There was no Champions Ball this year for Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty because of COVID-19 induced restrictions.
The traditional Grand Finale is a black-tie event at which the gentlemen’s titlist would dance with the Ladies’ champion among invited guests at the Guildhall London. In 2019, Novak Djokovic danced with Simona Halep of Romania. The 2021 champions, however, departed the United Kingdom basking in their historic individual achievement over a fortnight.
There were 164 men and 164 women, who vied for the singles’ title and many others, who competed in the other events. In retrospect, the tennis fiesta was a chronicle of dreams attained or shattered.
Djokovic achieved his dream to equal the 20 Grand Slam titles of his arch-rivals, Federer and Nadal. Barty won her maiden title, forty years after a fellow Australian, Evonne Goolagong-Cawley. However, Roger Federer’s quest for his 21st Grand Slam ended in a quarterfinals loss to Ugo Humbert of Poland, while Serena Williams’ quest for a record-tying 24th major title ended after a slip on the grass-court in the first round.
We learned the effectiveness of the slice against the sluggers of these days.
Canada’s Denis Shapovalov expressed the hope that Berrettini could defeat Djokovic in the finals because of the Italian’s slice backhand. Ironically, Shapovalov might have defeated Djokovic in the quarterfinals had he attempted a few slice shots to compliment his awesome power game. Aryna Sabalenka could have reached the finals if she did not attempt to hit the covers off the balls, even when she had an empty court.
In the ladies’ final match, Barty used the slice backhand 99 percent of the match and lost points when she attempted hitting a two-fisted shot. In the men’s finals, the last point was an exchange of 10 sliced crosscourt backhands until Berrettini’s sixth attempt landed in the net. Especially on grass courts, the sliced ball is difficult to dig up by players using the exaggerated western forehand grip best suited to high bouncing balls.
This year marked the 134th edition of the Championships from the maiden edition in 1877 and the Centenary event in 1977, when Virginia Wade of Great Britain won the ladies’ title witnessed by Her Majesty the Queen. That year also gave the first name to the present Court One, which the media still describes as Millennium Court. The tournament was not held during the World War years and it was cancelled in 2020 because of the global pandemic.
However, it is the first Grand Slam to have a full capacity crowd in the second week. This is an indication that sports could be a barometer for a progressive return to normalcy in the world.