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.

Novak Djokovic Wimbledon 2016 outfit

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club:

Wimbledon guided tour – part 1
Wimbledon guided tour – part 2
Wimbledon Centre Court roof
Court 3 : a new Show Court at Wimbledon
Waiting in the Queue to Wimbledon
Wimbledon Museum: The Queue exhibition
The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum: Player Memorabilia

A trip down memory lane:

Wimbledon ‘s biggest upsets
Wimbledon memories: Mrs Blanche Bingley Hillyard
Wimbledon memories: Charlotte Cooper Sterry
Wimbledon memories: Dora Boothby
Portrait of Wimbledon champion Ann Jones
Wimbledon 1969: Laver’s getting beat by an Indian
Rod Laver – John Newcombe Wimbledon 1969
Around the grounds at Wimbledon in 1971
Wimbledon 1975: Ashe vs Connors
1976: Bjorn Borg first Wimbledon title
Portrait of 5-time Wimbledon champion Bjorn Borg
Wimbledon 1976: Chris Evert defeats Evonne Goolagong
Portrait of Virginia Wade, winner in 1977
1981: First Wimbledon title for McEnroe
1982: Jimmy Connors defeats John McEnroe
1984: John McEnroe defeats Jimmy Connors
1985: Boris Becker, the man on the moon
1986: Boris Becker defeats Ivan Lendl, wins second Wimbledon title
Portrait of 3-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker
Wimbledon 1988: An era ends as Graf beats Navratilova
Wimbledon 1988: Edberg a deserving new champion
Portrait of 2-time Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg
Wimbledon 1990: Becker vs Edberg
1990: Martina Navatilova’s historic 9th Wimbledon title
Wimbledon 1991: the first Middle Sunday
1992: first Grand Slam for Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi: thanks to Wimbledon I realized my dreams
1993: Pete Sampras defeats Jim Courier
1994: Pete Sampras defeats Goran Ivanisevic
1995: Tim Henman disqualified!
Wimbledon 1996: singing in the rain
1996: Richard Krajicek upsets Pete Sampras
Wimbledon 1996: a winning streak
1997: Pete Sampras defeats Cédric Pioline
2000 Wimbledon SF: Pat Rafter defeats Andre Agassi
2000 Wimbledon Final: Pete Sampras defeats Pat Rafter
2001 Wimbledon 4th round: Federer defeats Sampras
Wimbledon 2010: Rafael Nadal defeats Tomas Berdych
The Spirit of Wimbledon: a 4-part documentary by Rolex retracing Wimbledon history
Wimbledon 2012: Roger Federer defeats Andy Murray
Andy Murray’s road to the Wimbledon 2013 final
Wimbledon 2013: Andy Murray, 77 years after Fred Perry
Wimbledon 2014 coverage
Wimbledon 2015 coverage

Fashion and gear:

Polls:

Who will win Wimbledon 2016?

  • Novak Djokovic (53%, 50 Votes)
  • Roger Federer (21%, 20 Votes)
  • Andy Murray (17%, 16 Votes)
  • Dominic Thiem (5%, 5 Votes)
  • Stan Wawrinka (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Kei Nishikori (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Tomas Berdych (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Milos Raonic (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Richard Gasquet (0%, 0 Votes)
  • David Goffin (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Someone else (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 95

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Who will win Wimbledon 2016?

  • Serena Williams (33%, 8 Votes)
  • Garbine Muguruza (33%, 8 Votes)
  • Victoria Azarenka (17%, 4 Votes)
  • Simona Halep (8%, 2 Votes)
  • Angelique Kerber (4%, 1 Votes)
  • Someone else (4%, 1 Votes)
  • Agnieszka Radwanska (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Roberta Vinci (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Belinda Bencic (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Venus Williams (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Timea Bacsinszky (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 24

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Roger Federer and Andy Murray, Wimbledon 2012

From Andy Murray‘s autobiography Seventy-Seven:

Roger Federer had beaten Novak Djokovic in the first semi-final. If I was to become the champion I would have to beat the greatest grass court player of all time.

I was nervous. I needed to win that match. I needed to win a Slam. And I really thought I had a chance. I felt so different to how I did before my first Grand Slam final, against Roger in the 2008 US Open. This time I felt like I was in a comfortable, settled place. I knew what I had to do. Mentally, I was prepared to win. I felt that I was ready.

I started well, breaking him in the first game and again at 4-4 to be able to serve for the first serve. I needed this set badly and I wasn’t nervous serving for it. I felt as good as I could possibly have done. 6-4.

