Tennis News Round-up - July 2023
By Ed C
Updated 1st August 2023
July saw the third Grand Slam and the oldest tennis tournament in the world, Wimbledon, take place in South West London.
Alcaraz ends Djokovic’s reign
Novak Djokovic came into the event as favourite, having won the last four Wimbledons and not lost on Centre Court for a decade. He started with easy wins, including against three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in the Third Round. Hubert Hurkacz put in a brilliant serving performance and had his chances against the Serb, but ultimately lost in four sets. In the same section of the draw lurked the maverick Kazakh Alex Bublik, who was in red hot form having beaten Jannik Sinner, Alex Zverev and Andrey Rublev to win Halle a few weeks before. He faced Rublev again in the Fourth Round, and lost out in a thriller, with Rublev hitting an extraordinary diving winner to set up match point. The Russian took it to Djokovic in the Quarter Finals, but couldn’t capitalise on a set lead and ultimately lost in four.
On the other side of that half, with Casper Ruud losing to British wildcard Liam Broady, and Taylor Fritz also losing, the path was clear for Jannik Sinner to make a first Grand Slam Semi Final, which he did by beating Roman Safiullin in the Quarter Finals. Sinner managed to take two sets off Djokovic here last year, but wouldn’t be able to this time, with Djokovic winning in three sets to make a fifth consecutive Wimbledon Final.
In the other half, many were excited about Carlos Alcaraz’s chances this year of stopping Djokovic, due to him winning the title at Queen’s. He started well, and had to overcome an in-form Nicolas Jarry to win his Third Round in four sets. His next challenge was a resurgent Matteo Berrettini. The Italian had spent most of the year injured, but managed to rediscover some form and beat Queen’s finalist Alex de Minaur and Zverev to make the Fourth Round. Despite dropping the opening set, Alcaraz was able to beat Berrettini, and would also beat contemporary Holger Rune in the Quarter Finals.
One of the biggest stories of the tournament was Christopher Eubanks. The 27-year-old American broke into the top 100 for the first time this year, and won his first ATP title the week before in Mallorca. The 6”7 giant proved that he was more than just a big server, displaying devastating groundstrokes and volleys to make the Fourth Round. Andy Murray was hoping for another deep run at Wimbledon, but was stopped in the Second Round by Stefanos Tsitsipas in five sets. The Greek however was upset in brilliant fashion by Eubanks, who broke into unchartered territory making the Wimbledon Quarter Finals. Daniil Medvedev was the third Russian player in the men’s Quarter Finals, after Rublev and Safiullin, but would go one further by beating Eubanks in five sets. He was simply outclassed by Alcaraz in the Semi Finals, setting up a mouth-watering Final.
Djokovic started quickly and Alcaraz did not, with the seven-time winner taking the first set 6-1. But the Spaniard dug in and forced a second set tiebreak, and ended up winning it to level the match. After that the tide turned, and Alcaraz won the third set, including breaking Djokovic in a game lasting over 20 minutes. It was an uphill battle for Djokovic, who for once in his career looked tired, but he has won so many big matches from improbable positions and it looked like it might happen again after he won the fourth set. The fifth set was decided by fine margins: Djokovic missed a break point opportunity and then got broken himself in the following game. Alcaraz served it out 6-4 and collapsed to the floor, winning his second Grand Slam and ensuring he would keep his world number 1 ranking.
Vondrousova wins first Grand Slam title
There was no clear favourite for the women’s event, but Elena Rybakina was hoping to put injury worries behind her and defend her title. She began the event strongly, making her way to the Quarter Finals. There she would meet the player she beat in the Final last year, Ons Jabeur, after the Tunisian dispatched former two-time champion Petra Kvitova in the Fourth Round. In a three set match, Jabeur avenged last year’s defeat to make the Semi Finals, but her draw wouldn’t get any easier as waiting for her was Australian Open champion and world number 2 Aryna Sabalenka. The Belarusian had only dropped one set so far in the event, and looked in imperious form. But she came unstuck against Jabeur, who staged a brilliant comeback from a set down to book her place in a second consecutive Wimbledon Final.
In the other half, it looked like Iga Swiatek would capitalise on a relatively open half of the draw, as numerous top seeds fell early such as Caroline Garcia and Coco Gauff, to Marie Bouzkova and Sofia Kenin respectively. Swiatek herself was given a scare by Belinda Bencic in the Fourth Round, but came through in a tight three setter. 4th seed Jessica Pegula was also looking to capitalise and make her first Grand Slam Semi Final, but came unstuck against the in-form Marketa Vondrousova. Former top 10 player Elina Svitolina was having a fairytale run here as a wildcard, having given birth last year. She had beaten three former Grand Slam champions: Venus Williams, Kenin, and Viktoria Azarenka, as well as 28th seed Elise Mertens, to make the Quarter Finals. She then went one better to stun world number 1 Swiatek and set up an improbable Semi Final against Vondrousova. The Czech would hold her nerve to secure a convincing straight sets win and make her second Grand Slam Final.
Jabeur began the Final superbly, gaining an early break. But then, she lost her way, allowing the more solid Vondrousova back into the set with wild errors. She was soon in freefall after losing that set and going a break down in the second, but rallied to get herself back in the match. However, Vondrousova once again remained calm under pressure and edged Jabeur to win her first Grand Slam title 6-4 6-4 in the Final. This was only her second ever WTA title, and she also broke into the top 10 for the first time, capping off a dream fortnight.
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