Andy Murray, Wimbledon 2015

Three weeks after the victories of Jelena Ostapenko and Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, all players have their eyes turned to the grass courts of Wimbledon. With the absences of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, the women’s draw is once again wide open, while Roger Federer is the big favorite for the title in the men’s draw.
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Fan’s guide:

A trip down memory lane:

Wimbledon memories: Mrs Blanche Bingley Hillyard
Wimbledon memories: Charlotte Cooper Sterry
Wimbledon memories: Dora Boothby

1960-1969:
Portrait of Wimbledon champion Ann Jones
Wimbledon 1969: Laver’s getting beat by an Indian
Rod Laver – John Newcombe Wimbledon 1969

1970-1979:
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
Wimbledon 1978 in pictures
1978: First Wimbledon title for Martina Navratilova
1978: Bjorn Borg defeats Jimmy Connors
Wimbledon 1979: Passing on the record

1980-1989:

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 1987 SF Cash defeats Connors
Wimbledon 1987 Cash defeats Lendl
Tennis culture: Wimbledon victory climb
Wimbledon 1988: An era ends as Graf beats Navratilova
Wimbledon 1988: Edberg a deserving new champion

1990-1999:
Portrait of 2-time Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg
Wimbledon 1990: Becker vs Edberg
1990: Martina Navratilova’s historic 9th Wimbledon title
Wimbledon 1991: the first Middle Sunday
1991: Michael Stich defeats Boris Becker
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

2000-2009:
2000 Wimbledon SF: Pat Rafter defeats Andre Agassi
Wimbledon 2000: did dad call the shots?
2000 Wimbledon Final: Pete Sampras defeats Pat Rafter
2001 Wimbledon 4th round: Federer defeats Sampras
Wimbledon 2001 People’s Final: Ivanisevic vs Rafter

2010-2016:
Wimbledon 2010: Rafael Nadal defeats Tomas Berdych
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
Wimbledon 2016 coverage

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Pat Cash, Wimbledon 1987

Extract from Pat Cash’s autobiography Uncovered:

To my mind I wasn’t just taking on Jimmy Connors, I would also have the crowd against me. He knew every trick to get them on his side, and he would be doing everything possible to break my focus. It didn’t matter that he was nearly thirty-five years of age and hadn’t won a tournament since 1983. Zivojinovic hit twenty-five aces against him, but Jimmy had still won. A round earlier he had fought back from an abysmal start and a two set deficit to beat Mikael Pernfors.

Many people perceived Jimmy to be something of an arsehole, but in my opinion he was a great player. He had such an unusual style, nobody ever played like him and nobody ever will. He was a great athlete, but tough as nails in the bargain. Barkers [Ian Barclay] and I regularly used to watch Jimmy practice and were amazed by his drive. Every point was regarded as the most important of his life: it was inspirational to see, and that was exactly how he played his matches. Maybe that’s why he made so many comebacks and reached the US Open semifinal at the age of thirty-nine. I make no secret of the fact that I was a fan, besides which I ever had any problems with Jimmy on court. Sure, he used to play to the crowd and joke with the line judges in a thinly disguised attempt at giving himself a little rest, but tennis is all about entertainment. The first time we ever played one another was at the Canadian Open in Toronto. I was told he was making faces at me for miss-hitting a ball; I didn’t see him, so I don’t know, and I will keep an open mind. However, it’s fair to admit that opponents can certainly goad me.

Jimmy and I didn’t really socialize. He never seemed to mix with the rest of the guys, but that’s understandable – who would, if they were married to a Playboy centerfold? He had a certain style. In the States he played the true super star by climbing out of his limousine and walking straight into the court. McEnroe doesn’t hold his countryman in such high esteem as I do, but that’s because he is consumed by a competitive jealousy.

I couldn’t have a better start in the semi-final, hitting an ace with the first ball. But Jimmy was intent on being no pushover, and fought fiercely to break back at five all, after I’d served for the first set. Walking back to the baseline to return, I knew this was a crucial moment. I was determined not to fold under the pressure, and broke back immediately before taking control. This was again testimony to the work of Jeff Bond, who had instilled in me that following any loss of concentration, I should immediately snap myself back awake. Late in the third set the fire alarm went off, although I didn’t pay attention. I had moved into a 5-0 lead, dropping just four points. The bell seemed too late to save Jimmy, but he was trying all his tricks with the crowd to disrupt my concentration. I knew he’d spotted I was tense, and I didn’t want him to be inspired into another comeback as he’d managed against Pernfors. Summoning up all my focus, I managed to finish him off. The relief was immense.

