Novak Djokovic responded out loud to a question he always had preferred to deflect. Yes, he thinks he is the best in his time, and — as he has said more than once in the past — you do not compare eras in sports, so the greatest-of-all-time issue is not interesting.
His superior play at Wimbledon, against Denis Shapovalov in the semis and Matteo Berrettini in the final, leaves little room for debate. These are two of the best in their time, the time following and overlapping with his and Rafa Nadal’s and Roger Federer’s.
They played very well; he noted their lean and hungry looks as they outplayed him in their first sets; then he played better. He figured them out and took over, blunting their games and imposing his. In the case of the young Canadian, it happened in the first set tiebreak, getting the better of Shapovalov’s gorgeous shot-making skills until he got to his nerves and watched him double-fault on set point. With Berrettini, it required losing the first set, then adapting his defensive backhand and near-perfect soft hands at the net to outplay a big serve-and-forehand game. The Italian hit more winners and out-aced him, but he was outfoxed at the key points.
Ashleigh Barty, the most popular women’ tennis champion from Australia since Evonne Goolagong, had a handful of Karolína Plíšková for a moment in the second set of their final, but personally and watching from far, far away — which cannot be trusted in sports coverage — I think the tall Czech lass was never a serious threat though the media consensus (but would you trust the media consensus?) hyped it as a tough match. Of course it was a tough match. Every match is a tough match, and no one thinks facing Miss Plíšková in a final at the All-England Championships is anything less than tough. Nu, so it is.
Was the American default in the mixed doubles due to the male player wanting to save his strength for the men’s doubles, or was there another issue? Without reliable sources, refrain from innuendo. Yet, on the matter of karma, the team from post-Tito Croatia beat the Anglosphere team and went on to win the trophy.
And what joy to see the marvelous Su-Wei Hsieh, the shot-making enchantress from brave little Taiwan, winning her third Wimbledon’s doubles with some help from the 10-years-younger Elise Mertens, who is from brave little Belgium. Miss Hsieh, who lives in Paris, could claim to be the finest at women’s doubles in her time, but she is not one to boast.
As she said in response to a question, “Well, you know, it’s always not easy to play in the final, and the opponent will fight super hard.” And she gives credit: “All the partner, they are amazing to help because sometime I get on the court at the beginning I was not start very well.” As does Miss Mertens: “She’s a magician. As players, we really grew towards each other. She’s a very nice person.”
This is not the time to mourn the loss of England to Italy in the Euro 2020 after battling to a draw in regulation. They let the Euro soccer execs call the 2021 Euro the 2020 Euro, and this tells you why the English, who invented soccer as well as tennis and America and never have won this tournament, need to get their act together. Consider the Cleveland Indians, however, who may be the Cleveland Nonames next year.
And it was balm to the Italians, losing one and winning one on a summer Sunday at Wimbledon and Wembley. And they should remember they gave us Leonardo and Enrico Fermi (as well as Plutarch).
The world is a good place despite all the trouble and tragedy. The grass season continues this week with the Hall of Fame Open at Newport, Rhode Island, where, charity and kindness oblige, maybe they will let Sheldon Whitehouse have a box. Ps. 23, brothers and sisters, and seize the day.