Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Strawberries and Cream 2010

They are mulling their way through the preliminary rounds at Wimbledon. They are consuming great quantities of strawberries and cream, washing it down with Pimm’s spritzers.

In most cases, these are not terribly interesting tennis matches. Occasionally, one of the higher seeds is knocked off, for a variety of reasons. An upstart may have had a perfect day; an undisclosed injury may contribute; terrible calls, perhaps unchallenged.

There are more than a dozen courts on the grounds to accommodate all of the matches; singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. There are three main courts for the most important matches. Tickets are available for the fanatics. Take a tent and a sleeping bag, and line up the night before the matches. If you happen to be one of the lucky five hundred to be chosen by lot from the queue, you may catch all the action at Centre Court, or the first and second courts.

In recent years, two players have dominated the courts at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club: Pete Sampras and Martina Navratilova. Sampras won seven singles titles, Martina nine. They received their silver plates from a member of the Royal family, another Wimbledon tradition. They will not receive any awards for their croquet expertise. There are no longer courst on site.

All players are required to wear white tennis togs. The Williams sisters from the United States are heavily involved in the design and marketing of tennis apparel of all shapes, sizes, and colours. At Wimbledon, they have to dig into the bottom drawer of their bureaux to find the standard white uniforms.

Daniel Nestor is the current reigning doubles champion, along with his partner, Nemad Zimonjic. They were also champions in 2008. Daniel is a Canadian, the only Canadian ever to win two Wimbledon titles. He has also won other Grand Slam events, with other partners over the years. Needless to say, he is the finest tennis player this country has ever produced.

The longest final ever to have been played at the championship took place in 2008 when Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer went at it for four hours and forty-eight minutes. Both of these men are still in the hunt this year, and there is little doubt that they may be the last two standing when their names are announced to face each other in the final in a week or so. They are simply the best, Nadal on clay, and Ferederer on any other imaginable surface in the world.

The record for the longest match was recently established at the tourney. John Isner from the United States and Nicolas Mahut from France went toe to toe for eleven hours, five minutes. Isner, who stands at six feet nine inches, boomed in serves to establish a record for the most aces in a match at Wimbledon. Mahut wad equal to the task. Isner won the final set 70-68, but lost his next match, due to exhaustion. Quite understandable. The match went on so long that there is a good chance they will change the rules to prohibit such an event ever happening again.

As a tennis buff, I am truly overwhelmed by their match. It was even stretched over three days, due to darkness. The bulk of the match was played on day two, and they retired tied at 59 games each in the final set.

No other professional sporting event has ever come close to matching what those men did at Wimbledom. Comparisons were made to hockey: it was suggested that they would have to play almost thirty overtime periods to decide on a winner. Baseball players would be on the field for many thousands of ball and strikes.

I recall a sun-baked match at centre court during the French Open in Paris when one of the competitors lost eighteen pounds during a final which lasted five sets.

Tradition shall reign supreme at Wimbledon, and rightly so. They will adorn the grounds in purple, (mauve, if you insist), and dark green. The ball boys and ball girls will come from the traditional schools in London. (In years past, the job was given to the Barnardos children.) Thank goodness they have adopted video replay to decide questions of whether or not shots are in the court, or out. Soccer officials, are you listening?

Game, set, and match. Breakfast at Wimbledon. Game ON!

29 June 2010

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