In the second set, I had a couple of break points that I vividly recall. On one, I hit a cross-court passing shot which he volleyed behind me. The next, I went full-blooded for a backhand winner down the line. I could have hit it down the middle of the court, and that might have happened in the past, but I decided to go for the winner. I just missed it. Roger took the set 7-5.

We went off for rain a couple of games into the third set and they closed the roof. Roger came out more aggressive from there. His timing is so good: when there is no wind to disturb him, he strikes the ball superbly. I don’t think I played any worse, it was just that he played a little better. He was in his element.
At 3-3, I led 40-0 and he played a really good drop shot which I fell trying to reach. That stunned me a little. I think he could see that in my eyes. He got it back to deuce and piled on the pressure. I had to save five break points, but couldn’t save a sixth. He was ahead from that moment on, taking the set 6-3 and easing over the line 6-4 in the fourth.

I have seen loads of players crying in the locker rooms after games, and heard stories about people breaking down. Normally you can get off the court pretty much straight away so that you can do that in private. Not in major finals, though, and I knew when I was going up to be interviewed on court straight after the defeat to Roger it was going to be really hard.
When I went to speak, the crowd turned the volume up and I sensed they knew what I was feeling. They made so much noise I had to wait for them. Sue Barker started to ask a question, but I knew people hadn’t heard, so I ended up taking the microphone from her and just tried to say what I was feeling.
There was no time to think about what to say. I hadn’t pictured myself losing or worried about what I might say if I did. My mind was in turmoil and the words just came spilling out. In sport, the interviews are usually so choreographed, but this was totally spontaneous.

I was just pleased that in those few moments, people saw my true personality. I appreciate the support I get, I really do. It helps so much. In the past maybe i didn’t have everyone behind me, but that summer was the first time I really felt like the crowd were saying, ‘He is one of us’. They really, really wanted me to win, they understood me and how much it meant.

I apologised to Roger for reacting the way I did, but he said not to worry, it showed how much I cared. He is a great champion. I came away proud of what I had achieved. Although I was upset that I hadn’t won, there was no second-guessing myself thinking, ‘What if I had done that differently?’ I had gone for my shots, but for a set and a half at the end of the match, he just played brilliantly.

In the locker room, Ivan said he was proud of me too, and that I’d be better next time. I believed him, but it didn’t stop me having to endure one of the saddest nights of my life.

Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl, Wimbledon 1986

Extract from Boris Becker’s autobiography, The Player:

Before my first Wimbledon final I felt like a child in a toyshop; everything was possible and I had it all before me. Every round I survived had been a triumph. Since then everything had changed. The training was more concentrated and less relaxed, and felt more like a state of emergency than anything else. The endgame against Ivan Lendl would finally answer the questions everyone was asking. Was Becker 1985 a fluke, or is he really a mega talent? It felt like a matter of life or death. At this stage, I defined myself solely through tennis and any defeat meant the complete loss of my self-confidence. Only victory could rescue me.
In 1986 I was happy when it was over. It was the most pressure I’d ever been under. The wunderkind had to prove himself. Even I couldn’t be sure how good I really was.

Lendl had never won Wimbledon, and he’d almost lost the semi-final against my friend Bobo Zivojinovic. It was only because Bobo was undone by the umpire in the fifth set that Lendl won. I preferred to have Lendl as my opponent. I knew Bobo too well, because we often practiced together, and he could break my serve, but I couldn’t break his. Lendl was already sitting in the changing room, and we didn’t speak a word. Not his usual jokes, not even a comment, just silence. He was number one in the world. I was number six. He was twenty-six and wanted to win Wimbledon at last. I was eighteen, and had to win at least one more time. I was convinced I’d win. It sounds strange, but the previous night I’d dreamt of victory, just like the year before. Lendl, on the other hand, seemed frightened, almost transfixed.

I take the first two sets 6-4 6-3 – a stress-free hour. In the third he leads 4-1, a small crisis for me. Soon he’s leading 5-4, and I’m serving. I go down to love-40. My attitude is, OK, let him win the third set, but I’ll come back in the fourth. Then three second serves, three reflex return volleys… Somehow I turn it around and win the game. Five all. I realize he’s falling. Lendl serves – I break to 6-5. I’m serving for my second Wimbledon success. It’s 40-30. When the match ends I’m on the same side of the court as in 1985. Lendl is devastated. “Well played”, he says. I’m up in the clouds, immensely relieved.

I felt I’d been transformed from a boy to an adult. I’d opened the gate to the future and now I could have faith in myself. The victory in 1986 was the most important of my career. In 1985 I’d hardly known what I’d done; one year later I knew all too well. The reaction in Germany was overwhelming, but it left me strangely cold. After all, only a month before they’d written me off.