Extract from Inside tennis – a season on the pro tour by Peter Bodo and June Harrison:

Jimmy Connors just wasn’t there. For once in his life, the eagerness of his mind did not reach his arms and legs. On a clear, fine day, he let Borg walk right by him, into the pantheon of tennis, as he was trounced 6-2 6-2 6-3. The match had an eerie symmetry. Each set lasted thirty-six minutes. It was as if the deities, having determined that Borg had proven himself before the final, allowed him 108 minutes in which to demonstrate why he deserved their approval.

Connors played two dazzling games to start the match up, 2-0. Then Borg ran off the next six games. He served impeccably. He returned magnificently. The turning point, if the expression applies, came in the fourth game of the second set, with Borg already up a break at 2-1. Two sizzling winners by Connors and a forehand error by Borg made the score love-40. But Borg served his way past the three break points to retain command. Connors could not mount an effective challenge the rest of the way.

The occasion had called for an epic battle, but it produced an exhibition. The most impressive statistic was Borg’s service return; he missed only two returns throughout the entire match. When Connors drove a backhand volley deep on match point, the crowd responded with a shriek. Borg began to raise his arms. His legs melted away; in a moment he was knelling on the turf, clutching his temples. He had done it, but the means were still incredible – no player in the world responded to a big match as well as Connors. But today, for reasons nobody will ever understand, much less explain, Connors just wasn’t there. Call it Wimbledon.

When Borg came to see the press, he looked like a man who had been relieved of an enormous weight. He was no more gregarious than usual, but he smiled freely and easily. He said the match was probably the best he had ever played.

The Swede had not gotten tight until 4-3 in the final set, after he missed two relatively easy volleys. “I just say to myself, if only you get to 5-3, if only you make this one more game, it will be okay.” Borg knew he had to serve well to beat Connors – his feeling that he could break Connors’s serve was vindicated, and his execution was letter-perfect.

“Now, Bjorn, about the Grand Slam,” someone said.
“No way I can dream to do that. Maybe it is better to do it first, then think about it, you know?”
“Did Connors say anything special to you after the match?”
“No.” Borg shrugged.
“How about Perry – what did Perry say?”
“He said congratulations – and that I must shave now.” A few days earlier, Perry had promised to take Borg out to dinner if he equaled his record. But now it did not look like the two would be able to get together until next Wimbledon, Borg explained, without elaborating. It seemed a shame.
The questions wandered. Borg was asked what he was thinking about when he saw the match ball go long and fell to his knees.
“I was praying.” He laughed.
“To whom?”
“To my parents,” said this man of unfathomable simplicity.
As the press conference broke up, I asked Borg how he would like to be remembered by future generations.
“That I’m a nice guy,” he said unsurely. Then conviction illuminated his face. “No. I think I want to be remembered as a winner. Yes, put that!”

When Jimmy Connors entered the pressroom, it was evident that he did not intend to hang around. He masked whatever disappointment he felt; defiance sparkled in his eyes.
“My serve took a day off,” he said. “I never got into it mentally. I got off to a decent start and I was eager, but it wasn’t there.”
Someone mentioned that the fourth game of the second set had increased Borg’s confidence, because he had come back from love-40 to hold service. “If that was the turning point in his eyes, great,” Connors said flatly.

When a reporter asked him why he hadn’t attacked more, Connors suggested it was because he wasn’t serving well. More technical questions followed, but Connors soon had enough.
“It’s all history now,” he announced. “I don’t care about history. I’m not going to brood. I play again in eight day…” He thought for a while.

“The matches Borg and I play are going to be around a lot longer than we are. Maybe when we’re seventy or so, people will still be talking about them. I don’t want them to talk about this one particularly, but there’ll be plenty more. The season is young.”

An Australian writer asked if Connors would play Down Under if Borg won the US Open and had a chance at the Grand Slam. “I may follow him to the ends of the earth now,” said Jimmy Connors.

