What makes Wimbledon so special?

What makes Wimbledon so special?


What makes Wimbledon so special?

Eight times Grand Slam champion Ivan Lendl could not lay his hands on the coveted Wimbledon trophy, the only grass-court Slam. He twice made the finals at SW 19, but couldn’t pass the final hurdle: In 1986 he lost to Boris Becker and, in ’87, he met the same fate at the hands of Pat Cash. In fact, the Czech-American had made his dislike for the event quite clear by famously saying, ‘Grass is for cows’ while giving the tournament a miss in 1982!

Whether he said those words out of utter frustration or in pure jest is debatable, but what can’t be doubted is Wimbledon’s exalted position among all Grand Slams.
Players dream of participating in the meet, fans eagerly await for the action to unfold and puritans soak in the atmosphere that places a premium on tradition, despite the event going through many make-overs —  whether it’s the state-of-the-art courts or the 84-million pound roof at the famed Centre Court.

Steeped in ceremony throughout its 134-year history, Wimbledon’s adherence to traditions has set it apart from other Grand Slams.

Of the four Slam events, Wimbledon is the only tournament that is still played on a natural surface whereas each of the other championships — the US Open, Australian Open, and French Open – has opted for either hard courts or clay courts, though they all had their beginnings on grass.

There is something about grass courts and white clothing that is so alluring. While the organisers have conceded ground on some issues — and sometimes even reluctantly —  they have stuck to all-white uniform unlike other Slams, where colour clothing of all manner is allowed.

Although the All England Lawn Tennis Association has steadfastly refused to compromise on the aesthetic aspects, Wimbledon officials have gone for slower courts to ensure longer rallies. The serve-and-volley game, which you witness little of in other Slams, is at once refreshing and delightful.

For a professional tennis player, winning Wimbledon is the pinnacle of his or her career, and no one described it better than Martina Navratilova, arguably the greatest women player ever. “Wimbledon is like a drug. Once you win it for the first time you feel you’ve just got to do it again and again and again...”

While the British may pride, and rightfully so, in maintaining the old-world charm at the event, there is one tradition that they would love to see changed. There hasn’t been a home champion for many, many years at the most famous of tennis championships. The last British woman to capture the singles title at Wimbledon was Virginia Wade in 1977 and the last British man was Fred Perry in 1936!

The comeback champ!
As comebacks go, this one has to be right up there amongst the best: The 2001 final between Goran Ivanisevic and Pat Rafter. But seldom has a comeback left the players and the fans alike so emotionally drained at the end of it all.

Ivanisevic won the Wimbledon title in his fourth final appearance, defeating Australia’s Rafter (6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5) in one of the most exciting finals of the grass-court championship. He had won only nine matches entering Wimbledon that year and his left shoulder, which was later operated upon, was in pain.

Ranked 125 in the world, he was given a wild card based on his previous performances, having lost the three finals in 1992, ’94 and ’98. The Croat was tagged “the most talented player never to have won Wimbledon”. But not any longer after that memorable fortnight in 2001.

Memorable match
For its sheer length of time, the match between American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut stands out as one of the most memorable matches in the history of Wimbledon. In what is the longest ever tennis match, Isner defeated Mahut in five sets (6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68) in 2010 to become part of Wimbledon folklore.

The match in itself may not have matched the fierce rivalry of John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg or the classicism of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, but for sheer longevity this match is right up there among the game’s classics. By the time Isner hit a backhand winner, after 11 hours and five minutes of play, it had broken all previous records for the longest match, the longest set and the most games played!

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