​All good things come to an end.  Wimbledon.  Quintessentially British.  A little piece of time stood still, seemingly protected from the winds of change … or is it?
Wimbledon is synonymous with summer and, growing up, it meant the start of the school holidays and that glorious feeling of freedom.  Sunshine, long summer evenings, the sound of lawnmowers, the smell of cut grass, the unforgettable voice of Dan Maskell and that instantly recognizable theme tune!  I was a huge Borg fan (aged 14, who wouldn’t be?) and I was glued to the television throughout the fortnight.  There were plenty of characters to choose from in that wonderful era, however, and my mother and sister were avid Nastase supporters – the fun we used to have screaming at the television whenever the two played against each other.  Add to the mix Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe and not only was one guaranteed great tennis but also great entertainment.  To think they played with wooden racquets and, in the world of tennis, a ‘team’ was a collective term used in football!  No personal physios, psychologists,  trainers, mentors, managers, chefs, personal valets whatever!  They carried their own bags, ran their own baths and had one coach.  Natural athletes with a love of tennis and a talent honed with hard work and, usually, the sacrifices and support of family.  Bjorn Borg was a tennis player not a ‘business’.
What of the women?  As in the men’s game, there were key players such as Billie Jean King,  Evonne Goolagong and notably the arch ‘rivals’, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.  Fashion played an integral part – like it or not and, once, it did not provoke controversy!  It was fun to see who was wearing what and the former was a clear winner in this field; known for her matching hair accessories, Chrissie always looked so feminine and, belying her prowess, there was never a hair out of place or a bead of sweat on her forehead.  Hers was a baseline game – one of the first, I think – but was always exciting, nonetheless.  As with the men, one knew every player in those days; they were individuals …  Actually, I have just googled the 1977 Championships when Virginia Wade won the trophy for the home team!  For some reason, I thought that was the year of a players’ boycott but I do her an injustice.  I was wrong.  In looking it up, however, I happened to notice the prize money for that year: Bjorn Borg, winning for the second time, received a cheque for £15,000 while Virginia Wade received £13,500.  This year, both Roger Federer and Garbine Muguruza left Centre Court with 2.2 million.  Speechless.
That said, one must remember there is now a multitude to support!  No longer the player and coach, one can only imagine how much it costs for the ‘team’ and entourage to travel the world.  Nadal would appear to be all too aware as he was seen to be doing his own food shopping in the Village, even using the self checkout in Tesco Express!  Respect.
Returning to the prize money, did you know that those who qualify for Wimbledon – now, there’s the sticking point – and walk onto court for a First Round match automatically leave with £35,000?!  The things one learns too late in life …  However, there was a bit of controversy this year as, apparently, several succumbed to injury in their first match and retired cheque in hand.  Not bad for appearance money!
On the subject of injury, though, what was going on?  Andy was hobbling around like an advert for Help the Aged; on the first Tuesday, both Djokovic and Federer’s opponents retired mid-way through their matches, due to injury, leaving a Centre Court crowd more than a little disgruntled and that was following three retirements in the men’s main draw on the opening day, including Nick Krygios!  Fast forward to the Quarter Finals and Djokovic pulled the plug on what should have been an exciting battle against Berdych when he retired due to an ongoing shoulder injury.  Interestingly, he was one set down and had just lost his serve in the second set.  Andy, on the other hand, fought right to the end, clearly in pain and, finally, even leaning on his raquet as though a walking stick!
One cannot help but compare the exits of Djokovic and Murray: Djokovic was losing and retired not only disappointing the crowd but also depriving Berdych of any glory; Murray played on, in obvious agony, prepared to be beaten.  Later in the press conference, when asked about his hip and the pain he was in, he was dismissive.  All hail to Murray, the true sportsman and nice guy!
It does beggar the question why all these injuries?  I don’t remember hearing of such in the past; can’t for the life of me remember McEnroe, Borg or Connors retiring injured.  So, what’s different?  One need look no further than ‘the team’!  A tennis player is no longer just that; he or she is a machine.  When one looks at old footage of Andy Murray, even as recently as two or three years ago, it is obvious how much he has bulked up.  His training routine appears relentless, his physique and fitness on a par with his racquet skills but at what cost?  Is it right to be pushing the body to extreme?  Will there be long-term effects?  I don’t know.  Tennis is no longer a sport.  Of course there is still prestige to be won, history to be made but, as with everything else today, it is the lure of wealth which drives it.
As a little girl, I dreamed of one day going to Wimbledon; sitting on Centre Court.  I have been lucky enough to do exactly that several times over the last few years and it was definitely a dream worth having!  I shall never tire of the emotion one feels as one walks down the hill towards the All England Club and catches that first glimpse of the green and white striped awning and the familiar ivy of Centre Court …  Everyone is well dressed, friendly and the atmosphere is buzzing.  One is about to enter a little bubble apparently unaffected by time.  It looks just as it does on television although Centre Court is, perhaps, smaller than it appears.  No matter, it oozes tradition, nostalgia and a tangible link to the past – blink and for a moment one can see Borg and McEnroe, wooden racquets in hand, locked in combat …  It is endearing, and a tribute not only to the esteem in which these Championships are held but to the allure of the place itself, that these two icons treasure their association with that leafy pocket of SW19.  I understand.  Three years ago, we decided not to go but rather save money and spend the fortnight glued to the television.  What a mistake!  We hated every minute of it and vowed never to listen to our heads again.  Wimbledon is more than a place; more than a tennis tournament.  It gets under your skin and finds a way into your heart …
Appropriate, then, that I end with the Rudyard Kipling quote which is above the door as the players walk out onto Centre Court – and on the silver bangles that both Becca and I wear and treasure:
‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same …’
Can somebody just remind me what a ‘Triumph’ is?!
This is Trish, signing off.