Commentary

Highs and lows of midsummer fortnight

Updated: July 8, 2009, 10:46 AM ET
By Ravi Ubha | Special to ESPN.com

Roger Federer and Andy RoddickAP Photo/Anja NiedringhausAll joking aside, is there any doubt which match was Wimbledon's most riveting?

Roger Federer won his sixth Wimbledon title. What a surprise.

Serena Williams surprised only a few by derailing big sis Venus Williams in the women's final.

The fortnight passing all too quickly, here's a brief look at some 2009 highs and lows at tennis' most beloved tournament.

Best match: Serena versus Victoria Azarenka, quarterfinals.

Just kidding.

There's only one winner, and that's Sunday's epic finale between Swiss maestro Federer and U.S. workhorse Andy Roddick. Federer prevailed 16-14 in the fifth -- the most games ever in the fifth set of a Grand Slam singles final -- to claim a record 15th major.

Who expected it to be this good?

When Roddick toppled Andy Murray in the semifinals, groans filled the press room and tons of living rooms in the U.K. In the wake of defending champion Rafael Nadal's withdrawal, most sought a Murray-Federer battle: Murray, trying to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since the Depression, won four straight against Federer, while Roddick stood at 2-18.

Roddick wasn't fazed. He served huge, more than hung with Federer from the baseline, and showed real grit following a demoralizing second set. If a hip injury hadn't surfaced -- it visibly affected Roddick's movement deep into the fifth -- they might still be playing.

"I thought I had to play my very, very best to come through," a relieved Federer said.

Runner-up: Serena Williams versus Elena Dementieva.

For those who have seen the box-office hit "Slumdog Millionaire," you might recall the line at the start: "It is written." After Williams saved a match point in the two-hour, 49-minute slugfest -- the longest women's semifinal in tournament history -- she was destined to land an 11th major.

Dementieva, the reigning Olympic champ, served unbelievably, pinned Williams behind the baseline thanks to deep, flat groundstrokes and, like Roddick, didn't fade mentally against an overwhelming favorite.

[+] EnlargeSerena Williams
AP Photo/Neil TingleSerena Williams is eminently quoatable, but at least she doesn't only talk a good game.

The tennis gods bailed out Williams as she crunched a forehand on break point, down in the second set, and further helped by pushing Dementieva's net-chord forehand agonizingly wide on a Williams break point later.

Dementieva felt she chose the wrong option on her match point, sending a backhand pass cross-court instead of down the line. Williams was there waiting and put away the volley, albeit unconvincingly.

"Serena's match scared the hell out of me," dad Richard Williams said.

Williams took the third set 8-6 and didn't look back.

Honorable mention goes to Murray's five-set win over Swiss No. 2 Stanislas Wawrinka, the first match completed under Wimbledon's Centre Court roof. More than 13 million viewers watched the drama on the BBC, only slightly less than the figure for last year's men's final between Rafa and Roger.

Key turning point: Roddick's missed backhand volley against Federer in the second set.

Down a set and trailing 6-5 in a tiebreak, Federer let fly with a vicious, high-forehand pass with plenty of spin. Roddick, aware of a gusting wind and unsure if the ball was headed long, reacted fractionally late and sent his reply out.

Head spinning at 6-6, Roddick made one of his few tactical mistakes, rushing the net behind a short forehand and predictably getting passed.

Federer won the next point, and although Roddick extended things to five, the damage was done.

Don't forget Roddick blew a good chance at 6-2 in the 'breaker. A big first serve prompted a short Federer return. Roddick delivered a nothing backhand slice straight to Federer, who duly uncorked a telling forehand.

Major disappointment: Novak Djokovic. If he keeps this up, Djokovic figures to be passed by Argentinean upstart Juan Martin Del Potro and Roddick as a threat at the U.S. Open.

There's little shame in losing to streaking German Tommy Haas in the quarterfinals. But Djokovic's admission that he was nervous against Haas isn't a good sign. After all, he's a Grand Slam champion with ample experience.

Nor is the fact it took him so long to recover mentally from May's titanic loss to Nadal -- when Nadal was KO'd physically -- in the Madrid Masters semis.

Djokovic, according to those who were there, celebrated his third-round win over Mardy Fish a little too much at a pub in the Wimbledon village. Not something Federer, Nadal, Murray or Roddick has been known to do.

Biggest brouhaha: Given the appetite of the numerous British tabloids, you knew Michelle Larcher De Brito's grunts would be played up even more at Wimbledon than they were at the French Open. So it proved.

The 16-year-old Portuguese was forced to defend her shrieking, which, it must be said, has put off more than a few.

"I'm not here really to be quiet for anybody," she said. "I'm here to play. I'm here to win. That's it. If people don't like my grunting, they can always leave."

Azarenka, another serial grunter, was just as defiant.

Funniest quote: Queried about being No. 2 behind Slam-less Russian Dinara Safina, who was obliterated by Venus in the semis, Serena unleashed this gem:

"I see myself as No. 2. That's where I am. I think Dinara did a great job to get to No. 1. She won Rome and Madrid."

Williams laughed at the end, and so did journalists in the main interview room.

[+] EnlargeMelanie Oudin
AP Photo/Alastair GrantIt was a fortnight to remember for Melanie Oudin, who leapt from 124th to 70th in the world rankings after Wimbledon.

Most memorable upset: Melanie Oudin downing former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic.

Jankovic is on a downward spiral, but no one took advantage at Wimbledon prior to Oudin's arrival. The 17-year-old qualifier from Georgia, cheered on by a few friends, put aside a disappointing first set to advance with a 6-7 (8), 7-5, 6-2 win.

Oudin became the youngest American to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon since Jennifer Capriati in 1993, giving the Williams sisters a little company in the second week.

"I think I gained a lot of fans here," Oudin said.

Oudin, not one of the taller pros prowling the circuit, rose from 124th to 70th in Monday's rankings.

Biggest surprise: The weather.

Tropical heat blessed London for most of the event, and organizers only really needed to use the roof when Safina faced 2006 champ Amelie Mauresmo in the fourth round. Keen to show off the expensive toy, organizers kept it on for Murray-Wawrinka.

"It was really nice atmosphere to play under the roof, because somehow you feel a little bit more the crowd," Safina said.

Most harmful collision: Michael Llodra slamming into a ball girl, then the umpire's chair, against Haas in the second round.

Llodra, an eccentric Frenchman, was forced to retire minutes after the incident in the first set.

Haas, at 31 keen to enjoy the remainder of his career, stayed on the court and entertained the crowd by hitting with a few ball kids.

Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.