IT OFFICIALLY started yesterday. And, for the next two weeks out of the year’s 52, the ears and eyes of the world’s tennis followers will be glued to one surface: grass.
I’ve never played on grass. Well, as children rolling on the garden and while kicking footballs on the soccer pitch, we stepped on the green, slippery patch.
But, while wielding a tennis racket and swinging forth on that yellow Slazenger ball, I’ve never attempted to play on grass.
This is the difference between Wimbledon and the rest of the hundreds of tournaments that proliferate in the calendar. Grass is alive. Literally. The hard-court surfaces in Melbourne and New York are hardened; the red clay in Paris is implanted — unlike Wimbledon’s grass that’s planted.
Wimbledon is The Oscars of tennis. It’s that solitary and prestigious two weeks that stand tallest. It’s also full of class and tradition. On paper, it is acknowledged as the “world’s oldest tennis tournament,” first-serving in 1877 — or 138 years ago.
Why do you think the game is often called “lawn tennis?” Think Wimbledon. Grass is lawn and this term is carried on until today. All the players are required to wear white. What other event on this planet imposes such a strict rule? Only one — the number one — has that right.
My dad Bunny, over a month ago, was able to visit its hallowed grounds. It wasn’t near the city centre of London, he told me, but a lengthy train ride to the outskirts and a long walk until arriving at SW18. Immaculate. Classy. Unlike any other. These were the words I recall him telling me about Wimby.
John Cheu, my good friend and fellow BCBP member, visited last year with his daughter Kyna. They were joined by long-time London resident (and highly-ranked Shell executive) Randy del Valle. There is no place, they concluded, like the All-England Club.
My pick to win next Sunday? I hope Roger Federer is triumphant. The 17-time Grand Slam singles champion will turn 34 on Aug. 8. As fit and as motivated as he is, his body is getting older. The last time he won a major title was three years ago at this same event. Last year, he reached the finals at The Championships and had the momentum leading into the fifth set against Novak Djokovic. He lost 4-6 in the decider.
No man is classier than Roger. And this gentleman-of-a-champion spirit is why he’s such a revered man in Wimbledon. He’s won the tournament seven times, a record he shares with Pete Sampras. Roger’s first major was achieved here 12 years ago. Chances are his final one (next week or in the years to come) will also be recorded in London.
(About Roger: two weeks ago, I had the good fortune of visiting the spot where he first learned tennis and where he honed his skills as a child. It was in Basel, Switzerland and the venue was the Tennis Club [T.C.] Old Boys, which housed nine clay-courts and numerous photos of Roger’s successes. Dr. Fritz Strolz was our extraordinary host in Switzerland — a full article to come soon on our Swiss sojourn.)
Among the ladies at Wimbledon, no offense to Serena but I’m longing for another winner. Petra Kvitova won it 12 months ago and I’m hoping for a new face in women’s tennis. Eugenie Bouchard has almost a zero chance to win this time; her 2015 record is 7-9 and she’s lost 10 of her last 11 matches, plus she got injured two weeks ago. I’m eager to see a breakthrough win by Caroline Wozniacki or a big smile from Maria. But it’s not happening. The tournament is located in Wimbledon Park road and the specific address reads “SW18.” The SW means “South Western” but it might as well mean “Serena Williams.” Like Jordan Spieth (who won golf’s first two major titles), Serena has done the same and is en route to a Grand Slam (winning all four majors in the same calendar year). As much as I’d like to see a new face cry with joy next weekend, it’s Serena, whose serve rivals those of the men in power, who’ll win. It’s SW in SW.