July 28, 2007
The name itself evokes memories of Sampras ruling the centre court. Having grown up watching players like Sampras, Graf, Sachin, Lara etc dominate everyone else, it is hard to call any new players 'great', even though the word is quite liberally thrown about now a days.
Being in London in June threw up the opportunity of watching Wimbledon so myself and my good friend Kalyan who had come down from Derby hopped over to Wimbledon as early as 7.30AM (we had to get up at 5 for the 1 hour train journey to Wimbledon!) to get into the queue and hopefully watch some action later on.
The schedule for the day had Leander, Paes and Sania's matches in addition to Hewitt and Rafael Nadal! We were hoping to get to centre court or court1 which would have allowed us to watch all the seeded players but even a ground pass which we eventually got was hard fought, what with a three hour queue! The center court and court1 tickets, we were told, we sold out first thing in the morning and were grabbed by people who had camped outside the courts all night!
London's weather has been a shame this year. The summer has simply not arrived. It also seems to have acquired a disconcerting consistency when it comes to rain, in the summer at that! That day was such a day. Though the prediction was for 'showers' which, owing to my 1 year experience of the London weather, I had put down to 'half and hour in the morning before the play starts and a maximum of an hour in the evening', which would at best threaten the Bhupathi-Sania match.
There were a lot of non-British people at the courts, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of Indians turning up too, we must have been the only people to turn up in such large numbers even though we had no contender in any of the categories. But it was quite good, the atmosphere, it was better than what it is at a Cricket match at least where the only thing people seem to have arrived for seems to be the beer! There were the French and the Germans, other Europeans and there even seemed to have a decent number of South Americans! Hmmm..
Wimbledon is unaffected by the gross commercialisation which seems to have afflicted other sports. Not for Wimbledon the 'nPower' match or the 'Pepsi' drinks break. They have stuck to their tradition like no one else. To force today's fashion parade to turn up in whites and neatly covered up is an achievement in itself. We even had the traditional strawberry and cream during the rain! I had read about it as a schoolboy in the Indian Express and couldn't feel thinking how lucky I was to actually be at the venue I had seen so much on TV and read about! The Wimbledon shop turned out to be a disappointment though, with clothing being the only thing of note, other than a few DVDs which are also available on the net. One nice little innovation was that people leaving the courts midway are requested to drop their tickets in a box - these tickets are then sold to others who pay the full ticket rate. The amount collected this way is donated to charities! Smart thinking!
Well, coming back to the weather, it actually started raining at 9.30 as predicted and had almost stopped by the time it was 11, when play was supposed to start. So we took our seats in the only court which had a bit of a cover, court 13 where the French Open finalist Ivanovic was supposed to play. All right, not bad so far. But then it started raining again, and like a Rahul Dravid innings, it rained right through the day. We only managed to see about an hour's play in the 10 hours we were in Wimbledon, when finally at 7PM they announced that all matches for the day were called off; it was as disappointing as it could ever have got.
The only consolation was the fact that we had dropped the idea of camping all night for the centre court ticket (yes, we had thought about it as well) and that they announced a full refund on the match tickets, though I could as well have paid them double the amount to watch some real action! I'm not a huge tennis fan but hey, I still understand some of the nuances of the game and would have loved to see some live action. Watching tennis in that one hour showed how quickly the ball reaches the other side of the court on serve and even on a grass court, how appreciably it slows down and makes timing difficult. No doubt if it slows down further, as it does on a clay court, people have difficulty timing their ground strokes. Even Ivanovic serves at 110mph, a full 10mph faster than a Shoaib Akhtar delivery! But this speed is also counted only up to the bounce of the ball.
A week later, it was a bright sunny day when Venus Williams regained the Wimbledon crown and a day later The Fed-Express overcame a stiff resistance from Super Rafa to become the second player to win 5 consecutive Wimbledon titles! If only a bit of sun had shown up that day! But no complaints, being in Wimbledon and soaking up the atmosphere for a day was an experience in itself. Hope to come back some time, and if Federer adds a sixth or a seventh on the day, it would be the icing on the strawberry!