Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Changing of the Guard at Wimbledon?

I did something today I haven't done much since I was a child; as I have written here before, it is something I used to do with my mother.

I watched the women's tennis final at Wimbledon.

Mom's been gone for 22 years so, clearly, it has been awhile since we watched Wimbledon together. But I remember when I was a child and Mom would buy fresh strawberries for us to eat while we watched (a nod to the Wimbledon tradition of strawberries and cream). I did my part this morning. I typically eat oatmeal for breakfast, and I buy these boxes of instant oatmeal that have two packets each of five different flavors, one of which is strawberries and cream. That was my breakfast this morning.

Garbiñe Muguruza, a 23–year–old Venezuela–born player who represents Spain and lives in Switzerland, won her first Wimbledon championship, defeating 37–year–old Venus Williams in two sets.

That was reminiscent of some of my times with Mom. We watched some Wimbledon finals when frequent champions fell — to time as much as their opponents — and I definitely had that déjà vu sensation today.

Venus has won five women's championships at Wimbledon, and she played a tough first set against Muguruza — but simply failed to capitalize on enough opportunities and lost 7–5. Then she seemed to hit the wall in the second set as Muguruza blanked her 6–0.

How astonishing was that? Well, Muguruza's other five opponents at Wimbledon all managed to win at least one game in the second set. Last year's runnerup, Angelique Kerber of Germany, even took Muguruza to three sets in Monday's Round of 16. But Muguruza prevailed.

Williams was dealing with plenty of distractions, primarily the June 9 car accident in which she was involved that led to the death of a 79–year–old passenger in the other car. Questions about that accident persist, but it appears that Williams will no longer be held responsible for what happened. Ultimately that should be a relief, but it is sure to be a constant presence in her thoughts these days.

And she lost her very first set at Wimbledon on July 5, but she seemed like the old Venus after that, winning 10 straight sets before encountering Muguruza today.

Venus may well return to competitive play, but time waits for no one. Eventually she will have to step aside and let the next generation have its moment in the sun.

In her post–match remarks, Muguruza unwittingly hinted at that, observing that she had grown up watching Williams play. Then, realizing the implications of her words, she tried to backtrack, adding that facing her in the final was "incredible."

But many observers must have wondered, as I did, if we were witnessing the changing of the guard. Muguruza has long been said to be the next big thing in women's tennis. She even made it to the Wimbledon final two years ago and lost to Williams' sister.

Now, with two Grand Slam titles under her belt (she won the French Open last year), she may be fulfilling those expectations and leaping to tennis' elite level.

And Williams may have at last reached the end of a long and successful career.

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