It’s a real sporty summer here in Great Britain. The World Cup is still on, the Tour de France is beginning, the Commonwealth Games are coming and, my favourite, Wimbledon is winding down. As I write this the Women’s Singles final was won by decisively by Petra Kvitova. I was routing for Eugenie Bouchard (who WILL be a champion one day I’m sure) but Kvitova played like a dream. A short but awesome performance. Later today Roger Federer will be playing Novak Djokovic in the Men’s Final. It should be a good match and I’m hoping Roger wins. He’s just so elegant and smart and lovely to watch. Sigh.
While tennis itself is not that popular of a sport for young people to play the country is justifiably proud of Wimbledon. For a couple of weeks people from all over the world are in London for the tennis. It is one of the four grand slam events (the others being the Australian Open, the French Open and the US Open) and, in my mind, it’s the best of the best.
First of all, tennis is a fantastic sport, to play and to watch. It doesn’t take a lot of specialised equipment, the basic rules are pretty simple. It’s true that there aren’t as many free public courts as there once was. And it’s also true that most serious players are going to need some serious coaching if they want to make a living playing the game. But it’s still one of the few one-on-one (for singles anyway) sports that has some serious money to be won. There are other solo racket sports (racquetball, squash), court games (handball) but none of them have the prestige or attention given to the top tennis players. Darts and snooker are popular here but they don’t have the immense physicality of tennis. Boxing is one-on-one, is very physical and has some pretty good money prizes but . . . do you really want to want to watch people beat each other up? The tennis ‘season’ is pretty much year round so there’s usually an event going on somewhere whereas big boxing events are far and few between.
Besides, what other major sport has it’s top four events played on three different types of surfaces? The US and Australian Open are now played on hard, artificial surfaces; the French Open is played on clay courts; and Wimbledon is still played on grass. All four of the slams have been going for decades so there are lots and lots of records and past winners to reflect upon. And you don’t have to be rich to get to watch some of the tournaments live.
Of the four slams Wimbledon is the greatest. Not only is it the only one played on grass but, because the grass gets worn over the course of two weeks, the surface changes over the course of the tournament! Playing on Centre Court in the Men’s Final is not the same thing at all as playing there on opening day. Wimbledon is the only one of the grand slam events that does not revert to a tie-break resolution if a match goes to a final set (fifth set for the men, third set for the women). That means that someone has to win two more games in order to win the last set. You can’t do that on one bad bounce or lucky break. You have to outplay your opponent. You have to be the better player. And, it seems like the players themselves value winning Wimbledon over the other tournaments.
Some of you will disagree with me no doubt but allow me to wallow and indulge in my two-week per year love affair with tennis and Wimbledon. It’ll be over soon.