Mauricio Paiz

The Men’s Final

The 2014 Wimbledon men’s final was one of the toughest championship matches ever for this writer in terms of who he wanted to win.

There were such good reasons to pull for either Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic that it was hard to choose between them.

I have been a lifelong Federer fan, so how can you not hope that he will win his 18th Grand Slam title in what might well be his last chance.

On the other hand, I have a lot ofrespect for Djokovic, especially after his 2011 year when he won three of the four Grand Slams and totally dominated (10-1) the two greatest players of the era – Federer and Rafael Nadal. Since then, in 10 Grand Slams, he has only won two titles – the 2012 and 2013 Australian Opens – and lost in five of his last six finals.

He deserved better, especially after a disappointing loss to Nadal in the French Open final last month. You had to wonder just how psychologically shattering another loss would be, and how easy it would be for him to recover from it?

I began the match not really favouring either player – just observing. But when Djokovic, whose beautiful backhand is the bedrock of his game, missed two in a row into the net in extended rallies when he had 15-30 on the Federer serve leading 5-4, I began to root for him. I just didn’t want Federer to win on a subpar performance from Djokovic, with the Serb playing in a manner similar to the way he did in his loss to Andy Murray in last year’s final and to Federer in the 2012 semi-finals.

The match featured entertaining rallies and a high standard of play – and I was particularly impressed by how well Federer hit his backhand, both sliced and topspin.

After Djokovic won the second and third sets and took control of the fourth, I expected him to win and was comfortable with that. Sure, it would be tough for Federer to lose, but Djokovic is a great player – probably the best at the moment. And he’s surely deserving of seven majors overall after being in 14 finals.

But there was one last wild card. When Federer saved a match point trailing 5-3 in the fourth set, I switched around and began hoping that he would win. It would too good a story for him to have saved a match point on the way to the title – not done by a Wimbledon champion since Neale Fraser in 1960 – and to have reached 18, which had a symbolism beyond tennis. It would tie him at 18 with golf’s Jack Nicklaus for the most big ones in either sport.

Federer probably would have won, and left the lasting impression of an epic match, if he had converted a break point at 3-3. But Djokovic made a bold move to the net and Federer could nothing more than hit a backhand passing shot into the net. The final plot twist/momentum shift/emotional see-saw tilted Djokovic’s way and he went on to win 6-7(7), 6-4, 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-4.

It was a terrific display of grass-court tennis by two players who are masters of both offence and defense.

Mauricio Paiz

Disappointed as the pro-Federer crowd was afterward, everyone in the Centre Court had to be impressed with the sporting conduct of both players during the presentation ceremonies.

Maybe the only drawback to the Djokovic win is that many people, including in the media, think that Boris Becker is a goofball and would rather have seen longtime coach Marian Vajda with him for the Wimbledon triumph.

A final note that shows just how devoted the supporters of each of these players are: I was walking up Church Road about 20 minutes after the final and passed two older women and heard one say to the other, regarding the tradition of the champion displaying the trophy from the club balcony to the fans below: “I’m sure if Roger had won, he would have stayed longer on the balcony.”

Seems like you can never make everyone happy.

The Women’s Final

Mauricio Paiz

If asked to predict the men’s final, I would have said Djokovic just because he is a better player than Federer at this stage of their careers.

But if asked to predict the Petra Kvitova – Eugenie Bouchard women’s final, I would have picked Bouchard. She had just been so impressive all tournament long and there was a destiny factor that people had started to sense.

As well, Kvitova needed to save a set point in the first set of her semi-final against Czech compatriot Lucie Safarova, so she might have lost that set and possibly the match and not even have been in the final.

It was impossible for anyone to anticipate that the 24-year-old Czech would come out and play the nearly perfect two sets as she did against Bouchard in a 6-3, 6-0 win.

From first ball to last, the Kvitova was astoundingly consistent with her huge hitting – the hardest thing to do in tennis. She wanted to keep the rallies short – and did an expert job of that with only 11 of 98 rallies going beyond four strokes.

