While watching the qualifying matches for Wimbledon, which are played on the grass courts at the Bank of England club at Roehampton, a player was overheard referring to playing at the actual All England Lawn Tennis Club, as the “holy grail”. Historically the most important tournament in the world. To be able to say: “I played at Wimbledon”, has to be pretty special.
And what they are all after are positioned in floor to ceiling glass cabinets in the entrance to the clubhouse - the magnificent trophies, the gold Challenge Cup for the gentlemen and the silver Venus Rosewater Salver for the ladies.
Everywhere on the tour the respective singles events are the men’s singles or the women’s singles, at the AELTC it is the Gentlemen’s Singles Championship and the Ladies Singles Championship.
While Wimbledon works very hard, and succeeds, to make itself accessible to the general public, it also very much retains its traditions and that makes it nice and different for the game. Things like the all-white clothing for the players, the Royal Box, petite cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off being served in the member’s area and strawberries and cream. It’s delightful.
One thing that has in part but not totally moved with the times is how the draw is done. Part of it is electronic to give it a modern feel as TV monitors display names and where they are positioned on the 128 lines, but the connection to the past still has the referee drawing numbered chips out of a bag which are then matched to the player’s name.
Because grass is such a short season, Wimbledon has a formula for determining the seeds and in the men’s players are moved around from the world rankings which determine the seeds at every other event. The women’s tend to follow the rankings but on rare occasions has also been changed.
With that in mind, Novak Djokovic became No.1, Rafa Nadal No.2 (they are the other way in the rankings) Andy Murray No.3 (five in rankings), Roger Federer No.4 and Stan Wawrinka No.5 (three in the rankings).
The top half of the men’s draw has Djokovic, Murray, David Ferrer, Grigor Dimitrov, Ernests Gulbis and Jo Wilfried Tsonga as some of the standouts while the bottom half has Nadal, Federer, Wawrinka and Milos Raonic.
In the women’s Serena Williams is joined in the top half by both finalists from the French Open, the champion Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep along with Eugenie Bouchard, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic. On the other side of the women’s Li Na is joined by Victoria Azarenka, Venus Williams, Petra Kvitova and Aga Radwanska. Most feel the women’s top half is heavier while the men’s is pretty even.
While Murray will play the first Centre Court match on the first day as the defending champion, tradition also dictates that the women’s defending champion starts the Centre Court on day two, unofficially known as “Ladies Day”. However, because Marion Bartoli announced her retirement a month after winning the title in 2013, the first match will go to last year’s finalist Sabine Lisicki. Word is that Marion will be in the Royal Box.
Djokovic opens his challenge to go a step further than last year when he lost to Murray, by playing Andrey Golubev with Tsonga expected to be the first big name seed he runs into. Murray startsd his defence against David Goffin with Dimitrov or Kevin Anderson his initial dangermen while Berdych should come up against Marin Cilic.
Nadal starts against Martin Klizan with the likes of Ivo Karlovic, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet in his early path and if the seedings hold will play Raonic in the quarters and Federer in the semis. Federer starts against Paolo Lorenzi and is seeded to play Wawrinka in the quarters.
A match up in the 16s between Serena and Bouchard will be interesting, so far Bouchard is the only woman this year to reach semis at the first two majors. Serena is seeded to meet Sharapova, who starts against Samantha Murray (no relation to Andy) in the quarters. Halep is seeded to meet Jankovic in the quarters but Jelena also has Ana Ivanovic and Lisicki in her path.
Li Na plays qualifier Paula Kania of Poland first and has in her section Sam Stosur and Caro Wozniacki and further afield maybe a quarter against Petra Kvitova while Radwanska is slotted to play Azarenka in the quarters … that will be interesting.
It going to be a case of sit back and watch with fascination as the next two weeks unfold brilliantly.