As experiences go, a day out at Wimbledon incorporating the ladies’ final is pretty good going. And one that wouldn’t have happened without my sister’s help.
Negotiate train, bus and security and you’re in. It’s a free for all except for the two main courts. We headed straight to court two to see what was happening. An invitational event. One of those “old fogeys who used to be quite good” matches. Ex-champion Michael Chang was teamed up with former British number one (when it meant second round defeat was success) and TV presenter Andrew Castle.
Opponents from my youth were Jeff Tarango, who used to have the strongest serve in the world and McEnroe. Well, McEnroe’s brother Patrick to be precise. As well as being competitive it was fun. McEnroe inviting the whole crowd to take a picture of him in front of a 101mph serve indicator. “You will never see this old man achieve that again!” he exclaimed with a mixture of shock and immodest pride.
Laughter continued as the ball boys were teased, their strict instructions exploited for comedy value but, above all, both sets of players wanted to win. The sportsman will often never lose that desire to be best, even when their bodies eventually let them down.
In this challenge it was the Brit, Castle, who stood out. Perhaps the poorest of all four in their prime but now just a touch sharper, a touch smarter and, eventually, a winner alongside Chang.
What stood out at the end was these players taking so much time to be there for spectators. A selfie. A group selfie. Repeat X 1000. Patience that appeared genuine. Time that they were so happy to give. This was seen again on other courts throughout the day and included today’s stars as much as those of yesteryear.
I saw two finals. The men’s doubles was the one that I thought would give most entertainment but, without doubt, Venus Williams losing to Muguruza was well ahead.
Both ladies are immensely strong. Williams has a low cross court shot that flies at unstoppable pace beyond an opponent. Muguruza the ability, as the court opens up in front of her, to deceive her opponent like a penalty taker sending the keeper the wrong way.
After a tight first set there was only one possible winner as the second progressed. And for an underdog to win the title in straight sets with a 6-0 finale is pretty impressive. It was also noticeable how the Duke of Kent, having made the headline awards, made time for the “lesser” people on the court who contributed to the efficient running of a great British and international event.
We did the day properly. Pimm’s and lemonade. Strawberries and cream. Some rain. Everything Wimbledon is meant to be! If you ever get the chance, do it. Even if it’s just day one and no finals.