Andy Muray climbs into the stands, Wimbledon 2013

Like strawberries and cream, the Queue and all-white outfits, the champion’s climb to the players’ box to celebrate his victory with his closed ones has become a tradition at Wimbledon. It all started with Pat Cash back in 1987:

“Champions of the past had celebrated their wins in time honoured fashion. Most used to jump the net and run up to commiserate with the person they had just beaten; this was the style of the Australians such as Laver, Emerson, Hoad and Fraser. But I wasn’t prepared to do that with Ivan Lendl; I didn’t like the guy at all and I wasn’t about to sympathise with him.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m a great lover of Wimbledon’s traditions and everything they stand for, but I wanted to go where no champion had ever gone before. Suddenly I made up my mind, and nothing or nobody was going to stop me. I had looked up to the players box, and so many of the people who meant so much to me were there: my coach Ian Barclay, my girlfriend Anne-Britt, my dad, my sister Renee, my uncle Brian, and the woman who had helped me become one of the fittest players ever to walk on a tennis court, Ann Quinn. I had to be up there with them, and I was going to show my gratitude by climbing up to them.

Why did I do it? Growing up I’d always seen myself as just a normal Aussie kid who liked rock and roll music, football and girls, but I suppose I was just a little bit left of centre. I was kind of crazy, and always tried to be a bit different. My family upbringing had never involved a lot of hugging, but I had it in my head that if I ever won Wimbledon I would show the world how much I actually felt for those people. I wanted to be with them for these most memorable minutes of my life, and the most public way of showing my thanks was to do it in this greatest arena in tennis. So off I went.” [1]

Pat Cash, Wimbledon 1987

Since then, 14 players have scaled terraces to the players’ box to embrace their family and coaches.
The most unexpected – and out of character – climb was probably Sampras‘ when he beat Pat Rafter in 2000 and broke Roy Emerson’s Grand Slam record:

“I finally won it, 6-7 7-6 6-4 6-2. It was dusk by then, and flashbulbs went off like a thousand lightning strikes. I looked over at Paul [Annacone] in the players’ box. He gestured up toward the area where we knew my folks were sitting. I was disoriented, but I knew what to do next – I climbed into the stands to find and hug my folks. And those flashbulbs just kept exploding. The scene was surreal.
Left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t have climbed into the stands. Thinking about it in advance, I would have said “None of us likes to make a really big scene, and my parents would find it embarrassing, I don’t think I’ll do that.” But when Paul signaled me, I knew immediately it was the right thing to do. Much like when I had to speak at Tim Gullikson’s funeral, my first reaction was to avoid drama and attention. But when the moment arrived in both those cases, I knew enough to do the right thing. As Paul said later, when I asked him why he had thought to signal me, “How often to you break the Grand Slam record, at a place that’s been so good to you, in front of people who have been so good to you?” [2]

The most spectacular was Nadal‘s one after his thrilling marathon win over Federer in 2008.

“I collapsed flat on my back on the Wimbledon grass, arms outstretched, fists clenched, roaring with triumph. The silence of the Centre Court gave way to pandemonium, an I succumbed, at long last, to the crowd’s euphoria, letting it wash over me, liberating myself from the mental prison I had inhabited from start to finish of the match, all day, the night before, the full two weeks of the greatest tennis tournament on earth. […] the tears came, and there was nothing I could do to stop them, and there was one more thing I had to do before the ceremony, one emotional release I needed before I could behave with some semblance of the restraint that Wimbledon tradition required.
I ran toward the corner where my father and mother and Toni, Titin, Carlos Costa, Tuts and Dr Cotorro had been sitting, and were now standing, and I clambered up the seats and scaled a wall to reach them. I was crying, and my father, the first to greet me, was crying too, and we hugged, and I hugged my mother, and I hugged Toni and the three of us all held one another in one great, tight family embrace.” [3]

After Rafa celebrated with his family, he made a U-turn towards the Royal Box to greet the Spanish Crown Prince and his wife.

