Mag By Craig Gabriel
The lawns are immaculate. There is not a blemish on the grass courts and it’s as if every blade is perfectly in place waiting, waiting for the sound of ball making contact with racquet strings. Wimbledon 2019 is ready to start.
It is the most hallowed Centre Court in the world. 15,000 seats yet intimate with the Royal Box at the clubhouse end, where the sound the ball makes as the racquet strings strike it is warm and full and rich. There is no noise of squeaking as the soles of shoes glide about the court that you get on a hard court or the puff of dust that rises like a mini mushroom cloud as you would get on clay.
The smell of freshly cut grass fills the senses.
Tennis on a grass court almost seems pure. It is a beautiful game to watch. There is a gracefulness to it. There is no better place in the entire world than to watch grass court tennis than at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
Sure, Wimbledon upholds some of the sport’s traditions like all-white clothing, and its own traditions such as four ladies members play a doubles match on the Centre Court the Saturday before the tournament begins and the men’s defending champion will play the first match on Centre Court the following year.
Many believe it to be stuffy and haughty but in fact Wimbledon is very much the people’s tournament.
Look out to Henman Hill or Murray Mound (depends on your era what you call it) late in the afternoon and it is packed with people having a fun, relaxed time watching the giant screen alongside the recently refurbished Court One which debuts its new retractable roof this year.
Look down St Mary’s Walk and you will see that iconic image with Centre Court on the left and in the distance St Mary’s Church. There is a familiarity with the place. It seems old with the ivy creeper coving the walls of the clubhouse but yet still new.
Wimbledon might not always be the first event to adopt change, but they will investigate what’s necessary and decide. One of those changes comes into force this year with the final set tiebreak but because it is Wimbledon, that situation has to be different so the breaker will happen at 12-12 in the deciding set. That is a good compromise and records like the 2010 Isner-Mahut match or last year’s semi between Anderson and Isner will stay for perpetuity.
On 13th and 14th July, once the respective finals are done, we will honour the two people who hold the Venus Rosewater Dish as the Ladies Champion and the Challenge Cup as the Gentlemen’s Champion. And before they even leave the Centre Court their names will be on the honour board that displays the greatest of names this wonderful sport has ever seen, all the way back to 1877.