Back around the mid-seventies, Cuppa and I started to play tennis or play around at tennis, I suppose I should say. And we began to be aware of the sport on TV. When kids came along, particularly the second, we more or less stopped playing for a time, but we never lost touch with the televised spectacle.
When school ended each June, Wimbledon would begin, and the watching of it became a marker of the beginning of summer ease. We began watching in the Jimmy Connors era, and I remember being chuffed when the seemingly arrogant so-and-so lost to Arthur Ashe. Then came the Borg dynasty, followed by the McEnroe years, then Lendl, Edberg, Becker, Sampras and Federer. Some of these players I cheered for; others not too much. I was a McEnroe fan and later a Becker fan, but my preference was to see the others lose. It's not that I disliked any of them as such, but one can grow tired of seeing the same people winning. Besides, it seems to be in my nature to cheer for the underdog unless I have become particularly attached to a certain player as one does to a particular team.
Perhaps that's why I became quite attached to McEnroe — because I endured with him in his titanic struggle to overcome Borg. After five years of seeing Borg hoist the Wimbledon trophy, I was rooting desperately for Mac. So, even after he took over the top spot on the tennis ladder, I was bonded to him in a sense and kept on cheering for him.
For the past five years, we have been treated to the dominance of Roger Federer. In the list of champions that I posted above, he's probably at the top although he might have to share the pinnacle with Borg. Although I have never disliked this classy gentleman, I have certainly got tired of witnessing the ease with which he was defeated almost everyone. Well he has defeated everyone for five years and came within one of making it six straight this year.
A few year after Federer began his awesome dominance, along came a Spaniard, Rafael Nadal, a talented and very likable fellow who seemed to be the only possible challenger to the great Federer. Although he had been able to defeat Roger on clay, Nadal had yet to turn the trick on the Wimbledon grass, and, let's face it, Wimbledon is the ultimate test. They faced each other in the finals for the past two years, and Federer was able to emerge victorious.
Yesterday, after a great start which enabled Nadal to take to two set lead, Federer was able to claw back, and so they went into a fifth set. I figured that Federer was going to do it again — find a way to win. He has the incredible forehand after all and can seem to serve an ace whenever he needs to, but somehow Nadal found a way to prevail almost five hours into the match. Even after all of that time, he was still scrambling around the court as if he were as fresh as a daisy.
I am the first to admit that tennis can ofen be a wee bit boring. When Wimbledon starts, there are 128 men and the same number of women in the draw, and since we don't know most of them, it's hard to get all wrapped up in it. On top of that, they do tend to show the top players with whom we are familiar. The trouble with that, however, is that the top players generally win the early rounds all too easily.
But when it gets to the end and you have two magnificent and arguably equal opponents, it's a different story. Most other sports are played within a defined period of time, but close tennis matches can go on and on. When I see two players slug it out for almost five hours as I did yesterday, I am both amazed and enthralled. I was so into it that I was probably more exhausted than either of the contestants at the end.
So that's Wimbledon for another year, the long-standing, true beginning of summer for Cuppa and I. We even celebrate the event with sttawberries and cream, just like they do over there in Jolly Olde England. Unfortunately, we couldn't find any crumpets yesterday.
Come September, we'll watch the US Open, and it will mark the beginning of autumn, and formerly also the beginning of another year of the teaching grind. In between, we'll watch the lower key Canadian Open, but that's pretty well our tennis diet for the year.