Wimbledon 1978

Extract from Inside tennis – a season on the pro tour by Peter Bodo and June Harrison:

The sign on the railroad platform reads Southfields – alight here for Wimbledon tennis. Upstairs, newspaper vendors crowd the sidewalk, each wearing a sandwich board advertising one exclusive or another pertaining to the chances of “Our Ginny”, “Stormy Ilie”, or “The Mighty Man from Michigan”. A long line of black taxicabs provides transportation to the grounds of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, two miles away.

Traffic thickens as you approach Wimbledon. Soon you see a long queue that has formed in the predawn hours at the wrought-iron main gate of the club. When the cab pulls up, a ticket tout opens the door and offers a pair of Centre Court seats a twenty-five pounds each. The markup is still a modest 500 percent; by final days the seats will fetch at least £100 each. The fortunate people at the front of the queue have a chance to buy one of the 300 Centre Court seats that are available to the public daily, but the vast majority are waiting to purchase grounds passes that do not guarantee seating anywhere.

If you have tickets or the proper credentials, you pass through the gate beneath the club crest, the green-and-mauve club flag, and the Union Jack. Inside you have a choice of wandering about the field courts, hoping to get close enough to watch part of a match, or going directly to any of several other queues. One is for standing room alongside the Centre Court, another for the handful of seats available for Number One Court. The bleachers at the other six show courts are filled fifteen minutes after the gates open at noon. Many spectators spend the better part of the day standing in line both inside and outside the grounds. The critical attendance point at Wimbledon is 31,000; it is exceeded almost every day.

Every few moments, the main gate swings open to admit a vehicle, usually a delivery truck, a Rolls-Royce bearing royalty, a Wimbledon courtesy car, or a rented limousine carrying players like Connors or Gerulaitis. Over three hundred competitors are eligible for official transportation. A few years ago, the club maintained a fleet of elegant Daimlers to ferry players back and forth from their London hotels. Now the job is left to British-Leyland, which uses fifty sedans and as many drivers. These courtesy cars are painted to advertise the tournament and the automobile company.

Wimbledon is gigantic in spirit, but the grounds cover just about ten acres. Stewards check the ebb and flow of spectators at each court; inside the clubhouse an electronic counting device registers the click of each admission turnstile. Each afternoon, a committee of club men wearing green-and-mauve ties surveys the crowd from the balcony above the main entrance to the Centre Court. They decide whether to keep the gates open or shut them down for the day. Then they adjourn for tea.

The Centre Court is an eight-sided edifice connected to the rectangular Number One Court by a common wall. The complex looks as if it has been pieced together from odd scraps of steel and random slabs of concrete. It is a maze of cream and loden halls and staircases rambling in myriad directions, with ivy-covered walls and window boxes of blue and pink hydrangeas.

The focal point of the grounds is the large scoreboard opposite the Number One Court enclosure. This enormous green panel, which bears the legend of results and the schedule for each court, faces the players’ tearoom. Spectators on the macadam walkway below can look up and spot the contestants through the tall glass windows or on the balcony above.

There is a public dining area near the main gate, flanking a small grassy picnic area. A variety of tents house bookstalls and souvenir shops, a Pimm’s bar and the famed strawberries and cream concession, as well as a gallery of food and beverage concessions built into the side of the Centre Court.

A sloping roof extends over most of the seats in the Centre Court, leaving only the standing room along either sideline exposed to the elements. The roof adds intimacy and turns the most significant piece of sod in tennis history into a stage suitable for Elizabethan drama. Number One Court is covered at both baselines and where the east stand is a towering structure that adds a breathtaking quality to the court. Courts Two, Three, Six, and Seven, directly across from the main enclosure, also have grandstands. The only other show court is Fourteen, in a distant corner of the grounds. The rest of the twenty-three courts are divided by low fences, narrow walkways, and tall hedges reminiscent of the mazelike gardens found on baronial estates.

The Wimbledon field courts, with the steeple of St. Mary’s Church in the background:

Wimbledon 1978

Southfields Station, on the District Line

Wimbledon 1978
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Mansour Bahrami

The Legends Trophy (Trophée des Légendes) founded in 1997 by Mansour Bahrami brings together twenty-four of history’s greatest champions, grouped according to age in the two men’s draws, and twelve former women’s tennis stars. The event is a great opportunity to watch some former champions play in a friendly and funny atmosphere.
The Trophée des légendes is the unmissable event of the second week at Roland Garros.

