I had the pleasure of covering 17 Wimbledons for the
Wimbledon is a pristine morning at the Southfields station, fresh off the train and ready for a 15-minute walk to the All England Club through quaint, leafy neighborhoods. I've made that walk hundreds of times, always on the lookout for
It's the sight of Centre Court on the opening Monday, a surface more immaculate than the White House lawn. The rest of the Wimbledon courts get used during the year, but not Centre. It gets pampered and manicured by studious men on their hands and knees. When play begins each day of the tournament, right through to the final, no anthems or patriotic themes are played. These people know what country they're in, and pride is a given. No tired reminders necessary.
Wimbledon is walking through the gates around noon and realizing that a full-fledged band is playing right around the corner. It's not Black Sabbath, or a bunch of hacks playing for cheap. These guys sound like the old Count Basie band, right on time. When they come into view, you discover that they're a bunch of London teenagers in crisp white shirts, hip and talented beyond their years.
Wimbledon is a haven for commercialization and corporate interests, but it's so curious: You seldom see the evidence. And for an institution that stands for tradition above all, this club is progressive, constantly modernizing the venues and facilities. The old Court One, which looked to have dated back to medieval times, felt like church. You went there to absorb the religion of tennis. I sat there in 1989 when
Wimbledon represents the ultimate, a place to which so many former greats return. Strolling the grounds in a given year, you might see
Venturing to the outer courts, you almost feel like you're in play. Fans usually stand 3-4 deep along the sidelines, and if you're right up front, you can
Wimbledon is the essential convergence of reverence and bedlam, a mighty roar giving way to absolute silence before the next serve goes up. At the U.S. Open, there's always some clown yelling out from the rafters. Not at the cathedral. I knew it would always be that way, under any circumstances, after
The day begins with a perusal of the daily "programme." A well-read gentleman named
Wimbledon is waking up to read this, from the wondrous
On my first trip in 1987, Wimbledon was
If you get to Wimbledon and lament having missed a roofless Centre Court, you won't feel so tardy after the fourth straight day of rain. After 132 years, that roof's day had come. Still, I take my most cherished memories from Wimbledon's growing darkness.
First there was Sampras in 2000, breaking
The last match I ever witnessed at Wimbledon just happened to be its greatest: the
Once again, the match
There is no such thing as a forgettable Wimbledon. For me, all 17 were magnificent, each a bit more rewarding than the last. It arrives next Monday, and I envy those who can stroll those charming neighborhoods, take full stock of grass-court tennis, get such a distinct view of greatness. It's the best time of year.