The Championships took place in changeable weather typical of the British summer in 2012. Fortunately the weather in the first week was generally good enough to get through the bulk of the matches on time and thanks to the roof on Centre Court all the singles matches were completed by Saturday evening, just! The weather was worse for the second week but the roof enabled things to be completed on time although all four women’s quarter finals had to be finished under cover.
The opening day saw the first shock as five time champion Venus Williams, looking distinctly sluggish due to a medical condition, was knocked-out. The other big names all progressed but round 2 was to see one of the biggest shocks for years in the men’s tournament. Rafael Nadal was facing the Czech Lukas Rosol, ranked 100 in the world. Rosol was inspired abd took a 2-1 lead in sets. Nadal won the 4th set but as it was getting dark the players went off for half an hour while the Centre Court roof was put in place. When the players returned Nadal’s momentum was gone and Rosol showed no signs of nerves as he won the match. However, he was to go out himself in the next round.
The next day on Centre Court Roger Federer lost the first two sets of his match with Julien Benneteau but turned the match around to win. The drama continued on Centre Court for a third day when Andy Murray faced Marcos Baghdatis. Local laws forbid the use of the Centre Court after 11 pm and it appeared that Murray would have to return on the Monday to complete the match which could affect his tournament all the way down the line. He managed to breeze through the fourth set to win the match at 11.02, just in time.
Murray was the only Briton to make it to the second week in the singles. No surprise there. Some of the other men played well in defeat to seeded Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish but none progressed. There were signs of encouragement for the women with three making round 2 and Heather Watson becoming the first British woman for a decade to make the third round. However, all three were outclassed by highly seeded players and went out.
The second week began with a surprise as Maria Sharapova, the favourite to win having just won the French Open, being beaten in straight sets by Sabine Lisicki who Sharapova beat in the 2011 semi-final. This left Serena Williams as the favourite. After a couple of three set matches her form was coming together and in the quarter-finals she eliminated the reigning champion Petra Kvitova in ruthless fashion. Her serve in particular was devastating in the second week of the Championships and she finished with a record number of aces by a woman. This was never better illustrated than in her semi-final with Victoria Azarenka when she served 24 aces. Azarenka put up a brave fight and pushed Williams but couldn’t live with that serve. The other semi saw number 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska beat Angelique Kerber, the year’s most improved player.
Williams was the huge favourite in the final and after taking the first five games appeared to be on her way to an easy victory. She took the first set 6-1 but somehow Radwanska managed to claw her way back into it and took the second set. This gave us that rare event these days, a deciding set in a women’s Grand Slam final. Radwanska took a 2-1 lead but Serena then started to play well and that serve came to her aid. one game lasted under a minute with four straight aces. Williams won five games in a row and won the set 6-2. It was her fifth Wimbledon title to take her level with sister Venus. In a nice symmetrical touch the sisters combined to win the doubles, also for a fifth time.
The men’s tournament had progressed pretty much as expected in the second week with the big three remaining names making the semis quite easily. Murray had a hard-fought win in the quarter-finals against David Ferrer in four sets. The semis saw him up against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Murray took the first two sets and only briefly looked in trouble as Tsonga upped his game to win the third set. Murray was the better player again in the fourth and became the first British man to reach the singles final since 1938. There he would meet Roger Federer who had beaten Novak Djokovic surprisingly easily in the other semi. The first two sets were shared in under an hour but Djokovic was making uncharacteristic errors and Federer won in four sets.
British tennis fans hoped to see the first British men’s champion since Fred Perry in 1936 and for a while it appeared they would have their wish granted. Federer started nervously and Murray took the first set. The second set was poised at 5-6 on the Murray serve at 30-15. Murray missed a shot over the baseline from the net reminding me of a similar shot against Nadal which had changed the momentum of the 2011 semi-final. Then Federer played some great tennis to get the break and take the set. Early in the third set the rain came and so did the roof. On the resumption Federer’s level rose again and Murray found himself on the backfoot for the first time in the final. One game on Murray’s serve lasted 18 minutes and when the Swiss player took that there was no looking back. He went on to win the match in four sets and take a record-equalling 7th title.
Meanwhile in the men’s doubles the unheralded Briton Jonny Marray and his partner Freddie Nielsen of Denmark had entered as a wild-card. They had progressed to the final and beaten number 1 seeds the Bryans in the semis. The final was played under the roof with the pair triumphing in five sets. Marray was the first Briton to win this title since 1936 and his partner the first Dane to win a Grand Slam title since his own grandfather ifty years earlier.