Let’s play – its Wimbledon

Wimbledon starts on July 1 and a fortnight later, the winners of the men’s and women’s singles finals will be taking their bow on centre court in front of an adoring crowd and will feel justly proud because that was what they were there for – the honour of winning the most prestigious title in tennisdom.

If what I read in the paper recently is correct, both winners will take home cheques of a little more than R43m each; that’s right, R43m for two weeks’ work.

The prize-money, however, is incidental as both would be multi-millionaires anyway as a result of forward endorsements and sponsorships.

And listen to this: even if you exit the tournament with a first round thrashing of 6-0 6-0 6-0, you will still walk away with a nice little nest-egg in the region of R841,000.

Thanks for coming!
Pass the sal volatile!

Be that as it may, Nothing on earth – including the Olympic Games – has the electrifying sense of history, the elegance, the charm or the allure of Wimbledon. Nothing can dull the anticipation that sweeps England and the world at the start of the Wimbledon Championships.

The Wimbledon fortnight, as ever, will be a rather joyful rip-off for every slick street-wise operator in London. Remarkably, it is done with wit and charm and only the most gullible and foolish suffer if they buy forged tickets, ghastly hot dogs and souvenirs designed to fall apart in five minutes!

And if you hurry, you can still get a centre court seat for the men’s final for the small matter of R45,339!

But alas, gone are the little things of a more tranquil era like pretty, frilly and feminine dresses of the Teddy Tingling era. Instead it’s like a unisex show now with both men and women wearing the same logo-emblazoned shirts.

They even play the same type of power game! Their court antics are the same, they question line calls and remonstrate in the same way. In some cases even the hairstyles are similar.

Gone are many of the characters, whether you loved or hated them, who were so much a part of Wimbledon. Whether or not their often over-the-top antics helped them win, they certainly made tennis hugely popular. Tennis owes them a great debt of gratitude.

In their stead we have for the most part, a bunch of single-minded, poker–faced “grunting machines” who try to hit the fluff off the ball!

The perennial question of course is whether today’s champions are better players compared to their predecessors. One will never really know because like golf and cricket, tennis professionalism has dramatically improved. The quality of equipment and training schedules, coaching and the like are far more sophisticated than before.

Nevertheless, weather permitting, 400,000 people will cram into the few acres of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club to watch the great contest through to its centre court climax And another 500 or so million more will watch on television.

Welcome to Wimbledon.

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