Wimbledon finals

Later today is the Wimbledon ladies’ final with the gentlemen’s title being decided tomorrow. More on the gentlemen’s final below, but of the two the ladies’ final looks like it could be the more interesting match. Serena Williams upset both Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka en route to the final and will face Agnieszka Radwanska, who has managed to advance fairly quietly to the final. Being the incredibly partial person that I am, the most notice I took of her up to now was probably when she beat Heather Watson in the third round. Her path was somewhat cleared ahead of time by Sharapova losing, however, and she never really seemed to have a ‘big’ match up to now.

Radwanska and Williams should make for an interesting match because they have very contrasting styles. Williams is a powerful striker of the ball, to use some parlance usually reserved for T20. She is almost a tennis version of a T20 player, though; her game almost begins and ends at hitting the cover off the ball. She serves very hard and hits a lot of aces, whereas Radwanska is more defensive and focuses on cutting out errors. To continue the cricketing analogy, Radwanska is one who plays tennis in a manner reminiscent of Jonathan Trott or Alastair Cook playing cricket. It’s not terribly flashy or expansive, but it tends to be very technically correct and without a lot of risk of errors. Williams has defeated Radwanska in both of their previous head to head matches, but both were four years ago. In this tournament at least, I think the contrast of style favours Radwanska.

Looking at the stats from their first six matches, it is quickly clear that Radwanska has won a lot of matches through her opponents errors, whilst Williams has won hers with aces and winners. Radwanska has got this far despite conceding more winners than she has hit, but her opponents have committed twice the number of unforced errors that she has. For Williams, the inverse is true: she has committed one more unforced error than her opponents, but has hit close to twice the number of winners. It is certainly possible for Williams to overpower Radwanska. However, Radwanska will not give Williams very much at all and Williams is going to have to be fairly accurate with her shots. If she starts to have a comparable number of unforced errors to winners then Radwanska will find herself in a very comfortable position. It is on that point that I expect the match will turn and for two reasons I think Radwanska goes into it with an advantage. The first reason is the simple one of adrenaline: Williams is a seasoned competitor, but she has been away from the top for some time and I would be quite surprised if there is not a bit more zip to her shots. This can lead to inaccuracy at the best of times, but especially when combined with the other factor: weariness. Williams has also reached the doubles final with her sister and has thus been playing every day all week, sometimes more than once due to the rain. Tired players in any sport tend to be less precise and Williams’ schedule could be her undoing.

I would not want to be nailed into a firm prediction, but that is how I think the odds favour and I do hope that I am correct as I very much dislike the way Serena Williams plays. It is an awful, ugly ‘brute force’ style of tennis and one that I very much do not want to be rewarded. If she finds success it will simply encourage other players to follow that style. Already the women’s game is showing signs of turning into a game of errors and Williams winning will only worsen it. Furthermore, her attitude toward the officials bears a striking similarity to that of a New York Yankee. We saw it most clearly at the US Open last year; there is a strong sense of entitled smugness and I hate it. Beyond any desire for my analysis to be correct, I simply hate watching her play tennis and I hope she loses and loses badly.

Of course, it is the final on Sunday on which most will focus their attention. Regardless of the winner, some sort of history will be made: either Andy Murray will become the first British man to win Wimbledon since 1936 (and he has already become the first one into the final since then) or Roger Federer will return to the number one ranking and break the record for most weeks at number one. The former would certainly be more dramatic, but it is the latter which is far more likely. Djokovic may have been a bit below his best in the semi-final, but Federer was still extremely impressive. Murray has had the benefit of Nadal going out early and has never really looked convincing. He has certainly done well, Tonga and Ferrer are not pushovers, but still he has never really looked dominant against the opponents he has faced. One very strongly gets the impression that Federer will not let Murray off the hook if the latter slips a bit, but that Murray might let Federer off if the reverse happens. Britain has ended her wait for a gentlemen’s finalist at Wimbledon, but I expect her wait for a gentlemen’s champion will go on for a bit yet.

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