You could get ground into the red clay at the French Open like Pete Sampras did (one semi-final in 13 attempts. 3rd Round-2nd Round-2nd Round-1st Round-2nd Round-1st Round – his last six attempts there) but 7 Wimbledons (and 5 US Opens & 2 Australian Opens) and an unquestioned all-time great was right there.
Or you could be like Bjorn Borg. 11 Grand Slams. 5 consecutive Wimbledons. 6 French Opens. 3 of those years when he won both. Most of those years he was also in the finals of the US Open. Never visited Australia though, apart from the once when he lost in the third round. Said he’d only travel that far if it gave him a chance to win the Grand Slam. (The Australian Open used to be the last of the slams those days). He didn’t ever win the US Open and so he did not go to Australia. Doesn’t matter. Bjorn Borg’s picture is in the dictionary of Tennis under “Achievements”.
Ivan Lendl. Most Grand Slam finals in the history of tennis (19). Winner of 222 Grand Slam Singles matches (third after Connors and Agassi). Eight consecutive singles finals at the US Open of which he won three in a row. (Lendl had all but defected to the United States. Its a measure of the man and his highly meticulous and intensive training and physical conditioning regime, his scientific approach to preparing for and playing a game, and a strong desire to put in whatever it took to be successful, that he hired the same workers who laid the hardcourt surfaces at Flushing Meadows each year to install an exact copy in the grounds of his home in Greenwich, Connecticut). All that though, added up to 8 Grand Slam trophies. 3 French Opens, 3 US Opens and 2 Australian Opens. But no Wimbledon. And arguably, thats what Ivan Lendl is most remembered for. That one title that escaped the grasp of the ultimate overachiever. That one statement of a jilted lover – “Grass is for cows” …
The Aura of Wimbledon …
Boris Becker recounts …
I’m serving for the championship. Five steps to the baseline. My arm is getting heavy, wobbly. I look at my feet and almost stumble. My body starts to shake violently. I feel I could lose all control. I’m standing at the same baseline from where I served 1-0 in the first set. 5-4; the end is getting nearer. I have to find a way to get these four points home.
My opponent, Kevin Curren, piles on the pressure. 0-15. 15 all. 30-15. 40-15. I want, want, want victory. I look only at my feet, at my racket. I don’t hear a thing. I’m trying to keep control. Breathe in. Serve. Like a parachute jump. Double fault. 40-30. How on earth can I place the ball in that shrinking box over there on the other side of the the net? I focus on throwing the ball and then I hit it.
The serve was almost out of this world, or at least its results were. This victory was my own personal moon landing. 1969 Apollo 11, 1985 Wimbledon1. Back then, Neil Armstrong jumped from the ladder of the space capsule Eagle into the moondust and transmitted his historic words to the people of the world : “That’s one small step for man, one great leap for mankind.” But I couldn’t muster words to meet the occasion. I could only think, boy oh boy, this can’t be true.
The tension disappeared instantly and I felt slightly shaky. My heart was beating fast. I left crying to the others, though: my coach Gunther Bosch, my father and my mother. ‘With the passion of a Friedrich Nietzsche or Ludwig van Beethoven,’ wrote Time in its next issue, ‘this unseeded boy from Leimen turned the tennis establishment of Wimbledon on its head’
Thats from Boris Becker’s autobiography. Chapter 1. The Man on the Moon. An understated description of a couple of weeks at Wimbledon.
The tournament started last night. Its Roger Federer’s to lose.
Rohit Brijnath’s piece on Wimbledon here.