This year does not seem wor­thy of Wimbledon

The mas­ter­piece of sport feels like a mem­ory from a par­al­lel uni­verse, so it is best to look to next sum­mer

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Si­mon Briggs Ten­nis Cor­re­spon­dent

There is, in any nor­mal year, a flut­ter­ing in the pit of my stom­ach as I make the left turn off Church Road and me­an­der through the multi-mil­lion pound man­sions to Car Park 4. It is the first morn­ing of Wimbledon and for the next 13 days I know I will be stand­ing some­where near the cen­tre of the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion. The word “priv­i­lege” does not even cover it.

Af­ter a decade of cov­er­ing this tour­na­ment, I have come to know the quirks of the place. The short­est ice cream queues; the seats with the best views; the poker-faced look of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions staff whose brief is to de­flect any back­stage con­tro­versy.

And each year I am more con­vinced that this is the mas­ter­piece of world sport. It is a cliche, but Wimbledon re­ally is the Pla­tonic ideal of ten­nis, the most per­fectly re­alised ex­pres­sion of a sim­ple con­cept.

The 1980s club chair­man, John Curry, is some­times cred­ited with com­ing up with the slo­gan “ten­nis in an English gar­den”. The gar­den in ques­tion could be­long to a stately home – with petu­nias and ivy drap­ing the walls of the club­house, and stat­ues and wa­ter fea­tures sprin­kled lib­er­ally be­tween the courts. No other sport­ing venue – with the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion of Au­gusta Na­tional – is such a plea­sure to ex­plore.

My favourite mo­ments are not so much the thun­der­ous ral­lies or the shock­ing up­sets – won­der­ful though they are – but the chance meet­ings with friends or con­tacts from the global ten­nis fam­ily. I think of lean­ing on the rail op­po­site Court 14 for a gos­sipy chat, while the stream of hu­man­ity flows smoothly past, or tak­ing tea on the Com­peti­tors’ Lawn.

Un­less you are a player or coach, the ten­nis is the ex­cuse for a party, rather than its pri­mary fo­cus. As the cul­tural his­to­rian El­iz­a­beth Wil­son has writ­ten: “Go­ing to Wimbledon is more like a day at the opera at Glyn­de­bourne than an af­ter­noon of foot­ball at the Emi­rates Sta­dium.” She could also have cited the Glas­ton­bury mu­sic fes­ti­val, which takes place on its mid­dle week­end.

As I write th­ese words, I am search­ing for some neg­a­tives to place in the debit col­umn, so as not to seem too soppy or syco­phan­tic.

Clearly, a ten­nis reporter comes out of the fort­night feel­ing weary. But the big­gest pinch point is 6pm on the Sun­day be­fore play starts, when I press send on the last of count­less pre­view pieces. At that mo­ment, I am ready to be car­ried out of the me­dia cen­tre.

The strik­ing of the first ball – at 11am on the first Mon­day – is thus an enor­mous re­lief, as you are now re­act­ing to events rather than hav­ing to do all your own cog­ni­tive ped­alling. Plus, half-a-dozen ea­ger

Tele­graph col­leagues ar­rive nice and early, ready for me to boss around and badger for cof­fee.

So, am I miss­ing Wimbledon? It is hard to say. The tour­na­ment feels so un­real this sum­mer. A

Un­less you are a player or coach, the ten­nis is the ex­cuse for a party, rather than its fo­cus

dis­tant mem­ory from a par­al­lel ex­is­tence.

Ten­nis folk are used to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing Wimbledon as the emo­tional high-point of the sea­son, which builds to­wards this mo­ment with a Bolero-es­que rhythm. Mel­bourne, In­dian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, Paris, Queen’s … and then the Big One.

This year, the whole cav­al­cade was halted in early March, hav­ing vis­ited only the first of those ci­ties. So, it is al­most as if 2020 is not wor­thy of Wimbledon. We sim­ply have not earned our au­di­ence with Roger Fed­erer, Ser­ena Wil­liams and the rest.

And so we set our sights on June 28, 2021. Per­haps then the plague will have lifted, and we can re­turn to this lux­u­ri­ous event: the Dom Perignon of the sport­ing world.

In his el­e­ment: Si­mon Briggs cov­ers the Cen­tre Court ac­tion for the Tele­graph

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