Not that I have been immersed with this beautiful game over the last few couple of years (or perhaps even more), but Wimbledon has always blown me away with it’s charm.
It’s my pick amongst the 4 grand slams and inarguably, the most popular one amongst the people and critics alike. We need not be democratic here, and few would disagree but probably for me, synthetic surfaces never exuded the charisma of this legendary battlefield and clay courts were too slow for me to catch up with.
There was a time when I used track records and history of this game like a beehive; I have obviously lost touch but still try to keep up with it’s histrionics.
Every game has undergone transformation in the last 2-3 decades, and tennis has been no exception. Rod Laver used to epitomise class and gesture with his technical power play (Roy Emerson heralded this skill very early in the last century). Then came the era of exuberance and tenacity. Bjorn Borg was instrumental in installing his stamp all over the game in the one era; John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker took the game to a new planet. I was always a self confessed Becker admirer (till Sampras joined my books) and loved few of his extravagant strokes against legends like McEnroe and Edberg; he still remains the youngest unseeded Wimbledon champion in 1985. He went on to win couple of more and was indeed a pleasure to watch. Not to forget, our very own Vijay Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan have had some memorable moments to cherish in this lawn of eternal grass. It was the age of serve-and-volley players and the game looked elegant at it’s very best.
I am not done yet; as then arrived the era of an iconic Pete Sampras. You ask me and I would rate him as one of the greatest players to have ever graced game of tennis. His composure, awe inspiring game play and disciplined approach were stuff that legends are made of. He indeed, was one. And, he was not alone. Another all time great, the mercurial Andre Agassi would give him a run for his money. Trust me, their duels were worth negotiating for and their rivalry is counted amongst the finest. Jim Courier, Goran Ivanisevic, Patrick Rafter, Tim Henman were a part of the elite bandwagon but got overshadowed in the presence of the two powerhouses. Power and precision were hallmarks of this period of play and the game witnessed shift in gears. I still remember Becker’s statement after he lost his final Wimbledon encounter (I am unable to recollect the year but it must be during the early or mid nineties) at the summit clash to Pete: “I used to own this place, now he owns it”. Words usually describe expressions, this one told us the story of two great champions, one set to rule and the other bidding adieu in grace.
Since then, we have enjoyed the peerless Roger Federer and the ferociously talented Rafa at their best, and enthralling us with their ethereal stroke-play. We have to admit, their rivalry was never adequately challenged and their dominance in the last decade has remained undisputed, to say the least. With Djokovic’s triumph, I could sense a beginning of a new chapter in the annals of tennis history. Perhaps, more to come our way.
The names I talked about were immensely talented and in a league of their own in all surfaces, but most of them sizzled in grass courts and Wimbledon is the queen of all grand slams.
I am still considering myself to be a pale out-of-sync in terms of contemporary statistics, but come June and ‘The All England Club’ thwarts me to revive younger memories, of me and the game.