Wimbledon 2012: An overwhelming display of warmth

Before I start, let me mention that I enjoyed Wimbledon 2011 far more than 2010.    Both finals produced first time winners and though the matches themselves were somewhat one sided, it was exciting to see the fancied favourites being upset.   Djokovic ran Nadal around Centre Court in ways I hadn’t seen before and Kvitova’s effortless yet powerful groundstrokes were magnificent to behold.

But the sound of the Wimbledon crowd’s applause and the reaction of the champions brought to the fore the difference between 2012 and 2011 more tellingly than any stats or effusive superlatives.    2011 was professional and polished, an entertaining and frequently spectacular exhibition of tennis.  2012 brought sportsperson and spectator closer than is usually the case.

Maybe I watched with rose tinted eyes….I don’t know, I wanted to see Djokovic upset Nadal and was thrilled when he did.  But I seem to remember that he celebrated this year’s Australian Open more emphatically than last year’s Wimbledon, even though it was his first triumph at SW19.   The generally reserved Kvitova too was controlled in her post match celebrations.

Serena on the other hand jumped for joy, to put it mildly.  She was winning it for the fifth time but she underlined in poignant words why this Wimbledon title mattered so much to her.   While, objectively, I have to admire Serena’s awesome tennis, I honestly cannot call myself a fan at all.  And yet, I could not help feeling moved to see her overwhelmed with emotion and to see even Venus fighting back her tears of joy.  No gnashed teeth or clenched teeth,  warm hugs was what we got from the Williams camp.   Serena accepted the trophy almost with gratitude.

In the meantime, Murray’s defeat at the hands of Federer left Centre Court and Henman Hill devastated.   I think I saw middle aged men choke with grief at the history that wasn’t made on Sunday.  This gloom was mitigated when Federer’s twin daughters stole the spotlight like isolated sunshine through cloudy British skies.   Federer was, well, Federer but hasn’t it been a long time since we saw him smile so brightly?  As he put it eloquently, it felt like the trophy had never left his hands.   And if there is one man who can beat Murray at Wimbledon and still win over the crowd, it’s Federer.   The crowd got over the catastrophe for at least the time being and whole heartedly rejoiced in the triumph of their favourite guest.  By the by, yes, Radwanska too was rewarded for her valiant resistance with generous approval from the Wimbledon crowd.

It’s that love and affection that was so infectious at this year’s Wimbledon.   Where, really, was it last year is a mystery.  I can hardly remember about 2010, so don’t ask!  😀  For all my advocacy of contemporary tennis and contemporary champions – and it’s 100%  sincere, mind – I am wise to the trap of recency and see trends as they are rather than explain them away.    And a clear and present trend is of Wimbledon gradually joining the rest of the crowd and its exalted position in the minds of tennis followers fading just a bit.

Serena and Federer rose to the spotlight within a couple or more years of each other.  They clearly belong to a different generation from that of the Noles and the Vikas.  One that doesn’t just bask in quaint curiosity in all the tradition and convention of Wimbledon but truly adores all that it stands for.  Pete Sampras, King of Wimbledon in the 90s, was spot on when he said Federer probably loved Wimbledon as much as he himself did.   In the run up to Wimbledon, Serena and Fed bore the brunt of much criticism over their recent form.   Perhaps because of that,  they gratefully accepted the gift of a Wimbledon trophy at a time when they needed it so much, in spite of having won it more times than players win slams overall in their career.

For a long, long time, Wimbledon has unofficially occupied a lofty perch, a sort of first among equals of the four slams.  Fed and Serena’s reaction was a reflection of a time when that distinction clearly held good.  Does it anymore, or is it just another competitive and lucrative tournament like the other three?

I am not saying these distinctions should or shouldn’t hold, because I don’t know the answer and, besides, it’s just a game at the end of the day.   But the audience received familiar champions with a spontaneous display of warmth because  (and this is just my, possibly inaccurate, conjecture) (a) in their heart of hearts, they knew that there may just not be a next time and (b) they didn’t know when next two champions will care quite so much about winning Wimbledon again.

If you skipped this year’s Wimbledon, you missed something that goes a bit beyond sport…and something that we may just miss a little bit in the foreseeable future.  Oh wait, there’s the Olympics up next!


