Missing Wimbledon’s Opening Day

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

The last Monday in June was originally meant to be the first day of the Wimbledon Championships. It’s a day when, by tradition, the reigning men’s champion enters Centre Court to begin his title defense.

This year, thank’s to the novel coronavirus, everything has changed. Wimbledon called off this year’s tournament back in April – the first Grand Slam cancelled since World War II – and, thanks to testing positive for COVID-19, Novak Djokovic finds himself in the middle of a whole other kind of defense. Namely, the backlash from the ill-fated Adria Tour that he helped organize to bring tennis to the Balkans during the lockdown before it was shutdown at mid-tour due to an outbreak of the coronavirus among several of its players. Meanwhile, women’s champion Simona Halep is back home in Romania, practicing, but with no Wimbledon title to defend this year.

With the opening day of the 2020 Wimbledon that wasn’t, here’s a sampling of what’s running through the minds of those who have contributed to the wonderment of Wimbledon:

Billie Jean King / I have been to Wimbledon every year for almost six decades.

Rod Laver / Fond memories of Wimbledon on what would have been Day 1.

Petra Kvitova / Missing this place …

Christopher Clarey / Shots we are missing …

Wimbledon / It will be worth the wait …

Why Ted Robinson misses Wimbledon

For twelve years, from 2000-12, American sports broadcaster Ted Robinson was a fixture at Wimbledon, handling play-by-play commentary duties for NBC Sports and its signature Breakfast at Wimbledon during championship weekend. In 2018, Robinson returned to the All England Club as a member of the Tennis Channel broadcast team and also hosted a special program on Strokes of Genius, which looked back on the epic battle between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the 2008 Wimbledon men’s final. It was the first time he had returned to Centre Court since the 2012 London Olympics. “I understood how much I missed it, how great it is. It’s very special,” he said.

“When you go back, you recognize it’s the one place that everyone has played the sport; the championship everyone dreams of winning no matter where they grew up or what surface they learned to play on. They want to win Wimbledon. The surface is now the outlier. There’s few tournaments played on grass, there’s fewer grass courts in America. I’ve never played on a grass court, have you?”

Looking back, Robinson recalled during a recent email interview with Tennis TourTalk, “Calling 12 finals for NBC as part of an iconic television tradition, NBC’s Breakfast at Wimbledon, was as great a broadcast honor as I could ever experience.

“There were a multitude of moments and achievements that occupy a permanent place in tennis lore,” says Robinson:

“Venus Williams winning her first (Wimbledon) in 2000 and (father) Richard dancing on our heads (literally) atop the broadcast bunker; Björn Borg returning to Centre Court in 2000 and dropping to his knees to kiss the grass (a moment never captured on film); John McEnroe being introduced that same day and receiving a roar greater than in his three Wimbledon titles; the extraordinary Monday final when Goran Ivanisevic beat Patrick Rafter amidst a Davis Cup-like atmosphere; Maria Sharapova’s physical pounding of Serena Williams in 2004 (which would never be repeated); a sparkling 2005 final between Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport; Amelie Mauresmo’s 2006 win that denied Justine Henin her long-sought Wimbledon title; and the best match Andy Roddick every played, falling 16-14 in the fifth set to Federer in 2009.”

As for Robinson’s best stories and moments, he points to two:

“The Williams Sisters turned Centre Court into their personal turf. Venus was first, consoling Serena and helping her leave the court after their 2000 semifinal. For most of the 2000’s, Venus was the best grass-court player on tour, but Serena’s longevity at the top is astounding.”

“Nadal-Federer 2008 – Books and films tell all about the ‘Strokes of Genius’ but suffice to say, the opponents, the setting, the weather, and the level of tennis all contributed to a day and night that will never be matched for compelling drama.”

An amazing time in Charleston

Bethanie Mattek-Sands’s Team Peace bested Madison Keys’s Team Kindness to wrap up six days of great singles and doubles tennis at the Credit One Bank Invitational on the green clay at Charleston, S.C. Sunday evening.

What they’re writing

Stuart Fraser, tennis correspondent, The Times of London, from “The Greatest Wimbledon final: ‘I never felt so nervous’, in which Rafael’s uncle, Toni Nadal, recalls how his nephew overcame rain, darkness and Roger Federer in a five-set epic:”

Relaxing at his home in Mallorca ten years on, Toni Nadal can vividly recall the 2008 Wimbledon gentlemen’s singles final in which his nephew, Rafael, put him through the mill before overcoming Roger Federer in a five-set classic.

“I remember the sensations well,” Toni, who no longer travels on the tour as Nadal’s coach, says. “I was so nervous during the match. I have never felt the same.”

This is the unique perspective from the coaching box of what many, including John McEnroe, believe to be the greatest tennis match in history. It is the peak moment of a rivalry that is one of the best in sport, Nadal defeating Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7 after four hours and 48 minutes …

What they’re sharing on social media

WTA / Evonne Goolagong remembers her 1980 Wimbledon title