MATCH POINT: Brilliant men’s final must not mask the need for change at Wimbledon… the All England Club must have a fresh look at where the event is heading

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Staring at the back of Brad Pitt’s coiffured head during the Wimbledon men’s final, as you do, there was this strange hope that he was enjoying himself.

One of many A-listers in attendance, and seated just in front of the press zone, the Hollywood star must surely have been swept up in the thunderous climax along with everyone else.

It was a fantastic occasion and proof that, at its best, tennis can provide unique drama and is peak theatre, at least as good to watch as any other sport.

Wimbledon 2023 will be remembered for its brilliant men’s final and quite likely as a defining point in its history, although those rushing to judge this as the end of the Novak Djokovic era could be premature.

In six months’ time the Serb will be back in Melbourne, and if Carlos Alcaraz meets him there, he may be expected to beat him again, which is a very different dynamic.

Carlos Alcaraz's triumph in the men's singles final may be viewed as a defining point for tennis

Carlos Alcaraz’s triumph in the men’s singles final may be viewed as a defining point for tennis

Actor Brad Pitt, right, must have been among those swept up in the thunderous climax

Actor Brad Pitt, right, must have been among those swept up in the thunderous climax

Alcaraz's win was significant but it is too early to declare the end to Novak Djokovic's era

Alcaraz’s win was significant but it is too early to declare the end to Novak Djokovic’s era

Just as the Spaniard’s victory should not be taken as an automatic regime change, the incredible finish to Wimbledon should not place it as one of the great editions of the Championships. This was not a vintage year overall, although it panned out as a better tournament than it might have looked early on.

The omens were not great when Nick Kyrgios pulled out at the last minute and Coco Gauff lost on the first day, adding to those already missing from the singles.

As it happened there were plenty of storylines and, as ever, a fair smattering of good matches. Chris Eubanks, Mirra Andreeva and Elina Svitolina were among those who always emerge to keep things bubbling.

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So it was not that the men’s final made this Wimbledon a case of all fur coat and no knickers. Alcaraz-Djokovic, however, should not be allowed to dampen discussion on how the game can improve itself and increase the sum of its total parts.

The pace of play and the amount of dead time in matches still need addressing. How, for example, can Djokovic be allowed to stop the final for seven minutes to visit the loo? Many found it utterly tedious when the Serb often bounced the ball around 20 times before both first and second serve (again legally).

The spectacle would not have suffered if a tiebreak had come at 5-5, and the 26-minute game in the middle of the third set did not add much.

It was interesting to hear Holger Rune, in the vanguard of the next generation, say that he would quite happily play a deciding point at deuce. If matches did not last so long then players would not get injured so often, or pull out of events with the now accepted excuse of ‘fatigue’.

One era change that is definitely occurring at Wimbledon, obviously less noticed outside the parish, is the arrival of a new All England Club chairman, Deborah Jevans. It is to be hoped that she recognises some of this, and can be a catalyst for constructive change.

Rising star Holger Rune floated the idea of a deciding point when a game reaches deuce

Rising star Holger Rune floated the idea of a deciding point when a game reaches deuce

New All England Club chairman Deborah Jevans, left, can be a catalyst for positive change

New All England Club chairman Deborah Jevans, left, can be a catalyst for positive change

Jevans must take a fresh look at where the All England Club is heading and help unify the sport

Jevans must take a fresh look at where the All England Club is heading and help unify the sport

Amid the sport’s fractured governance, Jevans would find an ally in Tennis Australia’s chief executive Craig Tiley, who definitely gets that you cannot stand still in a changing marketplace. As a former player, Jevans will bring much-needed tennis knowledge to the leaders’ table, and also the experience of working in other sports. She ought not to have a problem understanding the wider context.

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Jevans has a considerable in-tray when it comes to more local matters. A fresh look is required at where the All England Club, this odd hybrid of elite private members’ club and magnificent flagship sporting event, is heading, and how it connects and communicates with the outside world. A particular issue to be resolved is the impasse that has developed around its expansion plans into neighbouring land on the former golf course.

Beyond that is bringing the clout that Wimbledon has in helping unify the way the whole sport is run. Not an easy task when all the actors seek to protect what is theirs, and are so reluctant to pool sovereignty.

A co-ordinated approach to improving and updating the offering has never been more needed, especially when it comes to the women’s game. Sport and society are changing rapidly, and in the sphere of racket sports, Padel and Pickleball are attractive alternatives. Saudi Arabia waits in the wings, and as Europe gets poorer the Middle East is where the new money is found.

Wimbledon will always be a great fortnight. There is a timely parallel as this gripping Ashes series plays out — there should be no worries about the future of England versus Australia in the five-day format, but the wider body of Test cricket has concerns that are very real.

Pride restored by our Henry 

It turned out to be a Wimbledon of two halves for British tennis and the LTA, with the second week more encouraging than the first.

It has to be said that the first week was the more important one (by Saturday night there were no home singles players remaining), and serious questions persist about how and where it spends the money generated by the success of the Championships.

But credit where it is due, boys’ champion Henry Searle is a product of the system and attends the Loughborough Academy. Somebody has done a good job with a technique that looks well-equipped for the modern game.

Henry Searle became Britain's first boys singles champion at Wimbledon since 1962

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Henry Searle became Britain’s first boys singles champion at Wimbledon since 1962

Neal Skupski triumphed in the men's doubles event alongside Dutchman Wesley Koolhof

Neal Skupski triumphed in the men’s doubles event alongside Dutchman Wesley Koolhof

Congrats, too, to Neal Skupski and others who achieved good wins. It is heartening to see Wimbledon champions coming out of places such as Liverpool and Wolverhampton.

It cannot be stressed enough that this is only the end of the beginning for the likes of Searle, 17. The road is long and paved not with the somewhat exceptional surface of grass, but the concrete and clay that prevails at other times of the year. 

As with every aspiring player, he will have to hack it playing Futures and Challengers in places like Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt, where the audience is made up of coaches, players and a few random holidaymakers.

Annabel Croft steps into Sue Barker’s shoes

Bravo Annabel Croft, who did a fine job stepping into the very considerable shoes of Sue Barker when it came to the highest-profile Centre Court interviews.

The 57-year-old authoritatively knows the sport, as well as having strong presentational skills — it might even catch on in the BBC’s coverage.

Sitting in the middle of the Wimbledon maelstrom, there is not time to catch a lot of the corporation’s TV output, therefore I cannot offer too much of a critique. 

However, even when dipping in, it backed up what you heard about too many slip-ups being made — matches are not ‘games’, and Carlos Alcaraz is not a teenager, for example.

Anyone can make mistakes, but when investing around £70million of licence payers’ money, you would think the Beeb might insist on all its talent having a working knowledge of tennis, which is more easily acquired by covering events between one Wimbledon and another.

Annabel Croft did a fine job in replacing Sue Barker for the main centre court interviews

Annabel Croft did a fine job in replacing Sue Barker for the main centre court interviews

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