We’ll Always Have Wimbledon – Glistening Grass, Pink Petunias and a Dazzling Princess

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(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Bill Simons

NOT THE FIRST TIME: Wimbledon was canceled for the first time, aside from war, since 1877. It was shut down from 1915 to 1919 and from 1940 to 1945. Its roof was bombed badly in 1940 and during WWII it was used as a civil defense center. 

SAY IT ISN’T SO: During the “People’s Monday” final in 2001, the ump called out “Quiet, please” 116 times…Stefan Edberg never lost his serve and still lost his semi… Former Wimbledon chief Chris Gorringe said, “Yes [we could provide equal prize money for women], but then we wouldn’t have so much to spend on petunias.”

NUCLEAR WASTE AND THE GREENING OF WIMBLEDON: Here are some takes by the sassy British writer Sue Mott.

  • “The Wimbledon atmosphere has all the jubilant buzz of the change of shift at a nuclear waste disposal plant.”  
  • “Only Britons interpret the umpire’s opening word ‘Play!’ as a knell of doom…After all, the back view of receding British women with towels around their hunched shoulders is a familiar sight to regular Wimbledon watchers.”
  • “The Wimbledon draw is unzipping like one of Mata Hari’s dresses.” 
  • “The Wimbledon crowd, unswervingly toff-to-middle class, provides a temporary antidote to those who imagine that the English, en masse, must revert to ripping off their shirts, revealing vulgar tattoos, brimful beer guts and violent streaks that terrorize the world.”

NO TWITCHING OFF: One English fan celebrated Las Vegas’ best player by saying, “Agasino, oh, he’s scruffy. He needs a hair wash and a bath, but he plays with a good sporting instinct. My old aunt is just potty about him. I just hope he doesn’t absolutely twitch off.”

JESUS, THAT GUY WAS GOOD: After Sampras crushed Agassi, Andre said, “His storm was too strong. He walked on water.”

FROM BORE TO GOAT? Sampras noted, “People are always talking about personality, but what is it? Is it going out there and doing your best? Or is it screwing around and losing?…The first time I won Wimbledon, they said I was boring; the second time, they said I played boring; and the third, I was suddenly the greatest player in the world!”

HEADLINES:

Extreme Ironing, Anyone? (It’s All We’re Good At)”…“Never Mind: There’s Still the Olympics for Us to Lose”… “Cheer Up, England, We Are Still Champs (at Bog Snorkeling)

Weather Terrible, Sterling Tumbling, Politics Dismal, Euro Flops, Brexit Coming, Recession Looming – Andy Please Cheer Us Up – The Observer 

LOCKER ROOM MADNESS: Goran Ivanisevic’s dad said the Wimbledon locker room was “like an insane asylum. Someone throwing a racket, someone crashing a locker door, someone laughing, someone crying.”

QUIET PLEASE: A fan telephoned Wimbledon to ask if the volume of the applause on Centre Court could be turned down because he couldn’t concentrate on the tennis. 

CURIOUS QUESTIONS: The day after his marathon match against Sjeng Schalken, a reporter asked Mark Philippoussis, “Did you wake up the next morning?”….When Arthur Ashe Stadium first opened, a security worker asked if Wimbledon could be played there each year…After being crushed by Serena, Elena Vesnina was asked, “Was that everything you feared it would be?”…Agassi was asked, “Which is more satisfying, being in love but not winning any matches, or, quite the opposite, being the French Open champ and not being married?”

MOST BORING ANALYSIS: Stefan Edberg noted that after Bjorn Borg, many Swedes faltered at Wimbledon “because grass is an exciting game and we are a boring people.”

 ALIBI ALLEY:

  • Ivan Lendl said he wouldn’t be playing Wimbledon because he was allergic to grass. He soon was spotted on a golf course.
  • When Agassi announced that he was skipping Wimbledon in order to train, Navratilova scoffed, “That’s like saying, I can’t play in the Super Bowl. I got to go get ready for training camp.”
  • Steffi’s father flaunted tennis’ no-coaching rule, and explained his daughter had trouble beating Navratilova in a Wimbledon final because she “misunderstood my signals.”

