Wimbledon teeters. The grand tournament is in limbo.
Never mind that Boris Becker once said that tennis has three seasons – pre-Wimbledon, Wimbledon and post-Wimbledon. Now, all of tennis asks, will it, like the Olympics, the French Open, and so much of our lives, be postponed?
The key point of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If,” which Wimbledon has long celebrated, now challenges all of us: “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same…yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”
Okay, fair enough. But losing Wimbledon this year will be a stern test for tennis lovers. After all, Billie Jean King recalled, “I used to have my tennis racket in bed with me as a child. That’s how much I dreamed about winning Wimbledon.” John Newcombe was a tad more spicy, saying “Wimbledon. It’s like making love a hundred times to the most beautiful women you ever saw.”
Last year, at a Federer match, I noted a special moment. In front of me the most beautiful player in the world glided with balletic ease across the lawn of the most beautiful court in the world at London’s most beautiful time of day, as the setting sun flooded Centre Court with an embracing glow. I asked, “Am I in tennis heaven?” I was.
Each year, after I file my final Wimbledon story and pack my gear, I make the journey one last time to my press seat, G-165, some 30 yards from where the action recently roared, to appreciate and reflect. This is what I wrote three years ago.
THE WHISPERS OF WIMBLEDON
The roar is muted
The ladies have left
Gents have vanished.
Centre Court – abused and battered – at last rests
A single sprinkler offers its liquid drink
And, from my press seat, G-165, I sit in amazement
Though the cathedral is empty
My imagination soars,
For the ghosts of Lenglen and Tilden, Budge and Kramer, still swirl
A voice whispers, “Well played.”
Here, giants in white have long battled bold
Here, Novotna still weeps
Becker still dives
Sampras serves free
Serena battles fierce
And Swede Bjorn falls to his knees
One last time.
Here Chrissie’s backhands remain immaculate
Martina charges on
Mac’s explosions still thunder.
Here, in this stillness
The quiet knows
Every triumph celebrated
Every tear now dry.
For while generations pass
Generous stage, sporting temple
Sage and witness
And, in silence, I embrace its gift
A love for all time.