Friday, June 24, 2011

Wimbledon hits the 21st Century

I love Wimbledon.

There's something mildly therapeutic about the sound of a tennis ball being hit back and forth. And there's nowhere quite so full of tradition and English eccentricity and quaintness than the hallowed lawns of SW19. I've seen Today at Wimbledon right through from the days of Harry Carpenter to its current incarnation from the rooftop which seems designed to torture the poor Americans like Tracy Austin who has a special bottom warmer cos she's so cold up there.

One of the best things about the whole thing is having John McEnroe as commentator. I hated him when he was hurling abuse round the courts like a spoiled brat, but his commentary is vivid, illuminating and often hilarious.

In fact this place is so traditional that outfits remain in old fashioned white - or at least predominantly so. To someone of my vintage, it seems weird to see players in other grand slams playing in brightly coloured sportswear.

It was Chris Evert who first got me into tennis. I loved her cool manner and skilled baseline play. I've never been much of a fan of the serve and volley types. I prefer the intelligence, the cat and mouse game of long, high quality rallies. The quick smash and grab stuff just doesn't do it for me.

Throughout all the Evert/Navratilova finals of the 70s and 80s, I sat on the edge of my seat and watched my hopes disintegrate.

One thing that really used to irritate me was the habit of referring to married women by their husband's initials. During the 1979 tournament, I was shocked to see the newly married Chris Evert referred to as "Mrs J M Lloyd" on the scoreboard. Even then it seemed dated, something that my Granny would write. It's not that long since Wimbledon stopped that nonsense and only a couple of years since they started putting first names and surnames in full on the scoreboard.

I have been pleasantly surprised, therefore, to see the All England club embracing new technology. Their Twitter feed is regularly updated and their iPhone app keeps me up to date with what's going on - and it's free.

It's a small thing, but it amused me last night to see the person behind the Twitter feed using text speak. I'm not complaining - it just seemed strange to see the stiff upper lipped, uber-traditional Wimbledon establishment using language like this:

I do actually hate text speak with a passion. I very rarely, if ever, use it - although I bet some of you will find examples. 4 is a number. It does not signify the word for.  And nite just is not a word.

On the actual tennis, I love Rafa (partly for the Mallorca connection), Federer for being classy and brilliant and Andy Murray, although I wish to goodness he'd shave and get a decent haircut. If I had my way, I reckon it would be a Federer win because I want him to get more titles than Sampras and he's running out of time.

As far as the women are concerned, I'm over the Williams sisters. I'm not as bothered about any of the top flight any more - although I think it would be good if Caroline Wozniacki could actually win a grand slam. I don't think she needs to justify her number one status, but she deserves some glory as well for strong consistent play.

This year's tournament is going by too quickly already.

It's the second week that's my favourite, though - the late evening doubles matches, particularly in the mixed,  as the sun sets, the veterans clowning around, the fabulous atmosphere.

1 comment:

Mark Cole said...

An enjoyable read!

I love my tennis too. It's the only sport that Alyson likes so we often watch it together!

I will one day go to Wimbeldon to watch it for myself.

I'm with you on Federer. If Murray doesn't win this year then I'm with Roger but I must admit that Nadal is growing on with me - he's a genius.


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