes generated from the core and not the dart and finesse that serve and volley demanded.
Djokovic’s coach Boris Becker said on the sidelines of the HT Leadership Summit in 2012 that even he would struggle to win at Wimbledon now. So, in a game that’s getting more physical by the day, it would be plain unrealistic to expect a man a week short of 33 to down an opponent five years younger. Federer would have managed fine, except that they no longer allow the kind of leverage that Becker got from the grass when he rampaged to be the youngest ever winner at 17 in 1985.
The grass, sadly, is no longer as green in 2014.
Highlights of the match:
Live Blog Wimbledon Final: Djokovic vs Federer