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The Secret to Watching the Wimbledon Finals

July 15th, 2019 · 1 Comment · Tennis

One of the quirks of this blog is that I have been doing it long enough that I often don’t remember when I have previously addressed a topic.

Sometimes that stops me in my tracks. Most of the time it leaves me convinced some new look at a previously touched-upon sports event from my professional career will not lead to the collapse of Western Civilization.

Like, for example, the Wimbledon tennis championships. The slammiest of the four tennis grand-slam events.

Do a search on this blog for “Wimbledon 1985” and a half-dozen entries will pop up, most of them noting how tedious it is covering the big, two-week event at the All-England Club in the London suburbs.

At which point I will remind the reader that I covered the whole of Wimbledon twice, just a year or two ago — in 1985 and 1986.

Boris Becker and Martina Navratilova each won both years … and that much of the run-up to the title matches is watching people wearing white banging a ball around a grass court, and then repeating that about a million times over the course of 15 days, which can last about 10 hours daily in the first week.

Today, however, I believe I may have stumbled upon the secret to consuming Wimbledon, from the perspective of someone who does not care particularly much about the day-by-day machinations of 256 players getting winnowed down to two — a men’s and women’s champion.

And the answer?

Watch only the singles finals matches.

Or, better yet, watch only the final hour or two of the singles finals.

Or better yet, watch only the final hour or two of the men’s final, especially when some combination of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic is involved.

I switched on the Federer-Djokovic “gentlemen’s final” today, just as the fourth set was ending, with Federer evening the score at two sets apiece.

I settled on the couch and then was happy to watch two-plus hours of compelling tennis between perhaps the two greatest players in the history of the game, a back-and-forth Slugfest of Titans that ended with resort to the tournament’s new tiebreaker.

The way Wimbledon had worked, for a long time, was that the first player to win three sets was the champion, and no one won a set until having taken two more games than his competitor, during each set. And if the scores came down to two sets apiece, the winner would be the first player to hold a two-game advantage in that fifth and final set — which could, in theory, mean they played hours, until someone had a two-game lead.

The new rules, however, do not ask players to play until they drop, though I am sure Roger and Novak considered dropping, a time or two, over their five hours of struggle.

If the players get to 12-12 in games (essentially having played another set as a first-tier tiebreaker), they then actually end things with a first-to-seven-points tiebreaker most of us know.

Djokovic and Federer got to that 12-12 score, but not without thrills and spills and astonishing shots and great athleticism and a gut-check of the mind asking the body to do more, way more, than it was keen to give.

The crowd tilted heavily for Federer, who is 38 next month, because he was trying to defeat Father Time in addition to Djokovic. It was the case even if some of Roger’s fans now include those who wished with all their being that Federer’s five-year domination of the Wimbledon men’s game would end sooner than it did when Rafael Nadal defeated him in the classic 2008 final.

So, Federer had the fans in his corner, but Djokovic at all times seemed to have a pinch of extra energy that he could summon at key moments and, also, he was more realistic than was Federer about backing off a bit when not serving and falling behind, say, 30-0 in a game. To preserve energy.

Djokovic held four match points in the fifth set, and Federer had two, and each squandered them, leading to the high-wire act from 6-6 to 12-12. Then came the old-fashioned tiebreak, and Djokovic won it 7-3, meaning he won the championship by defeating Federer 3-0 in tiebreakers.

Hmm. Not sure I like that. But, otherwise, those guys could have played another hour …. but wouldn’t that have been fun? Heck, I was riveted, and if I am watching, that means the occasional fan knows the history and the backstories of each player and is invested. Like, two hours’ worth. (Roger remains stuck on a record 20 men’s slam victories, but Nadal is at 18 and Djokovic has moved up to 16 — and he is a mere babe of 32.)

The women’s final apparently was interesting, too, in that Serena Williams played and the match was quite lopsided.

But no, Serena did not win. She got smoked 6-2, 6-2 by the Romanian Simona Halep, meaning Serena remains one slam title away from tying Margaret Court for the record, at 24, and Halep now has a Wimbledon victory in her pocket, and apparently was quite emotional, when it was over.

So, let’s see if this works. I will endeavor to watch an hour of each final, and that will be just enough tennis for me for a good long time. Maybe till the final weekend of Wimbledon 2020 rolls around.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 David // Jul 15, 2019 at 4:21 PM

    I watched three sets, and it was great. Not sure I could have made it through all five.

    The trick to the “watch an hour” plan, of course, is guessing when that hour starts.

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