Wimble-done!

I have grown up in a nation that has mourned the passing of halcyon days when it seemed that our population won every sporting contest going. Dates were emblazoned upon the national consciousness that grew further away with every passing day. The 1948 Olympics, the 1966 World Cup and, seemingly above all else, the 1936 Wimbledon Men’s Championship.

When I first discovered tennis in 1992, there had been no one who had come close for decades. Then Tim Henman emerged and summer after summer, I conducted a vigil from the right hand cushion of our blue sofa, where I would sit hour after hour following his matches. My mother bemoaned the GCSE and A-level revision that was neglected during Wimbledon fortnight, but nothing could stop me from watching his matches. My ridiculous memory holds a vivid remembrance of a middle-Sunday match against Haarhuis in 1997 – the same day that Hong Kong ceased to be a colony. Along side that memory, is another from four years later, when I spent days unable to leave the house as Henman’s semi-final against Ivanesevic went on and on thanks to the British summer…

Henman & IvanisevicI can kind of forgive Goran for this because he was and is in my top 10 hottest tennis players…

Just as it looked as though our hopes for a victor would end with Tim’s career, Andy Murray emerged and yet again, a fortnight each summer was dedicated to following his fate. But still, matches involving a Brit required nerves of steel and a considerable quantity of Pimm’s or G&T. Just lately, there appeared to be a flicker of hope – I say ‘lately’, since Murrary first reached a Wimbledon semi in 2009 and has made at least that round every year since – and there have been other tournaments.

I considered it a travesty that in 2012, I missed the key moments of Murray’s career:
Wimbledon final – the tearful speech after a close defeat at Federer’s hands – I was at church.
Olympic final – where Murray defeated his own demons and Federer on Centre Court – I was in France, minus a TV.
US Open final – no TV coverage, so Radio 5 filled a gap. But at the beginning of a 5th set at 2am BST, I gave in and went to bed. Fortunately, my final message to friend doing the same woke him up and he caught the victory – meaning that I awoke to a text saying simply: “HE DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

2013’s Wimbledon felt different. Not just because Nadal and Federer went out in the first week, but because we had a bonafide champion. A gold medallist. The current US Open champion. The world number 2. Surely, surely, THIS could be THE year??

And so it came to pass that Sunday the 7th July went down in history. The day that 77 years of waiting ending. The day that I finally experienced what it was like to care so much about a sporting victory that I shed actual tears. Andy Murray won Wimbledon. And the country rejoiced.

He's done it!

This emotional sport watching thing is new to me. Yes, I care deeply about the Olympics and (at times) the England cricket team. But Wimbledon had reached almost a mythical quality. No British man had won it during my life time or my parents’ life times and my grandparents were barely out of nappies when Fred Perry won in 1936. Yet there I was, on a patch of grass in Canary Wharf on a blistering hot Sunday afternoon, watching this myth become a reality.

Crowds amassedThe classic look of a load of Brits on a hot, sunny afternoon. (Trust me, it’s a real shame that there isn’t more of the baseball capped Aussie in the photo…)

It was perfect – kind of. There was sun, a huge number of people, close proximity to a Waitrose and toilets, plenty of beverages and best of all, appropriate tennis watching company. I’m fussy. (“No!” I hear you gasp in surprise.) I needed to be with people who would understand the following:
1. This was a BIG DEAL.
2. I get very tense during such matches and I like to watch EVERY point.
3. This was not a social occasion. It was a sporting one.

Fortunately, the select group of Matryoshka Haus people that gathered proved to be just the right combination. The casual tennis watchers kept themselves amused and chatted with each other when not engrossed. The two of us who do take our tennis deadly seriously sat slightly away from them, watching the screen as if our lives depended upon it. [Case in point: Shannon asked us what nationality Djokovic was – we answered “Serbian”, in unison, without our eyes leaving the screen. She was impressed.] When the moment came and the first championship point was being played, the crowd rose to their feet and stood until victory was finally secured several minutes (and many finger nails) later.

MH gang rejoices The MH gang rejoices! 

Yes, I was late for church, but would I have missed it? Not for the world. Now here’s hoping that next year’s Wimbledon isn’t some terrible anti-climax…

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