Extract from Roland Garros Magazine’s interview with Mansour Bahrami:

RGM: How did you manage to set up the Trophée des Légendes?

To be honest, I pissed off Patrice Clerc, the director of Roland Garros (1984-2000) for three or four years before he accepted to let me organize the tournament. At the start he would tell me: “But you know that your rubbish old people’s tournament won’t work…” But we were playing all around the world, on a real circuit, the “Senior tour”, which had been created by Jimmy Connors in 1994. We were just sad to be left out of a great party which Roland Garros is. So I insisted and he said: “Mansour, I can’t take it anymore, you’re getting on my nerves… Let’s do this once, and maybe you’ll stop breaking my balls!” It was in 1997, and we’re now celebrating the twentieth edition.

RGM: Did it take time for you to completely rule in Patrice Clerc’s favor?

No, not really. There was this one first year, at the start, where two Spaniards were facing in the central court – but I can’t remember who exactly – and at the same time, we were playing a Trophée des légendes match on the Court 1 where we could host 4000 spectators. But the attendance numbers just sky-rocketed. As there wasn’t any ticket office, people were standing in the stairs, it was mad. There must have been 7000 people, with people standing outside waiting for spectators to leave. Meanwhile, there were only 600 spectators on the central court.

RGM: How do you explain the tournament’s success?

It’s pretty simple: the Trophée des légendes enables parents to take their children to tennis matches, and to tell them: “You see, Nastase, the player I’m talking about all day long, well, that’s him… he may be a little slower and fatter, but it’s really him.” (1)

RGM: What’s the atmosphere like during the tournament? Is it more a bunch of veterans gathering up to have a good time, or is it a competition like any other one?

It depends. Personally, I’m always, and I have always been relaxed. What’s important to me is seeing people walking out of the court with smiles on their faces. Others, like John McEnroe, are there to win it. If he loses, he’s just as sad as if he had lost the final of Roland Garros.

RGM: In the end, isn’t the Trophée des légendes one of the last tournaments where you can watch old school tennis, which can be fun but sometimes violent, with very strong personalities, far from today’s modern, muted and codified tennis?

Sometimes, Nastase would leave a tournament with less money than he had when he arrived: the price of his fines was higher than his earnings! I also remember Rod Laver, who would jump over the net to congratulate his opponent after a beautiful point… Do you think that would happen today? No. Why? Because we played at a time when there was no money at stake. We played for fun, and at the end of the tournament, we would win a pair of shoes… So yes it’s true, in a way, the Trophée des légendes enables this “free” spirit to live on in tennis. Today, you earn 4 million dollars if you win a Grand Slam tournament. The stakes are different.

RGM: Do you have a hard time organizing the Trophée des légendes?

Yeah, especially with John McEnroe (laughs). I’ll give you an exemple. One year, he told me that he wouldn’t be able to play the opening match. Of course, he told me that the day before the match. Well, I changed the whole program for the next day, and at midnight, he called me: “Mansour, I’ve thought about it, there is no way that I can play the second match, I’m playing the first one.” Obviously, it’s his way or no way. I had to spend the whole night phoning the others, on French, Swedish, Ecuadorian numbers… you name it! Just because of John’s stubbornness. I’ve recently told him that he couldn’t do that again. But I know he will…

RGM: Are there any favorites this year?

In the “young” category, the Spaniards who have just joined, like Carlos Moya and Juan Carlos Ferrero, are really good. Michaël Llodra could also surprise a few, for his first participation. In the category of players who are older than 45, Goran Ivanisevic and Sergi Bruguera are both equally impressive. But to be fair, we don’t really care about the level of the players. We invite players who are loved by the crowd. I’ve sometimes had to reject some guys who were unpopular.

(1) Nastase is not a very good example as he stopped playing the Trophée at least 5 years ago.
(2) We get his point but seriously, Borg, Connors and McEnroe among others were not playing for fun or for a pair of shoes. They were already signing big contracts. And today’s players don’t earn 4 million dollars for a Roland Garros victory.

Photo credit: Roland Garros Magazine

Read more:
Costa, Moya, Enqvist and Gaudio: fun under the sun
Past champions seen around the grounds at Roland Garros 2014
Roland Garros 2015: Clijsters and Navratilova pair to win the Legends Trophy