Wimbledon Teeters – I Remember

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Photo by Getty Images

Bill Simons

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

Tennis bliss.

Though the cathedral is empty

My imagination soars,

For the ghosts of Lenglen and Tilden, Budge and Kramer, still swirl

Echoes sound.

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

Wimbledon remains

Generous stage, sporting temple

Sage and witness

And, in silence, I embrace its gift

A love for all time.

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1 COMMENT

  1. What a beautiful piece on Wimbledon, Bill. It brought back so many happy memories that Bob and I shared there. There is no place in the tennis world that is as special!

    Best wishes,

    Betty Cookson

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