I have always loved the pomp and circumstance of one of tennis’ greatest and most revered venues, Wimbledon.
From the fresh strawberries and cream to the perfectly manicured lawn tennis courts to the royal box and, of course, the required all-white attire, Wimbledon has a tradition like no other tennis tournament.
Two years ago, I (almost) had the chance to go to Wimbledon. I was in London during the Championships and took the tube out to the sleepy little namesake town to soak in the atmosphere. We walked about a mile from the station in the drizzle to where the queue was forming and decided to wait on line with the masses (many of whom had tents and provisions). We befriended some of the other hopeful souls who quickly informed us that we were not at all prepared for the long-haul wait. You see, the queue is merely a line to eventually get on line. Oh, the Brits, and their complicated systems.
So, we headed back toward the station and decided that our foray out to Wimbledon would have to suffice. Turns out, having fish and chips down at the local pub in Wimbledon is almost as exciting as being there, especially when they have the matches on every telly.
This, year, Wimbledon was overwhelmed by the sensation and force that is Coco Gauff. This scrappy 15-year-old teen from Delray Beach, Florida (by way of Atlanta), was fearless in her tournament run. She won three qualifying matches (and, as a former tennis umpire, I can tell you, these are grueling, back-to-back matches in front of a minuscule audience), followed by an epic victory over her idol, Venus Williams.
Gauff was cool as a cuccumber when she had her press interview post-match and spent most of her time lauding Venus. Her next two rounds were just as thrilling, including a straight set win over a higher-seeded player and then a come-backer, three-set, hardscrabble victory in the third round. The next match ended up being Coco’s swan song (for now), but there were no tears, just hope and optimism for what is to come. She will win this tournament one day, and much sooner than later.
As for the men’s game, I continue my obsession with Rafael Nadal, the top-ranked Spaniard from the Island of Mallorca. Rafa has been a fave of mine since he first joined the tour, racking up clay court victories and championships like Roger does on grass. I have always loved his energy, his rapid fire interviews and his myriad quirks. You see, he won’t touch the sidelines when leaving a court and well, is infamous for how he squares up his water bottles after changeovers so that the labels face the same direction.
Perhaps most notable is his rather intricate service motion. He goes through about 20 different, seemingly unconscious ticks before tossing the ball overhead and striking the ball. This includes pulling a wedgie out of his bum every single serve. Yes, his wedgie. I am not even sure he actually has a letter in his mailbox…but, hey, who am I to judge? More importantly, who knew this could be a thing…and at Wimbledon! So, not only are you required by the members of the All England Lawn & Tennis Club to wear predominantly white, you have to also make sure the aren’t riding up on you. Oh, the humanity!
Rafa has had some injuries over the past few years and well, his run came to an end with Roger. His match over Kyrgios was fascinating in both the games being played on the court and the mind games between the ears of the players. Rafa stood tall, but did allow some moments of weakness when even he lacked focus after being taken out of his rhythm by his opponent.
No matter what, tennis still remains a game of gentleness and good manners. Even with balls flying around at more than 140 mph, the goal remains the same. Win the match with professionalism and good sportsmanship and absolute respect. And, look good in your tighty whities while doing it.