Wimbledon should have started yesterday. Of all the sporting events cancelled in 2020, this is the one I’ll miss the most because it’s an annual event, because of the wall-to-wall TV coverage and because I love tennis.
We’d have been in the midst of the Euros Football now and looking forward to the Olympics but hopefully they’ll happen next year so they’re not lost altogether whereas this Wimbledon will never happen.
I was so looking forward to being fully retired and watching every hour of coverage from mid-morning right the way through to the drama of those late night matches. It feels like such a loss.
I’ve been watching The Championships at this time of year ever since I can remember. My mum was a great tennis fan and when it was on she barely moved from the lounge. Her usual dedication to being a wonderful mother went out of the window and it felt like we had to fend for ourselves for a fortnight.
My first recollections of watching Wimbledon with my mum was in the early seventies. I can still remember her outrage at the final of 1974 when the brash Jimmy Connors – who she hated – bullied off court the ageing Ken Rosewall – who she loved – in under two hours. She was so happy just a year later when he got his comeuppance and lost to Arthur Ashe in that classic final of guile over power.
In that year a young Swede – a supposed clay court specialist – had already won the French Open twice. His name was Bjorn Borg and over my teenage years he became my ultimate sporting hero.
I still remember many of his great matches during his five consecutive Wimbledon wins including the great finals with John McEnroe. I felt bereft when he lost what turned out to be his last one in that great final of 1981.
Those early years of watching Wimbledon at home with my mum recall a golden era of my life when I felt happy, loved and secure with very few cares in the world.
I actually got to see Borg play at Wimbledon when I wentin 1981 with a friend. We hadn’t really planned ahead and ended up sleeping rough the night we arrived in a corridor of some flats near the grounds. It was surprising cold for a mid-summer’s night.
We got in the queue very early the following morning and managed to get into centre court and watched Borg versus old rival Vitas Gerulaitis in the fourth round which he won straight sets.
I’ve been lucky enough to go to Wimbledon a few times since then including one magical day when I took my mum there, I’ll never forget how excited she was.
The green grounds with its ivy and lawns are beautiful, the relaxed atmosphere – with its strawberries, Pimms and jazz quartets – is like no other. How it’s modernised while respecting its traditions and retaining its class is so impressive.
All seems to run like clockwork and the people who work there are so professional and respectful, it makes me truly proud to be English. I believe it’s the greatest sporting venue in the world and when it’s on there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
After Borg there was the ‘Come on Tim’ era when our home-grown hero Henman put us through so many agonies only to lose in the semi-finals four times.
Eventually, of course, we did get our British winner after 77 years when Andy Murray defeated Novak Djokovic in 2013. I can still picture him punching the air with his trophy on the centre court balcony, the moment the country fell in love with him.
Watching that agonising final game of ten deuces – as I have just now – makes me feel emotional for seeing a Brit win after all those years, for the unique drama of the sport. for Wimbledon and all it represents and for the wonderful scenes of mass joy that I feel like we might have lost forever.