Sunday, July 3, 2011
It's mens final day at Wimbledon today but I had to check the BBC website to find out who's playing.
I admit Wimbledon has passed me by since moving to the USA and I'm not sure I could find tennis on ESPN on bargain basement package.
I've been estranged from Wimbledon for many years now but still recall how the popping of balls on a summer day, the sighs of the players and the line calls "fifteen - love" cracking across the afternoon, punctuated listless sunny days at home. I can't say I ever went to see the matches, ate strawberries and cream or hung out with the other fools on Henman Hill, but Wimbledon in all it's time warp glory was always there in the background.
These days I find out who's won by updates from friends on Facebook. The final is between Rafael Nadal, the defending champion, who I have heard of, and Novak Djokovic, who has made it to world number one without me ever hearing about him. Since when did Wimbledon become dominated by dour looking guys wearing baseball caps? Many years ago probably.
Nor had I heard of the new ladies champion - Petra Kvivota, a 21-year-old from a small town in the Czech Republic.
It says a lot about Wimbledon that it still clings to the archaic name "ladies" in an era of Nike aerodynamic sports wear where the term "ladies" seems to miss the mark.
Whereas back in the day in their fine whites ladies looked like ladies; unless they looked like Billy Jean King or Martina Navratilova, of course.
I suppose in my household there was an element of sneering about some of the Americans who came over and failed to conform to the Wimbledon etiquette. But the US seemed to have better players in those days.
We all have our own perceived 'goldern era' of Wimbledon but for me it was the era of John McEnroe. For me as well as half the country McEnroe was the player we loved to hate; the quintessential American brat with a bad temper and a worse hair do, the whole country would will him to lose. His tantrums with the umpires because the stuff of legend.
And ultimately the whole country was forced to concede it would give its right arm to have a player as talented as "Super Brat."
McEnroe overlapped with the super cool Swede Bjorn Borg and there was one classic final where Swedish precision narrowly overcame raw and angry talent. Then there was another famous final in which McEnroe slugged it out with Jimmy Connors, another American great whose trademark grunt is still probably echoing around the hallowed lawns of SW19.
If the domonation of the Americans has declined at Wimbledon, the domination of the British has predictably never materialised.
But our reputation for gallant losers, who make the semis and raise expectations before crashing out, is alive and kicking. Andy Murray is the latest nearly man, although he's failed to occupy the rock star loser status given to Tim Henman.
For one thing he's Scottish, for another he doesn't look the part. Someone described his facial hair as resembling Steffi Graf's arm pit. You can't really follow that.