You may remember that the French Open seemed to last forever, so long were the matches and so tight was the competition. In all, there ended up being 27 five-set matches in the men’s singles – not the most ever but certainly well over the average. Now you might expect that on clay, where the slower surface lends itself to long matches but on grass, even the slower grass of 2012, you would expect the matches to be shorter.
With the exception of last year, when there were just 17, five-set matches have almost become the norm at Wimbledon in recent years. In 2009 there were 28 and in 2010 there were 30. This year, there had been 26 going into the fourth round and though the vast majority are normally in the early rounds, the total could yet approach 30 again.
Players are far fitter than ever before and the slower grass means that the days of serve and volley are long gone, leaving more baseline rallies and more of a clay-court style of game. You can still hit through the court if you are good enough but as a rule it’s fairly slow, which must be playing a part.
Nick Bollettieri, the legendary coach who brought through the likes of Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova, was honoured on Sunday night at London’s Queen’s Club. The 80-year-old was given the Lifetime Achievement award by the International Tennis Federation at an evening and rightly so. Bollettieri is at Wimbledon again this year, writing his colourful column for The Independent and has also been a commentator on Radio 5 for the first time. With his great accent, he has been a superb addition and he shows no signs of slowing down.