It’s That Time of the Year
If you had one chance to go somewhere in the world – anywhere you wanted, really – where would you go?
It’s not the first time you’ve heard or thought about this question, and it certainly won’t be the last. My options range from lazing in the Maldives to roaming about the streets of London. I’d also like to take in the many epicurean delights that Singapore has to offer, and I wouldn’t mind driving around the French countryside if you gave me a chance. It’s actually quite a long list, and I wouldn’t want to bore you with it.
The reason I bring it up, though, is because where in the world would you want to go is rather an incomplete question. Where in the world would you want to go, when would you want to go, and what would you want to do there – now that’s worth thinking about.
Assuming Manchester United make it to the Champions League Final, for example, I’d want to go see it. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t spurn the chance to go anyways, but you see what I mean about the where, when and what.
Food festivals, music festivals, literary events and good riding weather would decide my dream travel itinerary, I suppose, along with the sports calendar. And on the sports calendar, there is one event for which I’d give up a considerably large fraction of my rather tiny kingdom. Said event begins today, on the last Monday of the sixth month of the calendar year, and lasts for a fortnight.
There is something about Wimbledon which whoops the derriere of every other sporting event across the planet, bar none. More than the traditionalism, the etiquette, the utter professionalism and the welcome break from garish advertisements, I think it is the obvious reverence that tennis players have for this, the inner sanctum of the sport with the fuzzy ball. I’m not saying players don’t give their all at other tournaments, let alone other Grand Slams, but Wimbledon always has been and probably always will be the Bade Papa of all sports events the world over.
The Australian Open, The French Open and The US Open are all tennis spectacles worth watching, and I’m enough of a non-traditionalist to quite enjoy the year end championships as much as the Slams, but the fact remains that if I had to choose but one event to watch in the year, Wimbledon would be it.
I like the Sega-esque Australian Open, with its bright blue courts, where the level of athleticism has reached unimaginable levels in recent years.
Its different with the French Open, however. I can only bear to watch Federer and Nadal at the French Open. Federer because I’d pay to watch him play on bread pudding, and Nadal because he is the greatest clay-courter the universe will ever see. Everybody else at the French Open reminds me of galley slaves from centuries gone by – I can’t begin to imagine what joy they derive from pounding an infuriatingly slow-moving ball across ugly red clay for the better part of what seems like an interminable decade.
And while we’re on the topic of the French Open, allow me to female-dog a little bit about what was, for me, the match of the year. Nadal and Djokovic took to the Philippe Chartrier court to play the semis of the French, and about half the court, including ring-side seats, was empty. You couldn’t dream of something like this happening at the other Grand Slams. And why, do you ask? Apparently because play started in the early afternoon, and the French Open crowd likes to dawdle over their lunch. My tummy is testament to the fact that I like my square meal as much as the next man, but if I had to choose between watching these two versus putting it away like there’s no tomorrow – well, I mean. C’mon!
The US Open is loud, large and lit-up – the quality of play is as good as anywhere else, but I mentally equate it to the IPL of tennis. The quality of play is very, very good, but the entertainment factor is as important as the skills the players bring to the court.
But Wimbledon is about tennis. Everything is else is there to reinforce that focus, not detract from it. The mixed-doubles that is played before the tournament begins, the seeding that reflects not only the current rankings but also the current form on grass, the hush that descends on the crowd before a point is to begin – it’s sport at its finest.
And while there is never a lack or reason to watch Wimbledon, the year 2013 is an extra-special year. I’m almost convinced that Federer is a deity who’s been sent among us humans to play tennis, so the obvious factor at play is that it’s been a decade since He first reigned over His kingdom, which makes this extra special.
Equally importantly, though, it also marks two decades since that other deity in human form won the first of His seven years of near uninterrupted reign at SW19. If you think about it, it’s been a literal handful of people – Djokovic, Nadal, Hewitt, Ivanisevic and Krajicek – who managed to get their names on the trophy while Federer and Sampras were defining their eras.
Out of twenty possible Championships since 1993, Federer and Sampras have shared fourteen between them. If that isn’t to be the dictionary’s definition of staggering, I’d like to know what is.
And so, if you gave me a choice, I’d very much like to be at Wimbledon on the 7th of July, 2013, watching whoever happens to be in the final, playing in order to pay tribute to two of the finest decades Wimbledon has ever witnessed.
And if one of them just so happens to be the proud father of twins, that’d be… well, quite grand, really.
Gentlemen, let’s play.