Wimbledon Buzz: Reflections on a Belgian Shark, an Elegant Redneck, and the Soul of Nelson Mandela

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Bethanie Mattek-Sands made her usual fashion splash at Wimbledon this year, but lost in the first round to Angelique Kerber. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HEADLINES: In the English-speaking realm of tennis, there is nothing quite like the tabloid headlines from Wimbledon. Here are a few examples from just the first day:

ADIOS NADAL
CLAY KING GOES WEAK AT THE KNEES
NADAL’S BATTLE OF WOUNDED KNEE RAISES FEARS FOR HIS FUTURE IN GAME
RAFA SAVAGED BY SHARK
NOWHERE MAN SEIZES HIS CHANCE
LONE SHARK—DARCIS BITES NADAL
THE DARC DESTROYER
BONFIRE OF THE BRITS IS NOW A SADLY FAMILIAR STORY IN SW 19
SHARAPOVA: I DON’T GET ON WITH PLAYERS
FEDERER LORDS IT
BRITTY VACANT—FIRST DAY DISASTER AS HOME STARS ARE HIT FOR SIX
ELENA OUT BY LUNCH AS GIRL POWER FADES
BALTACHA’S LUNCHTIME EXIT SETS GORY TONE FOR BRITS
QUEUEING IS OUR NATIONAL SPORT
ARGH-ZARENKA MAY HAVE TO SIT IT OUT
SOMETIMES YOU CAN CARE TOO MUCH
TITLE FIGHT WITH CATTY PAIR WILL BE A SQUEAM
TENNIS STARS’ VERBAL VOLLEYS OVER PLAYER TOPPING THE LUST LEAGUE

THERE’S A KIND OF HUSH ALL OVER THE WIMBLEDON WORLD: Asked to describe her basic take on Wimbledon, Brit Laura Robson (who beat Maria Kirilenko) said, “An overall sense of calmness.”

THE ELEGANT REDNECK: Bethanie Mattek-Sands’ brand is to be a kind of against-the-grain redneck in an otherwise classy game. The gun-toting Green Bay Packer fan is married to a former football player, and she has a penchant for tattoos, pit bulls, monster trucks, and hunting on the plains. More than anything, the Californian—who was raised in Neenah, Wisconsin—is probably known for her funky outfits. But at Wimbledon, her sleek knee socks were rather chic. Her frilly outfit—complete with two tiers of fine pleats—featured a delicate fabric that projected a certain tea party elegance. Too bad she lost in the first round to German Angelique Kerber.

YOU’VE COME A LONG WAY BABY: Women’s tennis is now celebrating 40 years of success. But that’s nothing. According to the Daily Express, 100 years ago “suffragettes brandishing parasols and paraffin tried to burn down the Hazelwell railway station near Birmingham.”

THE KING AND THE COP: You know you are at Wimbledon when you see a British bobby asking Billie Jean King for her autograph.

PRESS ROOM DIALOG OF THE DAY: Question: When did Andy Murray’s mom, Judy, start to go so gray?

Answer: Just after last year’s Wimbledon final.

FINDING A PLACE IN A WELCOMING HABITAT: After Inside Tennis asked Madison Keys to describe herself in one word, the appealing 18-year-old said “sarcastic.” The move prompted some sassy wags to suggest that Madison should immediately be given a permanent seat in the press room. BTW: Chris Evert recently said the power-blasting teen (who dismissed Brit Heather Watson in the first round) had all the weapons to become No. 1. As a 14-year old, Madison actually beat Serena in an exhibition. But, for now, she has yet to win a tournament on the circuit and is ranked No. 55.

DO BRITISH BROADCASTERS HAVE A SENSE OF RESIGNATION OR WHAT?: When yet another English player was facing defeat, one local broadcaster gave it a slightly positive spin, saying, “Sam Murray is going out without too much disgrace.”

NOW WE KNOW: Broadcaster Chris Bowers said, “Cliches are cliches because often they are so appropriate.”

NO KIDDING: One broadcaster said Serena “has a fair amount of willpower.”

