The more things change, the more they stay the same.
It's a well-worn phrase and yet a succinctly apt description of the men's bracket at Wimbledon 2014. The London crowd and a rapt global audience watched as some of tennis' biggest names fell to a crop of talented young players, and yet the final featured the old guard of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, with the former winning in five sets for his ninth Grand Slam title.
Young Nick Kyrgios made the biggest splash in the tournament, laying waste to some of the top players in the world as an unseeded teenager that the majority of tennis fans could have passed in the street without so much as a second glance before Wimbledon.
He put the tournament on notice with his third round win over No. 13 Richard Gasquet, in which he came back from two sets down and saved nine match points to defeat his seasoned foe. Kyrgios then beat Jiri Vesely rather handily in four sets to set up a matchup with Rafael Nadal.
Ahh, Nadal. Just when the world thought he had put his Wimbledon struggles behind him—he hadn't made it past the second round at the All England Club since 2011—along came a 19-year-old Australian who shrugged off the moment and played blindingly good tennis to defeat the eminent Spaniard.
Kyrgios dazzled the crowd in his four-set victory, notching one of the best winners you'll see on a stage this grand:
Look what Kyrgios just did. http://t.co/qfYaiatsNc— Alan White (@aljwhite) July 1, 2014
Local favorite Andy Murray laid waste to his competition before running into Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals.
The Glasgow native hardly broke a sweat and didn't drop a set over the first four rounds of the tournament. This made his straight-set unraveling at the mercy of Dimitrov's blistering ground strokes all the more surprising. Murray offered little in the way of an explanation after that match.
"I started the match badly, and I think that gave him confidence. He was the better player from start to finish. Whatever the tactics were, I didn't execute them as well as I would have liked," said Murray, via a post-match report from ESPN UK.
Murray hasn't won a single tournament since the 2013 Wimbledon triumph that cemented his status as one of the top-four names in tennis.
The 23-year-old Dimitrov became a story in his own right. He was 9-0 on grass in 2014 heading into the semi-final with Djokovic. The superb Serbian beat his opponents with his usual steely-eyed determination; he led the tournament with 31 break points won heading into the final.
Djokovic bested Dimitrov in four sets, but the young Bulgarian showed enough talent and skill to leave observers excited about his future in the sport.
Roger Federer quietly worked his way into his semi-final match against young Milos Raonic. He defeated countryman Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-final to re-establish his Swiss dominance, but prior to the semi-final it looked like the young Raonic might be the antidote to Federer's ultra-smooth baseline game.
Raonic made it his mission to trim the lawn at the All England Club with his blazing serves. He finished the tournament with 168 aces, beating the likes of No. 6 Tomas Berdych and ending Kyrgios' surprise run in the quater-finals on his way to a showdown with Federer.
The 23-year-old Canadian has a bright future, but he couldn't topple Federer in this tournament, losing in straight sets.
As Federer told L'Equipe's Carole Bouchard, it wasn't going to be easy to knock out all the top players in a single tournament:
" It was always going to be hard to get rid of all four guys at the same time, let's just be honest", Federer.— Carole Bouchard (@carole_bouchard) July 4, 2014
The final was replete with drama, as both Djokovic and Federer alternately displayed awesome precision and uncharacteristic sloppiness.
The New York Times' Ben Rothenberg noted it was a great contest even without the greatest display of tennis:
And there is proof that you don't need quality tennis for quality entertainment. Both struggling, but this fourth is astounding. #wimbledon— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) July 6, 2014
Just when it looked like Djokovic was going to vanquish Federer in the fourth set, the Swiss legend made a brilliant challenge to save championship point and go on to win the set. Live Tennis has the visual roundup of the key challenge:
The challenge that saved championship point for Federer pic.twitter.com/inRBJ6VmxQ— Live Tennis (@livetennis) July 6, 2014
This forced two legends to play another set—it's doubtful anyone complained about this—and Djokovic finally got the better of his opponent, winning Wimbledon 2014 with a 6-7 (7-9), 6-4, 7-6 (6-4), 5-7, 6-4 victory over Federer.
Which young, impact player from Wimbledon 2014 will have the best overall career?
Wimbledon 2014 could very well be remembered for introducing casual fans to the likes of Raonic, Dimitrov and Kyrgios. All three players are still very young and rapidly improving their skill sets.
Nadal will have to answer questions about his play away from clay courts, although he will surely silence his doubters in due time. Murray's psychological anguish will be a big story going forward, as everything seemed to be breaking his way before his debacle against Dimitrov.
The legendary Federer is 32 years old and may have missed out on his best chance to win an 18th Grand Slam. He proved his composure and calm haven't diminished with age, and if there is any old pro that can hang with the athletic youngsters in tennis for a couple more years, it's the classy Federer.
All match and event statistics courtesy of Wimbledon.com.