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What a Racket!
by Clint Wayne
2007-06-25 07:50:29
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The oldest event in the sport of Tennis is commonly and simply known all over the world as ‘Wimbledon’. It is the only ‘Grand Slam’ tournament to be played on grass and is the most prestigious competition in the world of tennis. Centre Court is prepared to welcome the best players who surely cannot call themselves ‘Great’ until they have won Wimbledon.

Mention the words ‘Wimbledon Fortnight’ to us cynical Brits and you will generally get two reactions. Either, "Grab your umbrella because it is going to ‘chuck it down’ with rain for two weeks," or the same old question that our Media love to ask every year, “Are we likely to have a British winner?”

Normally this sends us all into fits of laughter as we haven’t had a Men’s Champion since 1936 when Fred Perry, a chap my Granddad used reminisce about, lifted the title for the third time. Of course the clothing brand with its famous ‘laurel’ logo that still carries his name is still one of the best available.

Our success in the Ladies tournament is much more impressive though! Virginia Wade, our ‘Golden Girl’ of Tennis, won it in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Year of 1977 - a mere thirty years ago - and sadly I can still remember Ann Jones winning it in 1969. That makes it twice since the end of the war. Beat that world if you can!

Okay, there’s a Swiss guy called Federer who has won it for the past four years and an American chap named Sampras who won it a few times as well, plus one or two successful Swedes and Germans but on the horizon is a guy with the nickname ‘True Brit’, namely Andrew Murray. Being fervently English it is not always easy to support a Scot, but this young man has the grit, courage and talent to finally end the years of disappointment and anticipation of the recent Henman years and go all the way. Fame and fortune awaits, young Andrew!

To me the mention of Wimbledon soon brings the memories flooding back and to 1968 when the amateur status died and Aussie Rod Laver became the first professional champion. The 1980s saw the ice-cool Bjorn Borg conquer Wimbledon five years in a row, which is still a record today but it was his encounters with a certain rebel John McEnroe, whose loathsome on court antics and the constant aggressive questioning of line-calls to the umpire, including the classic, “You cannot be serious!” were totally against the British ‘fair-play’ ethics.

Their absolute classic five set final of 1980 still remains for me and the majority of others as the best tennis match of all-time with the irritable New Yorker being booed on to court following his antics in the semi-final against fellow countryman Jimmy Connors. However, there was no doubting his immense talent especially in the fourth set which was settled on a gutsy twenty-minute tie-breaker with McEnroe winning it 18–16 including him saving five match points. He could not break the cool Swede’s serve in the fifth and deciding set eventually losing it 8-6.

The following year when McEnroe returned the British Press had christened him with the nickname ‘Superbrat’ and with a repeat of the previous final Borg and McEnroe went head to head once again. This time however McEnroe was too strong for Borg whose run of 41 consecutive games without defeat came to an end. In 1985 orange-blond teenager Boris Becker took the tennis world by storm becoming the first unseeded player and youngest ever male, at 17 years 7 months, to win the singles tournament. Much to my own delight my favourite Andre Agassi won it in 1992 with a stylish performance against the fast-serving Goran Ivanisevic.

The ladies tournament has always managed to capture my eyes but never really my heart. There have been some fine champions with the be-speckled Billie Jean King from my younger days, the masculine Martina Navratilova winning six in a row and German beauty Steffi Graf successful seven times in nine years. In recent years the American Williams sisters Venus and Serena have shared five titles with some powerful tennis.

So now I have plumped up my cushion in my favourite armchair in anticipation of this year's spectacular that is Wimbledon, which has been developed from a simple garden party some 130 years ago to the professional tournament that it is today played in front of a worldwide television audience. It now has attendances of over 500,000 who manage to devour a staggering 28,000 kg. of strawberries and 7,000 litres of cream. Now there’s food for thought!

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Clint2007-06-25 10:37:01
Wouldn't you know it, as soon as I trumpet the chances of Andrew Murray winning Wimbledon he pulls out injured and as I look out of my window its chucking it down with rain!

Jack2007-06-28 01:41:05
You are right sir, this is the Crown Jewel and Father of tennis. If you can play the clay, you deserve your day. The players reads like a tennis Hall of Fame. It is a classic like the Master's is to golf.

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