Of all the occasions to look forward to every summer, Wimbledon has pride of place in many a heart. The sheer thrill of a lightning quick serve followed by an adeptly placed volley, the sight of impeccably manicured grass, the resplendent whites and the ‘pucca’ British decorum- all make for a fortnight that becalms the senses and delights the mind.
There’s more – the graceful yet boisterous audience, the courtesies and bows before the royal box, the post-match interviews, replete with candour and wittiness, the highs, the lows, the sighs and the blows. The sheer pageantry, fanfare and style of Wimbledon hold us in thrall. The meticulous eye for detail, the clockwork precision and timing — on the court and off it — the ubiquitous strawberries and cream, as well as the smart officials and blazer-clad organisers, all add to the aura, the magic, the splendour of the big W.
Yet, and inevitably so, the sheer artistry, skill and stamina of the players, women and men, over the decades, has been the abiding memory of Wimbledon’s stature as the ultimate test of a tennis player’s mastery over his or her art. Legendary figures like Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg, often had us gaping and gasping, as we watched their exploits on television. The Centre Court at Wimbledon was their performing arena, the real Mecca of their careers.
Roger Federer, he who turns forty in August, continues to defy age and injury. At the time of going to press, he is still in the battle, a champion whose dazzling best years are behind him, but who, on grass at least, is still a wizard whose pure class is like a chocolate dessert worth savouring and mooning over, later.
Novak Djokovic the defending champion, and Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Andy Murray, all former champions, have turned up to showcase their skills yet again, though with contrasting results. The heartbreak of a champ’s early exit from the Oscar of all tennis tournaments is clearly as much a part of its drama as are success, victory and triumph.
And for a world which has been battered and bruised by the maniacal pandemic, the very fact that Wimbledon, the Euro Cup and Test Cricket are being staged before adoring fans, provides a sense of resurgence and rejuvenation like no other. Sports is the panacea for many ills of this world, as has been pointed out by this columnist earlier too. Nations which focus their energies on sports and the arts, in order to raise the levels of consciousness of their citizens, will find harmony and happiness relatively easier to attain, than those which keep squabbling internally. Many a young girl, for instance, can be empowered much more through sport and music than she can through the arduous and exacting route of laboured studies. India’s focus in particular, needs to shift partly towards creating a culture of sports in the society, which western countries have successfully adopted for decades.
Thus, when an all-Indian mixed doubles match took place at SW19, London, during this year’s edition, it was a joy to behold. Sania Mirza, Rohan Bopanna, Ram Ramanathan and Ankita Raina displayed skills, athleticism and finesse on the court, which made one proud to be Indian. Many a young lady can match up to the likes of Mirza and Raina, given the right conditions and encouragement by the establishment, the system and society at large.
The masterclass that the likes of Federer, Djokovic and Angelique Kerber are dishing out before our eyes as we reach the midpoint of the Wimbledon fortnight has been matched by amazing spectacles like Richard Gasquet’s astonishing backhand winner in the face of a Federer smash.
But even more endearing have been the instances of Federer humbly admitting that his English is not above par, when asked about absence, making the heart grow fonder. And Venus trying to high five her mixed doubles partner, Nick Kyrgios, only to be inadvertently ignored!
For millions, the thralldom of Wimbledon’s epic drama endures. There will be champions once more, but humanity at large will have won the real battle.