CURIOUS QUESTIONS OF THE DAY: Li Na was asked, “You have ten million followers on the social media in China. Does that please you or bother you?” … A British writer asked Serena, “Are you [and Sharapova] friends again?”

AND IN OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA NEWS: Rufus the Wimbledon hawk has his own Twitter account and Facebook page.

TENNIS—THE SPORT OF A LIFETIME:  Talking about young Madison Keys, Wayne Ferreira said, “Calling her a veteran at 18, that’s rather sad isn’t it?”  Then a Wimbledon official said, “A 42-year-old winning here, (Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm) gives all of us old guys cause for hope.” James Blake, 33, who scored a convincing win today after a long drought, conceded “father time catches up with all of us.”

NOW THERE’S AN IDEA: Martina Navratilova said that men’s tennis is getting so physically taxing that in the future—like the women—men may be playing Slam matches that are best-of-three sets.  (Editor’s note: We are tempted to scoff at Martina’s idea, but almost 30 years ago we said Wimbledon crowds would never do the wave, and they do today.)

GONE FISHING: We know that “The Shark” is the nickname of  Wimbledon darling and upset artist Steven Darcis. This, of course, brings to mind Chris Evert’s third and most recent husband, golfer Greg “The Shark” Norman, who is best known for his many noble and not-so-noble losses. For a long time in California, tennis was casino played in San Jose’s “Shark Tank” arena, where SAP Open champions like Radek Stepanek and Milos Raonic sported San Jose Sharks jerseys. Plus, there was a time recently when the best American player was Mardy Fish. BTW: the most passionate fishermen in tennis history might be Michael Chang, the Slovokian Miloslav Mecir, and, ironically, Rafa Nadal.

YOU CAN BE SERIOUS: Is there a connection between the success of Jimmy Connors’ new autobiography, The Outsider, and John McEnroe’s plans to publish another (as-yet-untitled) autobiography? According to his publisher, Little, Brown and Company, the book will cover McEnroe”s years after leaving the regular circuit. Since McEnroe’s successful first book was called You Cannot Be Serious, why not call the next one You Can Be Serious?

THE RECONCILIATION AND FORGIVENESS OF NELSON MANDELA: With the singular Nelson Mandela fighting for his life in a South African hospital, Inside Tennis said to Serena, “You mentioned how amazing it was to meet President Mandela, to read about him. Obviously the man was in jail for 27 years, came back and had this force of reconciliation and forgiveness. Have you reflected on that? Is that an important part of our lives?”
Serena replied, “I think his whole example is an extremely important part of our lives. For someone to have been incarcerated for so long and then have such a forgiving heart, to have such an open heart, open spirit, open soul is unheard of. It”s rare. As a people, [all of us] can learn from the courage, the faith … that Nelson Mandela has.”
Williams added, “It”s a really sad time for everyone on the globe … [Mandela] lived a really amazing life … He”s just been so pivotal for so many people. It”s really emotional to talk about. Meeting him was probably one of the best moments of my life, and it will be a great loss … He”s so coherent, he”s so smart, he”s so amazing.  Obviously, I”m hoping he”ll recover.
But reading books about him, seeing things, seeing what he went through … I started to read his autobiography after I left South Africa last year. It”s just amazing. Where he started as a kid, then going from there, making his way really to the top … [is] completely inconceivable. Having so many people love him and cherish him for who he was, for being black, for being in South Africa at a time where maybe it wasn”t the best moment to be black in South Africa.
He”s had a great story. Everyone, individuals of all races and nations and countries can learn from his stellar life.”
James Blake noted, “The guy spent 27 years in prison for what he believed in. You know, we”re out here and we think we”re doing something important playing a tennis match, and it puts [things] into perspective when someone has such a belief that they”re willing to go to jail for it. They”re willing to fight for it.
Then in the end they change a country and in turn change the world. I can”t fathom having that kind of effect on the world. I”m trying to do my best just to effect the people around me in a positive way. My wife, my daughter, my mom. For him to effect that many people, we all owe him a huge debt of gratitude. Including me, especially.”