Monday, July 07, 2008

A Magnificent Wimbledon

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.


KGMom said...

Agreed--it was a fantastic match.
On for the ages, as they say.
We had a transAtlantic watch going--as our daughter & her fiance are in London, and we in PA. We talk every Sunday by phone, so we were on the phone with her marvelling at this match. She was strongly for Nadal--I was cheering for Federer.
In the end, Nadal won, but they both did in the sense of excellent sportsmanship and good cheer.

Anonymous said...

Watching tennis puts me to sleep, but I'd love to play it with my boys sometime!

Amanda said...

I enjoy watching the tennis, and have been to Wimbledon a few years back. I loved the Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi days and would have loved to have seen them play, for real and not on the t.v. Those were the days with John McInroe. Even though i was young, i still remember his matches well.
Thanks for an entertaining post!

megz_mum said...

Pete Sampras is/was always my favourite - so poised, polite, calm...

womaninawindow said...

What? Sorry? Oh? You were talking to me. Sorry. I fell asleep too. Sorry, just so slow and melodic, even in its speediness.

Anonymous said...

I loved it AC and I enjoyed sharing your memories of it.
I hate tennis normally! haha
Do you want me to send you some crumpets? My son loves them... sadly, I 'm not sure if the shelf life would last as long as the time it took to ship! I can't imagine Mouldy English Crumpets would be the same!

Dora said...

I don't care for tennis; however, I *do* love to witness people realizing their dreams and goals that they have trained for, worked for consistently and held deep within their soul.

I love to see people win...and my heart tugs for those who come in 2nd place because they work hard too.

These are the main reasons that I love to watch the Olympics - to watch people realize their dreams. It doesn't matter if it's tennis, gymnastics, swimming, running or business.

ChrisB said...

We absolutely love tennis in our family (I only stopped playing about 4 yrs ago when my knee and hip became a problem). So as you can imagine I love Wimbledon. Luckily we were back from holiday to catch the last couple of days this year. The final was a great match.

Janet said...

I attempted to learn how to play tennis back in 1994. Way too much running, and ESPECIALLY way too much hand-eye coordination, which I have never possessed in great degree, if it all. But I agree with you - I really hate to see the same people win all the time. When Tour deFrance became Tour de Lance? Too boring.