3 Responses to “Wimbledon 2012: An overwhelming display of warmth”

  1. rjsays Says:

    I actually don’t agree with your analysis here, specially your (b) in the end. I think it is every champion’s dream to win Wimbledon more than every other Slam. It is what made Lendl to skip French Open later in his career, and it is what made Justin Henin to come out of retirement. Let me point out to a few examples here:

    Djokovic was more emphatic in his celebrations at Oz because it was a much more tightly fought match which much longer, tension filled and physically draining than the routine four set win at Wimbledon. He would have celebrated it the same way had he won Wimbledon after 6 hrs. To point to similar examples, even Federer didn’t cry after losing the greatest match of all time (’08 Wimbledon finals), but did so in a far less epic AO ’09 (because one loss was okay, the second loss signified that Nadal was starting to own him). In fact, he never attempted to eat clay or do something with the hard courts themselves, but he did try to eat grass 😉 His main goals for 2011 was winning Wimbledon and getting back to no. 1 which he clearly stated.

    Similarly, Rafa has only twice climbed the roof to go to box. And the first one was at Wimbledon ’08, which still remain his most special victory (he said it in an interview), and other was at French ’12 (‘coz he beat Djokovic in a major).

    Something similar for Federer. The only two times he has cried during the trophy ceremony (not right after winning the match point) was at Australia! When he was awarded the trophy by Laver in ’06, and losing to Nadal. He never got overly emotional due to happiness at any Wimbledon victory.

    Regarding Serena and Kvitova, Serena shows childlike enthusiasm after winning every single Slam, not just Wimbledon. I remember this when she won in Australia after being ranked 81, same when he won in New York, and of course, Wimbledon. In fact, she became more emotional because of what has happened in the last 2 years after her hospitalization and all.

    In fact, even Rafa and Djokovic care deeply about history of this game (I remember Djokovic getting honored when Laver watched his SF against Murray at Oz and gave uncountable compliments to him), and same with Rafa when he is compared to Borg or when he met Laver (in fact Rafa was almost dumbfounded when he met Laver). It is just that Federer has the classical game, so it feels that he cares more about history than the other two. Plus, whatever Federer does is always magnified greatly by the media and his fans 😉

    This was a well written article. Just didn’t agree with the analysis.

  2. Madan Says:

    Djokovic was more emphatic in his celebrations at Oz because it was a much more tightly fought match which much longer, tension filled and physically draining than the routine four set win at Wimbledon. – This is exactly my point. Because he won his first Wimbledon relatively easily, the significance of the occasion seemed to fade a bit for him. When Federer won his first Wimbledon, it was also his first slam so I cannot really tell which factor was more important but he did mention it was emotional. Federer does not reveal his emotions here, so I don’t think that he would react like Djokovic even if he were to complete a calendar slam at this stage of his career.

    But there were some things Djokovic observed at the end of the Aus Open and during the French Open that I had in mind. I can’t recall his words exactly and I will see if I can find any articles on the net to quote from. But I do think the RG is more or less as important as Wimbledon if not more for Nadal and Djokovic. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this and it makes perfect sense because they play better on clay than on grass. Of course, they wouldn’t like to say so because they would be under subtle pressure to continue to extol the prestige of Wimbledon and since they are not rebellious, they will prefer status quo. With Federer, who as you pointed out is more classical, it is very obvious that Wimbledon is that he loves more than any other, even though he has a magnificent record at US Open too.

    I completely agree that past champions cherished Wimbledon the most even if it didn’t suit their game (oh, wait, Manuel Santana! ;)) but I think that distinction is about to dissolve a bit. But it’s all conjecture, so your guess is as good as mine. I do agree that it s tough to say what exactly is Serena more emotional about. Maybe this was just a quirk of history, to bring together two past champions in an emotional context, who knows. Thanks for the comment…

  3. rjsays Says:

    As far as Serena and Venus is concerned, they both have five Wimbledon titles each. And yesterday, they won their fifth Wimbledon title together as well! Just phenomenal. These sisters are made for Wimbledon 🙂

    Again, while I was critical in the comment, it was a good article, nevertheless, because it gave me a lot to think about. And as you said, your guess is as good as mine 🙂

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