Another Wimbledon has passed, and we as fans/pseudo-experts are left to contemplate the fallout from this past fortnight.
This much we know: Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova are newly minted champions, each taking down a formidable foe: Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova, respectively. But there is plenty left unanswered, concerning the winners and losers alike.
So, with two months or so before the final Grand Slam tournament of the season, what are the most pertinent questions surrounding the state of tennis?
Here are a few ideas.
It's what we would want, isn't it? Two guys, each in his prime and roughly the same age as the other, set to spend the rest of their careers fighting for men's singles supremacy?
Still, there has always been something special about watching Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer play one another. I think it's the result of Federer never having a "true" rival during his initial rise to the top and, eventually, of he and Nadal being far and away the top two players in the sport.
Now, however, the latter is not true; with Djokovic in the mix, it's more of a "trivalry" (a term coined by some tennis pundits to describe the three). =Therefore, it is difficult to ascertain the true value of the Nadal/Djokovic rivalry, and by extension, one is unsure of how to judge the state of Nadal/Federer.
But this year has clearly belonged to the former duo, as every 2011 Grand Slam title to date is currently held by one of the two. They have met twice in a Grand Slam final (2010 U.S. Open and 2011 Wimbledon), and each has come away with one victory.
What's more, unlike Federer, Djokovic has held his own against Nadal for the most part. Although Nadal currently leads the head-to-head matchup with a 16-12 advantage, Djokovic is the only player to have as many as 10 match wins against him. He is also the only player to defeat Nadal five or more times in a row.
I, for one, will still get excited whenever Federer and Nadal are slated to play one another. At the same time, I almost always think Nadal will win. I don't quite have that feeling anymore about Nadal and Djokovic, but the level of intrigue has yet to reach that same point.
It seems like we ask this every few months, doesn't it? But now appears to be as good a time as any to bring it up again.
Roger Federer has now gone a year and a half without winning a Grand Slam tournament. His streak of six majors without a win is twice as long as his previous high (since his first career major victory). He is approaching 30 years old, which in tennis terms is almost ancient.
Could we be nearing the end of one of the sport's true all-time greats?
Well, the rise of Novak Djokovic certainly doesn't help. Federer's struggles against Rafael Nadal are well-documented, but Djokovic has performed respectably against the Swiss star as well. He defeated Federer three times in a row this year during his 43-match winning streak.
Still, although Federer might never grasp the hallowed No. 1 spot again, that's a far cry from calling him finished. It will be interesting to see how he performs at the U.S. Open, for it is one of his most successful venues, and this tournament is his last shot at winning a major in 2011.
Going into the start of Wimbledon, there was as much buzz about the return of Venus and Serena Williams as about any member of the top 10 women's singles players. This excitement soon shorted out, as each of the sisters lost in the fourth round of the tournament.
Maria Sharapova was also highly touted going into the All-England Championships, some calling her a favorite. She performed admirably, reaching the finals, but she lost to No. 8 seed Petra Kvitova in straight sets.
Although a familiar name won the Australian Open this year (Kim Clijsters), the next two majors have belonged to first-time winners Li Na and Kvitova, while Caroline Wozniacki, without a Grand Slam tournament win to her credit, is still ranked No. 1 in the world.
Are these the names we should be getting used to?
Women's tennis without the Williams sisters seems impossible, but eventually, it is a reality we will have to face. We have already had a taste of it during much of the past year, with both Venus and Serena suffering through several physical setbacks.
Clijsters, meanwhile, has already retired from the sport once before, though when she will decide to end her career for good nobody knows. Sharapova does appear to be back on the upswing, and one must remember that she is only 24 years old.
But the real intrigue comes from all of these relatively obscure names. Wozniacki is no longer obscure, but she is still subject to skepticism from many fans due to her lack of success on the biggest of stages. But Na and Kvitova are fairly unfamiliar, as are several other names in the top 10.
Sure, he's only 24 years old. But Andy Murray may be entering his prime at exactly the wrong time if he hopes to get the monkey off his back.
It isn't just Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal with whom Murray has to contend. Nor does it even stop with the (for now) still-relevant Roger Federer. It's also the lesser-known, but still formidable, opponents like Robin Soderling, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych—against whom Murray has won a combined seven out of 14 matches.
Some question whether Murray is even good enough to win a major, or if he has simply been overhyped. It may still be too early to determine that, though Murray has developed somewhat of a reputation as a passive player. His tendency to wait for an unforced error rather than attack the opponent has drawn criticism.
Still, his service game, both on offense and returns, has consistently been strong, and his overall game on hard courts (on which two of the four majors are played) has always been his best.
As time goes on, and Murray continues to flame out of Grand Slam events, his supporters will likely start to grow weary. But his youth and steady play are on his side for now, so doubters should be held at bay.
As soon as one major ends, it is officially not too early to begin thinking about the next.
But what do the Wimbledon results tell us about the prospects for the U.S. Open?
The clear favorite, for now, has to be Novak Djokovic on the men's side. His first Grand Slam finals win over Rafael Nadal is significant on both a mental and professional level. Add to that Djokovic's historically strong game on hard courts (before this year's Wimbledon, the four Grand Slam finals he reached were all on hard court) and this September looks promising for the Serbian star.
As for the women, it's truly anyone's guess. Maria Sharapova would be an easy but reasonable, prediction. Defending champion Kim Clijsters is currently recovering from an ankle injury, but it would seem likely she will be ready by the start of the season-ending major. Of course, despite their disappointing Wimbledon performances, the Williams sisters are never considered out of contention unless they aren't playing.
But perhaps the best guess as to the women's champion would be a first-time major winner. It seems like that kind of year, doesn't it? Perhaps, this will finally be Caroline Wozniacki's time to shine.