Life at Wimbledon 2021
The beginning of July in West London is synonymous with strawberries, champagne and whites, serving against the backdrop that has made them famous; Wimbledon. In the midst of the global Coronavirus pandemic, the cancellation of 2020’s edition of the famous championships carried an element of doubt into this years’ tournament.
Despite the slow and considered return to normality in the world of elite sport, the Wimbledon Championships came at a unique turning point in the country’s emergence from regulations. Restrictions up to the tournament across other sports around the country limited the capacity of crowds, with this years’ championships seeing an increase in fan attendance from opening at 50% capacity through to full crowds of 15,000 on Finals Weekend. As a result, fans were treated to seeing some of the biggest stars in world tennis such as Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Coco Gauff for the first time at Wimbledon in 2 years.
As the majority of the sporting world cast their eyes across London and throughout Europe at the second half of the European Championships, West London played host to one of the most recognisable and renowned Majors on the circuit.
2021 Wimbledon Championships
After a two-year hiatus, there were a flurry of surprises as the rounds progressed with early favourites falling under unique circumstances. The earliest of exits for 7-time champions Serena Williams created arguably the shock of the tournament in the very first round. Looking to equal a record 24th Grand Slam, the 39-year old was forced to retire after just 6 games on Centre Court after slipping on a surface that came under scrutiny throughout the fortnight of tennis.
With Williams not being the only player to suffer a fall on the courts that had been criticised by many for being too slippy or slow, the championship defended the state of the courts, with the COVID-influenced side affects once again being raised with the courts having not been played on properly for the past two years.
Emma Raducanu captured the hearts of the British crowd with a series of fine performances to reach the fourth round. The 18 year old battled through three tough rounds before finally succumbing to a medical withdrawal after suffering breathing pains in the fourth round.
In the end, a straight forward path to the final for the number one seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia paved the way for a second grand slam of her career as she beat 8th seed Karolina Pliskova in three sets.
In the other half of the competition, home favourite Andy Murray succumbed in the third round to Canadian 10th-seed Denis Shapovalov in straight sets. After appearing clearly frustrated with his performance after his exit, the championship was undoubtedly wide-open in the second week.
At the quarter-final stage, a passionate Wimbledon crowd saw one of the most shocking scenes in recent memory. Eight-time champion Roger Federer fell to 14th ranked Hubert Hurkacz in straight sets. The 39-year old left the championships amid a cloud of mystery regarding his future as he succumbed to a third-set loss to love; the first time he had done so in West London at a championship that he made his debut at in 1999 at a time when Hurkacz was just two years old.
With Rafael Nadal choosing to rest his body through Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympic Games, Federer’s exit paved the way for Novak Djokovic to become the overwhelming favourite. After cruising through his earlier rounds, Djokovic faced off against seventh-seed Matteo Berrettini in a bid to equal his biggest rivals, Federer and Nadal, with 20 Grand Slam titles. After losing the first set to the big-serving Italian, Djokovic steadied the ship to win three straight sets and claim his third-straight championship at the All England Club and his sixth overall. Djokovic, the World number one, is the youngest of the three dominant figure in mens’ singles tennis and now becomes the favourite to move into sole possession of the most grand slam winners amongst male players.
The Future of the Wimbledon Grand Slam
As with all major sports and tournament, most of the success is predicated on the influence of the stars participating in the championship. With Serena Williams and Roger Federer’s early exits at the age of 39 along with Nadals’ absence at 35 and Djokovic winning at 34, the star power of the generational talents that have dominated the sport appears to be drawing to a close. Without another generational star, the draw to major championships around the world and the sport as a whole could well face an interesting period of transition.
Players such as Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff have positioned themselves to take up the mantle with some stunning tennis and confidence in the limelight at such young ages however for the Wimbledon tournament, the organisers are aware that the championships will need more.
As a result, Wimbledon have announced plans for a new 8,000 capacity show court along with a further 38 grass courts to expand its’ provision to an unprecedented level for British Tennis. If planning permission is granted, Wimbledon would almost treble in size, utilising the golf club opposite which was purchased by the club three years ago. The new show court will become the third biggest at the centre, behind Centre Court and Court number 1, featuring a retractable roof and being set in a ring of ancient oak trees.
Whilst renowned as one of the most prestigious and well known majors on the tour, Wimbledon in its’ current format lacks the sheer size that accompanies most other majors on the circuit. This expansion plan will bring Wimbledon up to the same level as those other tournaments who currently boast a third larger arena than the outside courts that can currently be found at Wimbledon.
With the ambition and investment in the progression of the tournament clear for all to see, the viewing figures of 2021 saw a substantial rise from 2019, supporting the notion that the increased provision at the tournament will translate directly into reaching a larger audience, all of whom are desperate to enjoy a tournament almost 250 years old.