x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

The perfect way to bring era to an end

The nerve-shredding drama of seeing the world's two best tennis players slugging it out like prize-fighters in a battle for their sport's biggest honour deep into the twilight zone of the last of Wimbledon's scheduled 13 days will not be witnessed again. There will be a roof over Centre Court next year.

The nerve-shredding drama of seeing the world's two best tennis players slugging it out like prize-fighters in a battle for their sport's biggest honour deep into the twilight zone of the last of Wimbledon's scheduled 13 days will not be witnessed again. There will be a roof over Centre Court next year. Wimbledon's administrators sailed perilously closed to the wind in concluding a splendid tournament on time. As Rafael Nadal, an exhausted and elated new men's singles champion, reflected: "If I had dropped my serve in that last game, we would have had to come off. I couldn't see nothing [sic]."

Nadal held serve at 9.16pm and shook hands with the deposed champion Roger Federer in near darkness before lifting the Golden Challenge Cup which glistened in the glow of incessant photographic flash lights. If rain falls early during the tournament, Wimbledon can cope by moving delayed matches to the less glamourous courts. Rain in the second week is potentially disastrous and the logistical headache of a Monday final, last experienced when Goran Ivanisevic defeated Patrick Rafter in 2001, comes disturbingly into view. It could have turned into a Tuesday final this year, as Londoners awoke yesterday to heavy showers and dark clouds.

Spectators who visited the All England Club over the past fortnight have been richly entertained. The epic men's final was the crowning glory but the supporting cast was long and action-packed. Flag-waving Britons were sent on a thrilling roller-coaster ride of emotional extremes by their new national hero Andy Murray. The Scot, outplayed initially by France's Richard Gasquet in the first two sets, recovered brilliantly to go through in five enthralling sets in one of several late- night finishes.

That tremendous victory earned him a quarter-final against Nadal which home patriots believed he could win. The manner in which Nadal put him to the sword was a sobering lesson to those yearning for a successor to Fred Perry, the last player to prevent this coveted title from going overseas way back in 1936. The women have also played a big part in what will be remembered fondly as one of the better Wimbledons. So often the WTA tour has been accused of lacking depth and interest until the business end of tournaments when the leading ladies take their appointed places in the semi-finals and finals.

This year it was carnage. None of the top four seeds were in the quarter-finals for the first time since seedings were introduced in 1927. The series of shock results cleared the stage for the Williams sisters to stroll through to their third meeting in a Wimbledon final, a match that exceeded expectations and firmly dispelled suggestions that it would a pre-arranged exhibition. Venus Williams, affronted by any hint of unprofessionalism in her make-up, eased the pain of five successive defeats by her younger sibling Serena in grand slam finals to move alongside Federer with five entries on the Championships roll of honour.

Venus is now setting her sights on equalling Martina Navratilova's record of nine singles triumphs. If she gets in reach of that target, Laura Robson might be on the other side of the net. Robson, at 14, the youngest player in the draw for the girls' singles, won the hearts of a success-starved British nation by deploying her 100mph serve and booming left-handed forehand to emerge triumphant before a capacity No 1 Court crowd. She has been backed heavily to go on to add the senior title before 2020. Do not back against her.

@Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae