‘Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength.’
Novak Djokovic. Roger Federer. I salute you both.
Wimbledon almost passed me by this year. Moving house and with a TV lost amidst boxes, I attempted to erase the first week from my mind but, as always, we were booked to go down for the second Wednesday and I was holding on to that.
One tends to break through the exhaustion barrier and keep going and, thus, we found the strength to pack yet another bag and drive through the teeming rain – it is July after all – to Edinburgh to catch the midday train to Kings Cross last Tuesday. Should I skip the journey? Don’t be ridiculous. It’s a gift! Having requested a table and forward seating, we, of course, had neither. Unbeknown to us, we had actually booked a bus to Kings Cross albeit a slightly faster one. Squashed up against the seats in front with barely room to breathe, we were spared the sight of those who somehow dare to condone the self-indulgent partaking of a bag of crisps whilst travelling on public transport! Always a family bag, I might add. In short, nothing changes other than one’s tolerance levels, perhaps. Public transport, like so much in life now, demands a debasing of one’s expectations to the lowest level. It’s called survival.
The heat of London was nothing short of a surprise. Still the blanket of low cloud, to which we have become accustomed, persisted but the humidity was relentless … Donald! Climate change? No question. Still, Wimbledon beckoned and, having seen nothing of the first week, we hit the Quarter Finals. Who’s playing? To be honest, that sums up my life of late! An honour, as ever, to be within the confines of the AELTC, we sampled the champagne and the atmosphere in the Pergola Bar before heading to Henman Hill to watch the matches on the big screen … which is now split into two! Big mistake. Federer v Nishikori and Nadal v Querrey. Who to watch? In previous years, the Centre Court match would take precedence and, intermittently, the Court 1 scores would flash up. Now, the crowd are split as is one’s attention and confusion abounds. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it!
We returned on Friday with tickets to Court 1 but, other than enabling immediate access through the main gates, they were of little consequence being that both Men’s Semi-final matches are played on Centre. Why? The Royal Box is on Centre Court as are the most expensive corporate seats. Of course, it would make sense to have both matches played simultaneously and, particularly, as the new roof on Court 1 has been such a big thing this year but … money talks.
People-watching at Wimbledon, however, is endless fun and my favourite spot is the bench at the top of the ‘corridor’ past Centre Court leading up to the Media Hub. We spent some time there soaking up the buzz of Men’s Semi-final day and were rewarded with the passing of Sue Barker and Chris Evert. Both surprisingly tiny – and caked in make-up – it took several takes to identify the seventies golden girl who, according to Becca, has had ‘a lot of work done!’ – Chris Evert, that is. Still, one cannot deny the thrill to see in person. Sadly, however, we had to drag ourselves away as we, enviously, watched those and such as those making their way into the enfolds of the iconic Centre Court for an afternoon of everything quintessentially British. I always find it hard to walk out through those gates for another year; to leave behind a world of escapism, clinging to a bygone era when gentlemen were gentlemen and ladies were ladies, and return to harsh reality. Summer is truly over …
A golden hue has replaced the verdant green courts of the opening Monday reflecting a fortnight of play, history made and the imprints of all those who have strived to achieve their dreams. The final match has been played and, once more, it feels as though summer is drifting away for another year. As I have said many times before, throughout my childhood the anticipation of Wimbledon co-incided with that of the summer holidays. It was one of the year’s highlights and never failed to entertain. As the well-worn grass courts turned to golden dust, however, it marked the end of the magic for another year … nothing has changed.
Djokovic. Federer. Equality. Gripped by that magnificent battle today, I couldn’t help but reflect on the contrast between the Men’s Final and that of the Ladies yesterday. I re-iterate the word equality! The two titans I watched today gave it their absolute all in four hours and fifty-seven minutes in a display of tennis magic second to none. Fitness, finesse and sheer courage. In an ideal world, neither would have to lose but … in the first ever tie-break in a Wimbledon Final, kicking in at 12:12 in the fifth set, Djokovic finally triumphed. A worthy victor, he had been without the support of the crowd throughout and even that of Royalty who, although supposed to be impartial, made little secret of their allegiance. The underdog, I was rooting for him from the start. Never a Federer fan, he has forever been too smooth for me and his penchant for the Middletons and celebrity does nothing to ingratiate. The gentleman of tennis, however, one cannot deny his talent and achievements. Truly amazing and worthy of his place in history.
Back to the subject of equality, though … I managed to catch the Women’s Final yesterday – just! Lasting all of fifty-six minutes, Simona Halep defeated Serena ‘Tantrum’ Williams before one had time to digest one’s lunch. Blink and it was over. A superb achievement for Simona Halep who played out of the box and was a deserving winner. Now £2.35million richer to boot as is Novak Djokovic. Equality? Certainly not my definition.
I have long decried equality for equality’s sake. It is – or should be – absolutely nothing to do with gender but, rather, based on like for like regardless. For as long as I can remember, Wimbledon has decreed that men play the best of five sets and women, the best of three. The prize money reflected this and quite rightly so. However, in 2007, it became the last of the four major tournaments to succumb to pressure and, twelve years on, the ensuing disparity was never more glaringly obvious than today. Compare the Djokovic/Federer Final to that of Halep/Williams yesterday? There is no comparison and, quite honestly, the women were barely on the court long enough for the ink to dry on the winning cheque. Equality? Rather inequality at its best! The world, under pressure, has foregone common sense. Sadly, there is little hope of redress.
‘Fairness is not about statistical equality.’ John Bercow.
Seemingly, the word ‘fairness’ has been consigned to the dictionary – a large book full of words and their definitions pre-Google.
This is Trish, signing off.