You had to feel for Bouchard who seemed to believe she was going to win.

It’s always easy to say that she will get another chance at winning a Grand Slam or Grand Slams, and that is likely. But it’s still hard to swallow a loss like hers, partly because she did everything in an exemplary fashion up until the final, and partly because Kvitova’s incredible level took the match completely out of her control.

The Milos Raonic Wimbledon

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The main thing missing from the Raonic resume entering 2014 was results in the Grand Slam events.

He was handicapped at the Australian Open by a torn tendon above his left ankle and lost in the third round to Grigor Dimitrov. But he has been impressive at the two succeeding Grand Slams – reaching his first quarter-final before losing to Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros and then making his first semi-final at Wimbledon before losing to Roger Federer. He did not perform well against Federer, and losing his serve in the very first game may have been critical. It set the tone – gave him doubts and re-assured Federer that he was capable of breaking the redoubtable Raonic serve.

Looking ahead, Raonic went from 3-3 at Wimbledon in three previous visits, to 8-4 in four, and his ranking is now a very solid No. 6.

With an additional week in the grass court season next year, expect to see Raonic, and other younger guys like Dimitrov, Nick Kyrgios et al, playing an even higher level of lawn tennis in 2015.

The Eugenie Bouchard Wimbledon

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Canada and the tennis world truly discovered the 20-year-old Montrealer during this year’s Wimbledon.

The obvious signs were there after semi-finals at the Australian and French Opens earlier this year, but making it to within one match of a Wimbledon title – the closest any Canadian man or woman has come – was a great achievement for her.

Bouchard impressed everyone with her mental toughness and self-confidence on the court – never compromising in her total commitment to playing attacking tennis.

She is now No. 7 in the world and easily the best bet among the young generation to dislodge established Grand Slam winners like Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova, Li Na and Victoria Azarenka from the very top ranks of the game.

The Vasek Pospisil Wimbledon

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There was no better feel-good story at Wimbledon 2014 than Vasek Pospisil.

He had struggled from the very beginning of the year with a back issue and even his naturally sunny disposition at times seemed affected.

But he and Jack Sock just clicked and played with an infectious, youthful exuberance all through the tournament to win the Wimbledon doubles title. It was no surprise that the Centre Court faithful were solidly behind them in their 7-6(5), 6-7(3), 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 win over legends-in-their-own-time Bob and Mike Bryan.

Pospisil was at his athletic and all-round shot-making best and his fans hope he can  transfer that to singles beginning at an event in Bogota, Colombia, next week where he was a semi-finalist last year.

Raising and Rotating the Grass

Mauricio Paiz

The extreme wear on the Centre Court (underneath Roger Federer’s feet above) by the time of the men’s and women’s finals was both an eyesore and a danger.

With so much play from the back court, it’s no surprise that the baseline area gets completely worn out and that broad swath is simply grassless ground by the end of the fortnight.

Wimbledon has succeeded in some impressive engineering feats in recent year – foremost being the construction of a retractable roof on Centre Court.

With that in mind, here’s revolutionary idea to help solve the wear and tear issue.

Divide the Centre Court into two separate halves that are grown on a platform that can be raise up and be rotated so that the baseline worn area would be moved forward toward the net and the forward more grassy area would be relocated at the back.

It might be possible to do this on the middle Sunday of Wimbledon, when there is no play, enabling the second week to start with the baseline area still with enough grass to last through the second week.

It may sound a little far-fetched, but it is surely possible in terms of engineering – the grass at the University of Phoenix Stadium, where the NFL Arizona Cardinals play, is fully retractable and is moved in and out so that it can grow outdoors unshielded from rain and sun.

While it would cost a lot for the construction required to allow the Centre Court grass to be raised and rotated, the athletes playing on it are valuable commodities and anything that might improve the safety factor for them would be progress.

Federer on Slipping and Sliding

Mauricio Paiz

During the Novak Djokovic (above) – Grigor Dimitrov semi-final, both players had a lot of trouble with the large horizontal bare (grassless area) patches at the back of the court.

