Wimbledon Centre Court

1991 is the year Agassi made his comeback at Wimbledon after a 3 year boycott, the year another German (Michael Stich) won the Championships, but it’s also the year of the first Middle Sunday in Wimbledon history.
In his book Holding Court, Chris Gorringe then All England Club chief executive tells the story behind the first Middle Sunday, “the best and worst day of his life.”

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same

Rudyard Kipling‘s words are boldly displayed in the All England Clubhouse, there to inspire players as they wend their way from the dressing rooms down to Centre Court. As I stood staring up at them in 1991, during the wettest Wimbledon in history, they has a striking resonance. The weather conditions had just forced us into scheduling an extra day’s play for the Middle Sunday of The Championships – but right now we had no tickets, no security, no catering, no umpires, no groundstaff, and no precedent to follow. Whether triumph of disaster lay ahead – who knew?

The worst start to The Championships

“It had been an absolutely dreadful start to the tournament. We had no play on the first Monday, and intermittent rain throughout Tuesday. Wednesday was even worse with just 18 matches played, and by the end of Thursday, things were dire. For the players, it was a terrible ordeal. It took Stefan Edberg, the defending champion, 73 hours to finish the first round match:

Thank God it’s over. I haven’t even been able to eat a decent lunch for four days

And he was on of the lucky ones – at least he had made it onto court. We were almost a third of the way through the tournament and yet had completed only 52 out of 240 scheduled matches. It was no surprise then, to find myself, chairman John Curry, Michael Hann, chairman of the order of play sub-committee, referee Alan Mills and Richard Grier, Championships director, gathered together during yet another rain delay, looking at the feasibility of play on Sunday – something that had never been done before.”

On Friday evening the decision was made to play on Middle Sunday for first time in Wimbledon history.

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Wimbledon Centre Court roof

If you are intrigued by what goes on behind the scenes at Wimbledon, Chris Gorringe‘s book Holding Court is a must-read. Gorringe tells the story of his 26 years journey as All England Club chief executive. The book is full of anecdotes about legendary players (McEnroe, Sampras, Borg to name a few), but also describes in details the structure of the Club, the organization of the Championships, and Wimbledon’s Long Term Plan.
A few pages are of course dedicated to the Centre Court roof, which has been the real star of the 125th Championships so far.

Enjoy of few extracts of Holding Court:

“When we had first laid out the LTP (Long Term Plan) in the 90s, a retractable roof had been possible in as much as the technology was available, but what had not been proved to our satisfaction was that you could have a sliding roof that would work for grass court tennis. We had not seen a roof design that would: retain the grass at a quality that would withstand two weeks of play, and that would not make it sweat and be slippery; that would provide the right ambiance for the spectators; and that would allow grass to grow for the rest of the year.”

Australian Open roof vs Wimbledon roof

“We did not have all the answers, but certain members of the media and our committee wanted it as they had be to the Australian Open and seen the roof in action there.
However, the Australians had a different set of circumstances. When they moved from Kooyong’s private members’ club to Flinders Park (now Melbourne Park), in order to finance the set-up, the main centre court had to be a stadium design, not just a tennis arena. They needed the stadium to be used for as many days a year as possible, for concerts or whatever, which meant adding a roof but saying goodbye to grass. Once grass is taken out of the equation, the addition of a roof becomes very much easier.
Theirs is infinitely heavier than ours, is not translucent in any way, and is presumably specially designed in order for it to work well for concerts or musical events: there is no escape of noise or light through their roof. As well as having the roof over the main stadium at Melbourne Park, they have also built an adjacent stadium – again another multi-purpose building with a roof on it.”

Wimbledon Centre Court roof

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2011 French Open recap

I spent a few days here and there at Roland Garros this year, and I am always surprised of how journalists (especially French journalists) present the all thing and I sometimes wonder if I live on a different planet or in a parallel universe.

For French journalists it was fantastic two weeks of tennis, for me as a spectator it was another boring French Open.

Roland Garros

PS: I’m the one taking the photo, not the one sleeping ;o)

Everything was summed up in the mens trophy ceremony speeches: thanks to the sponsors, to the family, Roger is the best, Rafa played fantastic. Nothing new under the sun, things heard hundred times.
Conventional, boring, no emotion. From my point of view, the only 3 bright moments of the tournament: the semi Djokovic vs Federer, the Schiavone and Li runs to the final, and the Carte Blanche to Bob Sinclar for the Kids Day.

Here are a few personal thoughts about this Roland Garros tournament.

– Empty seats:

Court Philippe Chatrier

Tickets for main courts like Court Philippe Chatrier and Court Suzanne Lenglen are really expensive and really difficult to get. So when I finally get a ticket (about 70 euros) and I see all those empty seats, I’m really upset.

Here’s a suggestion by tennis journalist Jon Wertheim:

How’s this for a bit of cultural exchange? The French help with some junior development. We help them with fan behavior. There were matches held on Philippe Chartrier for which the stands looked to be about 10 percent of capacity. We’re talking rows and rows of empty sears. Surely there is a way to let the patricians in the sponsor tents know how unseemly it is to have these choice tickets and then not use them. We eagerly look forward to the upgrades to the venue. But it’s all for rien if the stands are empty. Just disgraceful.

Nadal: he didn’t play well during the tournament, but at the end he won for the sixth time, equaling Borg. He also remains at number one for a few more weeks, but Djokovic will probably become the 25th ATP number one after Wimbledon.
What does it change for Rafa? Nothing. He already has won everything – career Grand Slam, Davis Cup, Olympic Gold – and he has nothing to prove. He will have less pressure, he won’t be the one supposed to win everything, but Djokovic will. Nadal will be even more dangerous.

Rafael Nadal

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20 years after their final at Roland Garros, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier met again in Paris, but this time for an exhibition on a little but packed court 7.

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi

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I was at Roland Garros today, not for the womens final because I didn’t manage to get tickets (by the way, congrats to Na Li for her historic victory) but for the Trophée des Légendes.

But first, on Court 7 today, an exhibition between Jim Courier, Andre Agassi, Mansour Bahrami and young players of the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament.

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi

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