GRASS is for soccer. It’s also for the sport of Tyler Po, Miguel Tabuena and Frankie Miñoza. Grass is the surface of games that include polo, ultimate frisbee, American football and baseball.
I’ve been a tennis player since we moved from Bacolod to Cebu in 1986. That was 31 years ago. Since I first learned to strike a forehand at the Cebu Tennis Club until I honed my volleys in Sancase TC and when I occasionally play at the Casino Español, I’ve played on multiple surfaces: Clay court. Shell court. Artificial turf. Hard court.
That’s for golf!
Because while 99 percent of the tennis tournaments around the globe are played on non-grass surfaces, the remaining one percent is the most special.
Simply called “The Championships,” it is the oldest tennis event in the universe. Starting in 1877, it has called grass its surface for the past 140 years. And while tennis has four Grand Slam events (including the ones in Melbourne, Paris and New York), nothing compares to London.
Wimbledon is green. It’s strawberries and cream. It’s all-white, the required color of players’ outfits. It runs for two weeks with $41 million in prize money. The gentlemen and ladies singles champions (yes, given Wimbledon’s formality, the men are called “gentlemen” and the girls, “ladies”) each receive $2.85 million.
Like the World Cup of soccer or The Oscars of Hollywood or The Tonys of Broadway, there is one tournament played each July that is the classiest and most prestigious of all. And it’s located at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
Of Filipinos, one name has performed better than possibly any other in Wimbledon. He stood only five feet tall but loomed tallest when we speak of accomplishments. He amassed 25 career singles trophies and, in Wimbledon, he reached the third round three times (1949, 1950 and 1953). His name: Felicisimo Ampon. Nicknamed “Migty Mite,” he passed away at the age of 76 in 1997.
Among our fellow Asians, no female or male player has won the Wimbledon singles crown. The closest was Li Na, who reached the quarters thrice. The Japanese star Shuzo Matsuoka also reached the last eight in 1995. Same with Kei Nishikori three years ago (quarters). But it’s in doubles where Asians have achieved the highest success. Leander Paes of India won one men’s doubles and four mixed doubles titles in Wimbledon. Zheng Jie of China won the women’s doubles crown in 2006. And Sania Mirza, teaming up with Martina Hingis, won the ladies crown in 2015.
For us here in Cebu, while London is 11,299 kms. away, we are one remote control click away. Fox Sports (SkyCable channels 758, 759, 304 and 305) are showing nightly live matches of Wimbledon. What’s nice is there are HD channels and they show two simultaneous games: the Centre Court and No.1 Court.
Tiger Woods explained: “Everyone knows what the Masters is, even if you're a non-golfer. People know what Wimbledon is. They know what the Super Bowl is. There are certain events that people just know about.”