SUCH A ROMANTIC: After someone yelled out “Marry me, Steffi,” Graf shouted back, “How much money do you have?”

GO FIGURE: At Wimbledon, Ivo Karlovic blasted 61 aces, but lost…1985 junior champion Leo Lavalle was three months older than men’s champ Boris Becker…A maintenance worker was almost buried alive by a tarp…Long before Federer, Tommy Haas and Grigor Dimitrov created their fabled trio, Martina Navratilova, Pam Shriver and Virgina Wade sang backup to British pop star Cliff Richard in an impromptu rain-delay concert…There’s a pineapple on the top of the Wimbledon men’s trophy…Wimbledon was first broadcast in Russia in 1987…Navratilova won the mixed at age 46. 

REFLECTIONS ON LOSS: “I tried. I lost. It’s not a drama,” said Rafa Nadal after he fell to Nick Kyrgios…Simon Barnes noted, “Jana Novotna played a game of tennis for everyone who has ever made an absolutely ghastly mistake. Or, to put it another way, for the entire human race.”

OF HONOR  AND DISHONOR: At the funeral of his coach, Tim Gullikson, Sampras presented his trophy from his first Wimbledon title. Wimbledon sent Sampras a replacement trophy because, they said, “All of us felt it was such a noble gesture and he has always conducted himself so well at our Championships.”…For a year after he won, the All-England Club denied 1981 champ John McEnroe the customary honor of membership in the club.

FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME: In 1999, out of nowhere, Alexandra Stevenson reached the semis. After that, she never got beyond the second round of a Slam.

SOUNDS GOOD TO US: Boris Becker said the Wimbledon fortnight was “like a long foreplay that ends with a huge orgasm.”

NEVER AGAIN: In 1985, Kevin Curren lost the final, played with white balls. In 1986, when yellow balls were introduced, he fell in the first round to become the only player to lose successive Wimbledon rounds with different colored balls.

BEWARE THE SCRAWNY KID: In 1982 Billie Jean King said: “You may not believe it, but there’s a scrawny little kid in West Germany who I think will be our next No. 1. Her name is Steffi Graf.”

MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: After Natasha Zvereva fell in the 1998 semis, she said, “I’m tired. I need a mental institution break.”

ANIMAL HOUSE: Mary Carillo explained the cause of a bad bounce on a soggy Wimbledon Centre Court. She said, “A worm probably came up for air.”…Free-spirited Frenchman Henri Leconte interrupted his Wimbledon semi to delicately coax a tennis-loving butterfly onto his racquet before removing him from harm’s way…A few years back, the Wimbledon hawk was stolen…After Sam Querrey beat Novak Djokovic, his coach Craig Boynton explained that “Sometimes a blind squirrel finds a nut.”

NOT A FAN OF THE  PLACE AND ITS FOOD: Russian Marat Safin was not a fan of Wimbledon or its food. “We get 20 pounds for lunch. I have a coach and a masseuse, and one portion of the most uneatable spaghetti costs 12 pounds. A portion of tasteless strawberries with cream costs five pounds…The rest of the food is horrible – fish and chips everywhere…How can you give such a treatment to people?”

JUST AIN’T FAIR: Ivan Lendl’s coach Tony Roche had sat through dozens of his pupil’s matches in Wimbledon’s Friends Box. When Roche finally got his chance to play a senior doubles match on Centre Court, Lendl watched a soccer game on TV. 

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: White balls, curtsies, Court 2 (the upset court), incessant rain delays, 2 PM show court starts, virtually silent award ceremonies, Ted Tinling, Bud Collins and a dazzling Princess named Diana.  

POIGNANT FINISH: After losing in her last singles match in 2004, Martina kneeled to collect a souvenir blade of Centre Court grass.

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