2042 Wimbledon, Part 2(Conclusion)
Surprising pretty much nobody, Iglar handled Hogue in straight sets in the first semifinal. He's lost only one set here, to Gaskell in the quarterfinals. The second was by far the most intriguing matchup. It did not disappoint the build-up and hype.
Benda won the first set, and the second went to a tense tiebreak which Mehul pretty much had to win ... and did. As often happens in those situations, it's hard for the loser to recover mentally and he seized a break early to take the third set. Another tiebreak in the fourth, but this time Benda just barely edged it, putting Mehul in the same situation for a decisive fifth set. He did not fold though, and eventually broke through for a 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-4 win in another epic. It was another one of those that could have gone either way easily. A slight edge in the vital moments was all that separated the two players here.
All of this set the stage for what had to be considered the most important match of Anil Mehul's career. Tennis is mostly about the grind; it is a pattern of results, not any single tournament, that usually determines things. Sometimes, however, singular opportunities present themselves and this was such a time. If Mehul lost here again, as he did in the epic 10-8 5th set against Iglar in last year's semifinals, very little would change. He'd gain a slight bit on Benda in the rankings, another loss against Iglar is nothing to be ashamed of and the #1 would be a modest favorite here of course, and in general the status quo would be continued. If he won however, the obvious immediate impact would be breaking through for his first Grand Slam title, but in addition to that he would interrupt the champion's historic stranglehold on the sport, and also move above Benda finally for the #2 spot in the rankings. At 26 and very near to if not at the peak of his powers, Mehul was not going to get a better chance than this. Iglar is nearly invincible on hardcourts and the obstacles on clay are much more numerous. It very well could be now or never.
Mehul looked to be the sharper player by a bit at the outset. He missed a break chance at 2-2, but converted a second at 3-3. Serving for the set at 5-4, he picked a bad time for a loose game and faced 15-40. After rallying to even the game, he double-faulted twice at deuce but again was able to fight off the challenge and took the set 6-4! He was very fortunate there not to blow it, and the proper result probably would have been a tiebreak when all bets would have been off. Iglar had not taken any of the four opportunities though, and Mehul was now two sets from the title.
A double-fault from Iglar set up an early chance at 1-1, but the Czech saved it and deuce was as close as either player would get. In the eventual tiebreak, Mehul snagged a minibreak on the first point, and it was the only point either player would lose on serve in a taut affair. 7-4 the breaker went his way, and he was up 2-0!!
Iglar was clearly the better player at the outset. Perhaps Mehul relaxed a bit, but he had a couple of loose service games. The first was at 2-all, when he saved three break points. Two more were required at 3-all, and it was obvious that the no. 1 was pressing to break through, but it didn't happen. In the following game, a frustrated Iglar allowed one opportunity and Anil grabbed it and closed out the match without much drama.
In a stunning turn of events, Anil Mehul defeats Antonin Iglar 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-3 and is the 2042 Wimbledon Champion!. Winning the match is a bit of a surprise, but winning in straight sets is astonishing. Over the first two sets he was indeed a little better, but in the third there's no question Iglar's level was higher. Uncharacteristically but certainly understandably the champion cracked. After all, he is human as well and it is not often he finds himself down two sets to love! Overall Mehul converted 2 of 4 break points while Iglar was 0-for-9. 107-98 was the points count.
Antonin Iglar's stranglehold is over, at least for the moment -- and Mehul can no longer be regarded, as he was before, as one of the best players to never win the Slam. He's reached the mountaintop here, and whatever else happens, that can never be taken away from him.