Truly memorable tennis tournaments produce more than quality matches; they also throw up hints about the future of the game. Wimbledon 2014 did both. The extraordinary men’s final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer was indeed a classic, a contest in which power was matched by refinement. It was also a match where effort demanded not just perspiration, but a range of attributes from clever innovation to sheer audacity. But history will also remember this year’s event as the crucible in which an exciting new breed of players grew to display their potential and true promise. These are young men and women who are readying to occupy the top echelons of the game as the power structure shifts, as it must, to a new generation. Among them are Grigor Dimitrov, Eugenie Bouchard, Milos Raonic and Nick Kyrgios — names that are likely to become more familiar to tennis-lovers in the days to come. But the men’s final first, because the ethereal must be placed above the worldly. Yes, it had its moments of psychodrama — the twists and turns that can transform a tennis match into suspenseful theatre. But its real worth lay in the near flawless quality of play — reflected most of all in a sparkling array of groundstrokes in which each player constantly challenged the other to surpass himself. Djokovic, who served better and came good at some critical moments, who was the deserved winner — but only just. As for hearts, it was Federer, who was looking for his 18th Grand Slam — which would have made him the oldest Wimbledon champion in the open era of tennis — who stole them before a packed and fawning house on Centre Court.
With the Djokovic-Federer final and the women’s trophy going to former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitová, tennis remained in familiar hands. But there were intimations of change, most forcefully expressed in the games of two bright young talents — Dimitrov and Bouchard. The former, who has an uncharacteristic resemblance to Federer in playing style, has the all-round game to beat anyone on his day — almost took Djokovic out in his semi-final, failing only to press home the advantage at a couple of critical moments. As for Bouchard, she may have been crushed by a rampaging Kvitová in the women’s final, but her journey in the tournament provided a glimpse into the changing face of women’s tennis. In an age where the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova seem to be slowly fading, the place at the top is ready for challenges from a clutch of players such as Bouchard, Simona Halep and Sabine Lisicki. In short, as Wimbledon 2014 ended with one fantastic match, it also opened up a host of intriguing possibilities for the future of the game itself.