Rafael Nadal, Wimbledon 2008

And the one the British crowd had been expected for so many years, is of course Andy Murray‘s celebratory climb in 2013:

“A few fraught minutes (and deuces) later, the title was mine. In the celerations after Novak’s decisive netted backhand, I was aware that people had started to come onto the court. When I finally sat down, I saw Andrew Jarrett coming over.
“Have I got enough time to go to my family and friends?” I asked.
“You need to be quick.”
I climbed up to the players’ box and went to Ivan first. He was sitting next to Novak’s team. It wasn’t a conscious decision to seek him out, but it was fitting that he was the first person I saw.
I’ve no idea if Ivan said anything to me or not. Two things I recall: my uncle, Neil, was sitting a few rows back and he was so desperate to high-five me that he reached forward and stuck his armpit right in Sir Chris Hoy’s face. Then, of course, I hadn’t seen my mum and someone shouted “Your mum, your mum”, so I went back and gave her a hug.” [4]

Sources:
[1] Uncovered by Pat Cash
[2] A champion’s mind by Pete Sampras and Peter Bodo
[3] Rafa by John Carlin
[4] Seventy-seven my road to Wimbledon glory by Andy Murray

Tim Henman, Wimbledon 2001

This article is part of a new series: what if? … rewriting tennis history. Enjoy the read and feel free to leave a comment below.

If you used to watch tennis in the late 90’s you surely remember Henmania taking over Wimbledon each summer:

“Henman made his name on Centre Court in 1996, when he defeated reigning French Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and expectation has snowballed ever since. Fans wave, or paint Union Jacks on their face, and shout, ‘Come on, Tim!’ like he is one-man football team. Outside Centre Court hundreds more pile in front of a big screen on the side of Court One that has come to be known as Henman Hill.
Most fans don’t care how their hero performs the other fifty weeks of the year so long as he is up for it during Wimbledon fortnight. They believe the first six months of the season are spent leading up to it and the next six are spent recovering from it.
During those two weeks in the summer when Henmania sweeps through Britain, he gets more attention than David Beckham or the royal family, and most of them are in the Royal Box watching him. He becomes the focus of national hero worship as he progresses through the early rounds. Then he is beaten and derided as a serial loser, a choker, and becomes the butt of countless needless jokes.” [1]

Tim Henman reached Wimbledon semifinals 4 times (1998, 1999, 2001, 2002) and had his best chance to reach the final in 2001 when he faced Goran Ivanisevic in the semifinals. Henman had come back from a set down to take the lead by 2 sets to 1 before rain stopped play. Henman ended up losing this match played over 3 days.

After Henman’s split with long time coach David Felgate in 2001, David Lloyd suggested Henman should copy Davis Cup teammate Greg Rusedski by working with a former player for specific tournaments only (Rusedski worked briefly with 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash). Former Davis Cup captain Lloyd is known to say really stupid things at times ( just before the Davis Cup final last year, he claimed Andy Murray doesn’t give enough back to British tennis), but his advice to Henman totally made sense back then:

“I always thought that someone like Edberg should have been brought in long ago to help the team for the big tournaments. He had a similar style to Tim and the same kind of problems, like his serve suddenly going and losing his forehand. But he learned how to control it.” [2]

“Edberg had such a similar game to Tim’s. Tim’s serve still tends to go on a big point, and he tends to hit his forehand too hard. Edberg was like that. He could have helped Tim, because, when you’re playing someone like Agassi or Hewitt who plays their ground shots so well, you’ve got to get a big percentage of your first serves in.” [2]

As a coach, Edberg would have helped Henman improve technically, but he would also have helped him handle the pressure he faced every year at Wimbledon.

Lleyton Hewitt: “British tennis is waiting for a Grand Slam champion – and Tim is the best chance going. In the locker room, everyone knows the pressure and expectations that Tim has to deal with at this time of the year. And everyone respects how well he deals with it. The way he handles the pressue and comes back and plays extremely well at Wimbledon year after year is a credit to him. He’d fully deserve it if he comes away with the Wimbledon crown one day. Even if he never wins Wimbledon, it’s pretty amazing what Tim has done there.” [1]

Despite his pairs’s praise, Henman was considered too soft, and his nerve and fighting spirit were forever being questioned. Early in his career, Stefan was also accused of lacking a burning desire to win. Long-time coach Tony Pickard did transform him into a player who had “fire in his belly”. He showed nerves of steel when he was down 3-1 to Becker in the fifth set of their ’90 Wimbledon final, and proved all his critics wrong during his epic ’92 US Open run (each time down a break in the fifth set he beat Richard Krajicek, Ivan Lendl and Michael Chang).
As a player Pickard did not have quite enough talent to match his self-assurance. He soon discovered that it was the other way round for Edberg.

