5 reasons we Brits love Wimbledon so much
The 2012 Wimbledon Championships are in full swing down in SW19 which means one thing is certain – we Brits are hoping for the best from Andy Murray, but preparing for the worst.
After three successive semi-final defeats for the Scot, not to mention the years of disappointment during the Tim Henman era, you’d think our expectations would dampen…but they never do.
Quidblog explores five of the reasons we Brits have such a deep love affair with the world’s oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament.
Year in year out the masochistic British tennis fans turn out in their droves in the hope of witnessing a sporting miracle. With boundless optimism they have transformed Henman Hill into Murray’s Mount and armed with Robinson’s barley water and Union Jacks have taken on the task of cheering every sorry home-grown contender through thick and thin.
That they happily queue for days and hours before paying exorbitant amounts for a couple of strawberries with a dash of cream ensures that stereotypical British eccentricity has maintained its worldwide reputation. Wimbledon fortnight beautifully highlights the last vestiges of upper-class snobbery with traditionalists heard muttering under their breath about the outlandish screams of encouragement from their lower class peers and the drunken revellers making the most of the hospitality tents.
Of course, the atmosphere never gets too raucous, it is Wimbledon after all. That being said, who can forget the streakers who steal their fifteen minutes of fame on the manicured lawns? Almost annually some adventurous soul evades the rather lax security to the jocular howls of ‘new balls please.’
For most of the year the Beeb lives off the sporting scraps left by its gluttonous commercial rivals, leaving the discerning licence payer with a choice between regional hand ball play-offs or, if you’re lucky enough to have the red button, East European synchronised swimming. All this changes though in June when Sue Barker is plucked from the hands of Harley Street’s chief Botox injectors and forced to mercilessly flirt on screen with anything that gets within three feet of her comfy chair in the glass-backed studio.
Yes, Wimbledon just wouldn’t be the same without the BBC and its obligatory channel swapping halfway through important rallies, tetchy background arguments between McEnroe and Becker, Pat Cash’s too-cool-for-school attitude and the ever so English inflection of Andrew Castle pretending he’s had himself a successful sporting career. The days of the understated elegance of John Barrett and Barry Davies seem to have been confined to the annals of history, while Virginia Wade clings to the annual hope that her contract won’t be ripped up.
Tennis coverage is moving with the times; the theme tune ‘Light and Tuneful’ may stay the same but now its accompanied by big, bold graphics, hawk-eye replays, snazzy montages and rolling coverage that makes you feel like you’re watching a sporting version of Big Brother. All this and still the Bafta nominations keep coming!
The Underdog Victory
The FA Cup may be renowned for its giant killing, but it is at Wimbledon that the underdogs have repeatedly upset the favourites and gone on to win the trophy. In 1985, an unseeded, seventeen year old West German walked through the wrought-iron gates of SW19 an unknown. Two weeks later the name Boris Becker reverberated around the world. His record as youngest ever Champion still stands strong and his penchant for diving around the court set the tone for an entire generation of players.
While Becker’s triumph signified the start of a terrific career Goran Ivanesivic’s success marked the archetypal fairytale ending. After 3 defeats in the final courtesy of Agassi (1992, 1994) and Sampras (1998), the big Croat gained a wildcard entry for the 2001 tournament. What followed next can only be described as damn-right swashbuckling! Despite wrecking hopes of a British success by defeating both Rusedski and Henman, Ivanisevic captured a nation’s heart with his nerve-racking success in the five set, thriller final against Pat Rafter.
It was a victory that emphasised all that is great about The Championships and proof to all nearly-men that perseverance pays. If further evidence were needed that early Wimbledon success seals reputations, then one need look no further than the two biggest names on today’s circuit. In 2001 Roger Federer stunned defending Champion Pete Sampras on his way to a creditable quarter-final, while in 2004 Maria Sharapova found a maturity on court that clashed distinctly with her tender age as she stormed to victory against the established Serena Williams.
Wimbledon’s beautifully manicured grass courts are the quintessential element of the historic tennis tournament. Where other Grand Slams have given into modernity and settled for manmade surfaces, the All England Club stands firm choosing to stubbornly defend its maintenance of nature’s carpet. Perfecting the courts 8mm blade length is a year round undertaking, requiring a tonne of seed, six million pints of water and 14 groundsmen.
It is a terrifically expensive and time-consuming process and not one without controversy. It was a well known fact that grass had a profound influence on playing style, with those who found success easy to come by on the slower, clay courts traditionally struggling with the pace at Wimbledon. For years the classic quick-fire, serve-volley tactic utilised by the likes of Sampras and Navratilova reigned supreme.
However, since a shift in the grass-growing recipe in 2001 the courts have slowed and firmed up, heralding a new era of baseline rallying. Initially brought about to increase the durability of the courts over the course of the fortnight, the new surface with its greater bounce has somewhat homogenised the style needed for success. The picturesque greenery looks set to stay and with it longer, more dramatic points.
1936 and 1977
Baddiel and Skinner’s football inspired lyrics “40 years of hurt, never stopped us dreaming” haven’t yet been put to use by British tennis fans…but we’re only five years away! It’s been a long time since Virginia Wade won the Ladies Singles event in 1977 and there can be very few alive who remember seeing Fred Perry’s hattrick of victories in the 1930s. That being said, we plucky Brits continue to live in hope.
The Tim Henman era may be over but his rollercoaster journey will never be forgotten. From disqualification in the 1995 doubles tournament to the agony of defeat in four semi-finals he never did things the easy way. Just watching ‘Tiger Tim’ left many Brits physically and mentally drained and now that the baton has been passed to Andy Murray the signs suggest we’ll all be cringing behind the sofa for years to come.
Three years in a row the Scot has been defeated at the semi-final stage, however, with Nadal already out this year, the Scot will never have a better chance to progress to the final. We live in hope…
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