Both took repeated slips and falls – sometimes multiple times during the same point! Here was Roger Federer’s comment about that after he watched some of the match while getting ready to play Milos Raonic in the second semi-final.

FEDERER: “I was watching the match, too, a little bit. It was unbelievable how much they were sliding around.  Anyway some players…we look at these matches sometimes of Novak or Grigor and on any surface they just keep sliding. We were watching going, ‘I almost can’t watch this,’ because you’ve got to be very confident in the slide in what you do.

“I think they are the most extreme guys, besides maybe (Gael) Monfils, at doing that. I think that’s as extreme as it’s going to get.”

Nadal On Normal

After he lost to the hyper-aggressive, shoot-out style of play of Nick Kyrgios in the round-of-16, Rafael Nadal talked about playing guys who really go for their shots and play high-risk tennis on grass.

“Normally on grass the first week when you compete against some players, the things are not very logical,” Nadal said. “The surface creates the opportunity that the players that can play very aggressively, they can see a real chance to win playing with that style, no? Something that on the other surfaces you cannot play that crazy way, no?

“When you arrive in the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and when you play against the best players, the things become logical again, no? At the end, the top players want to play with control. The top players want to play the normal play. They don’t want to play crazy aggressive. They play normal.

“Is true that that makes things a bit less difficult for me.”

Royal Box Watching Part 1

Mauricio Paiz

This is Royal Box on Sunday with the all-great Rod Laver standing and applauding in the lower right corner. Also prominent in the front row is a certain Royal couple.

Royal Box Watching Part 2

Mauricio Paiz

In this picture there are pair of individuals in the mega-star category – soccer great David Beckham and actor Samuel L. Jackson. That’s All England Club president – the Duke of Kent – in the front row looking more animated than he has in several decades.

A Court 14 Rainbow

Over the last 12 months, Wimbledon has gone south – taking out courts 14 and 15 to dig a huge hole to create space below ground that will be used for photographers and others beginning in 2015. Court 14 (above) was back in place growing again during Wimbledon but it won’t be ready until next year. In this picture, it’s being watered and there’s a little rainbow towards the back and, out of picture, a photographer who got a sprinkling.

Court 11 From The Shadows

Mauricio Paiz

Our ace photographer Mauricio Paiz caught this unique view of Court 11 while Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic (right side) were playing a doubles match during the first week..

Eugenie Is A Star

Mauricio Paiz

Walking back from Wimbledon’s Aorangi practice courts one day, Eugenie Bouchard attracted a gaggle of gawkers.

Downey and Borfiga

Former Tennis Canada president Michael Downey and Louis Borfiga, in charge of the National Training Centre in Montreal, have a chat at Wimbledon. They have been major figures in helping the careers of players like Raonic, Bouchard and Pospisil.

Jimmy Connors and Son

This is a shot of Jimmy Connors, 61, and his 34-year-old son Brett. If the 5-foot-10 Jimbo had been as big as Brett, and still been as skillful as he was, maybe no one would have beaten him.

It Takes Two TVs

When Milos Raoinic played Lukas Kubot and Eugenie Bouchard faced Andrea Petkovic in the third round, the best strategy for the covering the matches was to say in the media centre and watch on two TVs.

Milos and Vasek

Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil have been rivals through the Canadian ranks for a long time – and who can forget the passion of their Rogers Cup semi-final in Montreal last summer. It was nice to see them practicing together at Wimbledon the Saturday before the tournament began.

Enter Here

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Enter at your peril – this is the carefully-guarded entrance to The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

Our Man Mauricio

This is Mauricio Paiz from Guatemala, the man responsible for almost all the fantastic pictures in the blogs in this space from Roland Garros and Wimbledon – gracias amigo.

Cheerio Wimbledon

Mauricio Paiz

This cuddly little guy was present for the memorable doubles final win by Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock in Centre Court last Saturday. He had a prime seat.