It’s difficult not to get one’s sentiments tangled in nostalgia’s hazy web as a blogger shakes the clay-dust off her clicky-clacky fingertips and dizzily makes her way to the lawn tennis. After all, grass court tennis is storied. It harkens back, way back, to days of yore. It has snippets of Kipling poetry. The very earth on which lawn tennis unfolds is hallowed in the centre. And last but not least, it makes you think about the days when Miss Lucy Honeychurch was made moody by Beethoven, but loved running about in comfortable clothes on a grassy court in Somerset. She minded the light shining in her eyes and being beaten at doubles by Mr. Emerson, but loved him nonetheless.
Sure, she huffily sent him into the shrubbery to look for tennis balls, but everybody, except Lucy herself, knew she was about to break off her engagement with Cecil Vyse for the free-thinking George Emerson. Cecil, who was fussy about his split infinitives, and minded lawn tennis on Sunday as much as Lucy minded being beaten at it, was no match for Mr. Emerson, who was not only free-thinking, but a feminist, and the handsomer of the two. Plus, he kissed her in a field of corn flowers, and once a lady—the sort who is made peevish by Beethoven and losing at tennis— is kissed in the cornflowers, there’s no going back.
But where was I? Oh yes, the risks of losing one’s way among the cornflowers of nostalgia on the road to Wimbledon, or Queens, or Halle, or Birmingham, or Bad Gastein, or Eastbourne, or s-Hertogenbosch, or Breakfast. I won’t miss the National Broadcasting Company’s (NBC) coverage of Wimbledon, but I was fully prepared to go all rose-tinted about its name, Breakfast at Wimbledon. Only, it turns out I needn’t bother. ESPN will be continuing the three-decades-old tradition of serving us pancakes and strawberries with our tennis, which is wonderful and all, but it rather spoils my wistful fun.
I’d intended to tell you stories—nostalgic tales of my youth—about watching Breakfast at Wimbledon in the cool damp of the wood-paneled subterranean TV-room, while roller-skating back and forth across the golden-rod-flecked linoleum flooring, and occasionally eating bowls of Kraft™ Macaroni and Cheese -the cheesiest!-. I was going to draw contrast between the bright light of the blooming east coast summertime and the soothing dimness of indoors—these were the days before central air conditioning—and the blurry glow of the emerald backdrop that offset the white dots of Graf and Seles, Becker, Edberg, Andre or Pete.
I thought I’d even veer off toward the public hardcourts of my hometown and tell you about biking down to the courts after Breakfast and practicing professionally-inspired tennis antics with my sister for endless hours, baking on the hot concrete until we sizzled to the touch. When we’d finally had enough, we would leave our gear on the sidelines of the soccer-field and run barefoot across the prickly grass, through sprinklers so large they were supplied with water via fire-hoses. Then, sopping wet and utterly free, we’d pedal our way home, to dinner.
This was the plan. Unfortunately, the tradition mongers at ESPN mucked it up, and I don’t have anything else to tell you, because I didn’t get to watch any contemporary lawn tennis this week. I did notice that the usual suspects have shifted—who knew Melanie Oudin was a grass court specialist?— that Rafa’s gone fishing, and that matches between Milos and Roger are starting to feel, if not nostalgic, at least like déjà vue.
However, Saturday is a new story. Apologies to the WTA, but Halle and Queens have dibs on exciting semifinal matchups. The Gerry Weber Open features a bare-jawed Mikhail Youzhny against the Raonic-conquering Roger Federer. Youzhny took out Haase, Dolgopolov and Stepanek on his way to Roger, so although he’s unlikely to win, let’s hope there are no apologies necessary. Defending champion, Philipp Kohlschreiber takes on Tommy Haas, who upset Tomas Berdych in three, and is the only man in the draw older than Breakfast at Wimbledon.
The Aegon Championships give us Grigor Dimitrov and David Nalbandian, and Marin Cilic versus Sam Querry. Subtract Sam and Marin from that lineup, because, really, that one doesn’t look like half as much fun as running through sprinklers, and you have as fine a collection of backhands as can be assembled this side of Almagro on clay. I plan to watch at least one semifinal, and then come back and tell you about it. I might also tell you about my fears for Tsonga’s finger and the fate of the Andys, and more nostalgic stuff, like my enduring fondness for my tennis raquet of early adolescence, The Wilson Defender. My, she was yar.