Monday 20 June 2011

Wimblemund 2011, day 1

More sport! And not just any old sport, Wimbledon! My favourite sporting event of them all, with all its tramlines and furry balls and that. Seeing as I've been blogging more regularly - mainly about my own introspective crises, but blogging is blogging - and that I tried to do this the other year, I suppose that my dusting off the old Wimblemund category had a grinding inevitability to it.

This year I'm aiming a little lower than any in-depth analysis. Rather, this will be a repository for my thoughts on some of the games I've seen. Hopefully by doing them here, rather than in 140-character increments on Twitter, I can avoid 470 people telling me to shut up. But if they want to, there's always the comments.

Francesca Schiavone bt. Jelena Dokic 6-4, 1-6, 6-3
The second match on Centre Court was packed with interest. The French Open finalist Schiavone, who could easily beat any number of goalkeepers in a Who Looks The Most Like An Italian Goalkeeper? contest is seeded 6th and was firm favourite over Jelena Dokic, a woman whose tumultuous private life rivals anything you've ever seen on EastEnders. But Dokic is a former top-4 player as well as a former Wimbledon semi-finalist. She's got the chops, in other words.

She also had the nips. Either her dress was very tight or it was unexpectedly cold. All in all, she cut a slightly unusual figure out on court. She is starting to resemble her own drawing should she ever be in The Simpsons. However, her touch on the biggest stage hadn't deserted her, and both players headed for the first of what looks likely to prove to be many rain breaks finely poised at 1-1 in the third set.

Returning to play out their match under the roof, the remainder proved a scintillating demonstration of what makes a top-10 player a top-10 player. Dokic had played well and was still giving as good as she got in every one out of 3 or 4 strokes. Dokic is a rather flighty-looking individual with a rather chequered history, and such unreliability makes her compelling to watch. When she approaches to volley a winner into an empty court, the safest place to stand probablistically is usually within the lines of the playing area itself. But for the TV viewer, knowing that the ball can't possibly hit them, it's rivetting. You can even have bets on it. Will she cane it high like it's a baseball or scuzz it low as if she's wielding a putter? Will she conk it off the frame of the racket into a pigeon? Will she even hit it at all? When she hits a winner, though, it's a timely reminder of what she could achieve if she could concentrate for minutes at a time. Schiavone battled through, then, but Dokic will definitely be missed.

Andy Murray bt. Daniel Gimeno-Traver 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-0
The British tennis fan of this generation will never embrace Andrew Murray the same way as they did Tim Henman. Murray is suffused with this air of competence which is so un-British in a tennis pro. Even after he tipped his hat to the old master by losing the opening set under the Centre Court roof, it was still fairly clear that Murray would prevail. With Tim Henman, every single point was a triumph of collective will over individual frailty. Murray, meanwhile, looks like a player nailed on for every Grand Slam semi-final for the forseeable future. It's the odd set spread over the fortnight which is likely to be his undoing.

Still, it was an impressive start. Gimeno-Traver came out well and was good for his early lead. However, it was immediately clear after Murray broke his serve in the eighth game of the second set that he'd burnt himself out in the process. Murray barely gave the Spanish player a point for the remaining 14 games. It was as complete a rout as you're likely to see in this year's tournament.

If Andrew Murray manages to win Wimbledon this year - or any year - I will be delighted. But in the back of my mind will always be the thought of how much richer the experience could have been, to have seen Tim Henman's disbelieving, dog riding in a car, happy face had he ever been in the same situation.

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