Wimbledon strikes its penultimate day. For the women, a legend takes her seventh singles title at the famous venue. The men play tomorrow, with Andy Murray still representing Britain, being recognised as Scottish only in defeat by the masses.
Young children will have watched on during the last few weeks, picking up on peculiarities unique to tennis. Their enquiries ranging from why the man in charge keeps asking for a drink. The reason why those dressed in armed forces’ uniform stand with ball boys and girls. Why do players ask for three balls and always send one back?
These new fans help fill courts up and down the country, along with adults dusting off their rackets for the yearly outing. Promising that they really will carry on playing this time; the delayed New Year’s resolution that meets the same fate as all the rest.
The cross generational experience resumes when watching the telly. They see those that can’t afford Wimbledon strawberries and cream, let alone a premium ticket, wave from Murray Mound. This coming together, just for a glimpse, helps give a taste of the atmosphere to viewers at home. Those too young to remember are informed the grass verge used to be named Henman Hill.
They screw up their faces and ask, “Who?”
The explanation about some Tiger Tim character sums up a deeply seated fear regarding English sport: heroes are made of nearly men that are never quite up to it.
England has spent the summer singing and talking about Three Lions only to be let down by cubs and rich fat cats. But it is at Wimbledon they get to see a true lioness, banishing the focus of sporting failure, replacing it with greatness.
Serena Williams, prowling centre court with beauty and power in equal measure. Delivering feline ferocity while maintaining untouchable grace. This victory makes Wimbledon the spiritual home for a tennis legend. England has been lucky to witness it; tennis is lucky to have her.
The nation waits for tomorrow. The long winter of years without a British Wimbledon winner passed thanks to Murray. Mentions of ’77 and Virginia Wade were only a paracetamol to mask the headache that Fred Perry’s name brought on. The three-time winner is celebrated with deserved adoration, but his last title in 1936, revealed a chasm in domestic sporting achievement.
The youngsters of today think he is just a guy that makes clothes, they see no tennis connection. Nor do they realise the gulf of those vacant decades. They only see a British man entering a Wimbledon final as a clear favourite. As such, Murray now faces a new pressure: expectation.
Such is the fickle nature of sport, the belief a curse was placed on a home winner is overtaken by the conspiracy fate is working to ensure another title for the world’s number two.
Nadal watches on, side-lined and reducing the elite field. Federer was beaten by Father Time and Djokovic left under a mysterious cloud. The path to victory cleared for a presumptive British favourite to take centre court.
He has tasted Olympic gold here, a singles victory, now he looks to assert his place among the upper classes of the game.
If he does, perhaps the British will use an old sentiment and claim Wimbledon victories are like buses. They’ll make this joke as they drag out tennis practice for an extra week while still drinking Robinsons orange juice…the children wondering if the umpire ever got his.