“The biggest problem, was to get him to believe in himself. It took nearly three years.” [3]

In 2012, Andy Murray hired Ivan Lendl as a coach, and their partnership has been successful, to say the least: two Grand Slam titles (US Open 2012, Wimbledon 2013) and an Olympic gold medal, among other titles.

“Without a doubt, to have Ivan Lendl by my side was a real bonus”

acknowledged Andy Murray after his first Grand Slam victory at the US Open in 2012, nine months after the beginning of his collaboration with the 8-time Grand Slam champion. [4]

The Murray-Lendl collaboration started a new trend of former Grand Slam champions working with today’s top champions (Becker-Djokovic, Federer-Edberg, Chang-Nishikori…):

“Even champions of the caliber of Federer or Djokovic can still improve and change things in their game, said Sam Sumyk. This is the advantage of high level, this is not just the technique of a forehand or backhand, there are lots of parameters that come into play. The help Edberg can bring to Federer or Becker to Djokovic is on details. It can be in all areas: technique, way of thinking, or state of mind.” [4]

“I think I can really bring a little something. And maybe that little something can bring back Roger to where he was some time ago.”[4] said Edberg.

And indeed Edberg’s influence was the biggest reason behind Federer‘s regain of form in 2014 and 2015, encouraging him to shorten rallies, and take control of the net.

“Federer is a different, better player than he was at the start of this year, and a lot of the credit for that goes to that iconic exponent of the serve-and-volley game, Edberg.” [5]

So what do you think, would Edberg have brought that little something to Henman’s game to help him reach new heights and win Wimbledon?

What if Stefan Edberg had coached Tim Henman?

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Sources:
[1] From Tim Henman, England’s finest by Simon Felstein – published in 2006
[2] Lloyd: Henman should be converting ability into titles, BBC Sport, 10 April, 2001
[3] From Love Thirty, three decades of champions by Rex Bellamy – published in 1990. Read more here.
[4] From Tennis Magazine, April 2014. Read more here.
[5] The man behind Roger Federer’s success by Peter Bodo for ESPN. Read the article here.

Andy Murray stars in Jaguar commercial

Wimbledon’s official car provider Jaguar and its brand ambassador Andy Murray star in a new advert testing the world number two serving accuracy.

Check out the video and find out who’s the mysterious driver:

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BBC Wimbledon 2016 coverage

BBC coverage begins at 11:30am on Monday 27 June on BBC Two, serving up 13 days of the tournament’s unmissable action. Sue Barker will bring viewers the action from the BBC’s studio in the grounds of Wimbledon, with its iconic view of the All England Club.

Lleyton Hewitt, who has been given a wildcard to play the mens doubles tournament, joins the BBC TV team with Jim Courier and former British No. 1 Annabel Croft:

It’s an honour to join the BBC team this year – I won my second major championship singles title at Wimbledon, and have so many great memories from the tournament, so it’s going to be really exciting to be covering the action!

He joins an expert field of Wimbledon regulars, including: Martina Navratilova, Virginia Wade, Tracy Austin, Lindsay Davenport, John McEnroe, Pat Cash and Tim Henman.
Clare Balding will present the staple highlights programme Today At Wimbledon, alongside two expert guests every day on BBC Two.

Just call me Martina, a special documentary looking back at Martina Navatilova‘s career and featuring exclusive footage and interviews will be broadcast at 10:45 on Monday 4 July.

Check out the trailer for BBC Sport’s Wimbledon 2016 coverage:

Follow our Wimbledon 2016 coverage.

Stella Artois Wimbledon 2016 commercial

Stella Artois‘ latest campaign marks its return as Wimbledon official beer. Taking us back to Victorian London at a time when no one had ever heard of them, the advert playfully shows us that even the biggest legacies have to start somewhere. Just like Wimbledon, Stella Artois started from humble beginnings.

You can learn more about the Stella Artois’ sponsorship of The Championships Wimbledon and ‘The Time Portal’ campaign by visiting: http://wimbledon.stellaartois.com/the-time-portal.

More Wimbledon 2016 coverage.