Borg, McEnroe Wimbledon 1981

I had been famous for a few years now, but Wimbledon in ’81 is where I became infamous.

John McEnroe

Excerpts from McEnroe‘s autobiography, Serious:

“I was unbelievably tense at Wimbledon in 1981 because I knew, after beating Borg at the Open, that I could win it, should win it, would win it – unless disaster struck.
Well, disaster did strike, and kept striking, round after round, and somehow I kept getting through – endearing myself to nobody in the process.

It began at the beginning.

Although this was to become one of my famous matches, I’m positive almost nobody remembers who I played, and when I played it: Tom Gullikson, first round, Wimbledon 1981. Court One.

I had behaved badly at Wimbledon before. I was already Super Brat. Now I upped the ante. Tom could be a pretty tough opponent on grass, but i had a much tougher adversary out there that day. Even though I would eventually win in straight sets 7-6 7-5 6-3, I just couldn’t rest easy when I got ahead: the devils were crawling all over my brain that afternoon. When Gullikson went ahead 4-3 in the second set on a miserable line call, I smashed my Wilson Pro Staff racket, and James issued me a warning. And later, when a linesman called a serve deep that I had clearly seen throw up a spray of chalk, I threw my new racket and gave a scream that came straight from Queens – but that has traveled very far in the years since.”

Man, you cannot be serious!

[youtube width=”480″ height=”385″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekQ_Ja02gTY[/youtube]

You guys are the absolute pits of the world.

The umpire understood “You guys are the piss of the world” and gave Mac a point penalty. McEnroe demanded to see the referee, and yelled:

We’re not going to have a point taken away because this guy is an incompetent fool!

After the match, McEnroe was fined $750 for the obscenity, $750 for an unsportsmanlike comment about the umpire, and threatened with an additional 10000 fine and suspension from the tournament.

And I want you to understand: I felt terrible. I’ve felt awful virtually every time I’ve had one of my on-court meldowns.

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Second part of my Wimbledon guided tour recap.

Millenium Building

Built on the site of the former Number One Court, it houses the players’ and members’ facilities. It is also used in part by print journalists as an international press centre.

Interview rooms:
Interview room

Interview room

Interview room

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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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Wimbledon Trivia

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– Dark green and purple are the traditional Wimbledon colours, but from 2006 the officials, ball boys and girls were outfitted in new navy blue and cream uniforms designed by Ralph Lauren.

– “Middle Sunday” is traditionally a rest day. However, rain has forced play on Middle Sunday three times in Wimbledon history: 1991, 1997 and 2004. Each time, Wimbledon staged a “People’s Sunday”, with unreserved and inexpensive tickets. All about the first Middle Sunday in 1991.

Henman Hill is an area on the grounds of the All England Club officially known as Aorangi Terrace. People without showcourts tickets can watch tennis matches on a giant television screen at the side of number one court. During Tim Henman‘s playing days, the area was the focal point of Henmania, where British tennis fans would fanatically support Henman.

– Last British woman to win Wimbledon is Virginia Wade in 1977. All about Virginia Wade’s triumph.

– Last British man to win Wimbledon was Fred Perry in 1936, last runner-up was Bunny Austin in 1938.
A bronze statue of Fred Perry was erected at the All England Club in 1984 to mark the 50th anniversary of his first singles championship.

Fred Perry statue

– During World War II, a bomb ripped through Centre Court and 1200 seats were damaged. Play resumed in 1946 but it wasn’t until 1949 that the area was back into shape.

– The trophies are presented by the President of the All England Club, The Duke of Kent, and by his sister, Princess Alexandra.

– Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam tournament to feature a Royal Box. The first Royal to visit Wimbledon was Crown Princess Stephanie of Austria in 1895. In 1926, Prince Albert, Duke of York (who later became King George VI and father of Queen Elizabeth II) entered the doubles event with his Royal Air Force tennis partner, Wing commander Louis Grieg.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has visited Wimbledon only twice, to see Virginia Wade triumph in 1977, and in 2010. In 2008, after his epic win against Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal climbed up to the Royal Box, to greet Crown Prince Felipe and Crown Princess Felizia of Spain.

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal

– The quotation above the player’s entrance to Centre Court is an extract from the poem if by Rudyard Kipling:

“If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same”

– Wimbledon will host the Olympic tennis events in 2012.