Monday 25 June 2012

Wimblemund 2012: day 1

1258: It's day 1 of Wimbledon and I've got an R. White's lemonade ice lolly. Things don't get much better than this. Although I'd prefer a lemonade Sparkle. And is it too much to ask for a joke on the stick? Come to think of it, my day is ruined.

1301: The champion returns to Centre Court: it's Novak Djokovic, the man who is channelling the spirit of Screech from Saved By The Bell, about to play Juan Carlos Ferrero, former world number 1 back in the days when rackets were wooden and dinosaurs ruled the Earth. It's a tricky opener for Djokivoc, who'd probably have preferred to have drawn Mats Wilander.

1306: Juan Carlos Ferrero, venerable tennis veteran, is in fact the same age as me. This is why I hate tennis.

1309: We're under way on Centre but they've already begun on Court 1, where 8th seed Janko Tipsarevic is playing David Nalbandian. It's a cautious start from Tipsarevic, who is wearing shinpads. Meanwhile, anyone who blinked on Centre Court may have missed that Djokovic is already 1-0 ahead.

1313: That ice lolly was delicious, and only 60 calories! R. White's Lemonade Ice Lollies - buy some today.

1314: There's the first sight of that man with the beard who sits in the players' families box at Wimbledon every year, wearing a daft hat. I don't know who he is or what his role is at the All-England Club, but he's a permanent fixture. So permanent, in fact, that in these days of blanket TV sports coverage you'd have thought someone would have mentioned his name. Concern: am I the only person who can see him?

1316: Djokovic faces down a break point on his serve by means of tennis. I've not got the heart to tell him but he seems to have an ice cube bag stuck to his right elbow. Embarrassing.

1318: Theories as to the identity of the families' box man I have had in the past: ornament, automaton (once I first saw him move), Roger Federer's grandpappy.

1322: Djokovic made a bit of a meal of that and Ferrero breaks his serve to lead 2-1 in the first set. Djokovic was hindered by his continual service of the ball into the net instead of over it, which is apparently frowned upon. Boris Becker, who is my schoolboy crush, ponders in commentary for the BBC that Djokovic's footwork is off, a point that Novak quickly disproves by falling over at a crucial stage on Ferrero's 4th break point.

1325: The reigning men's champion kicks off proceedings on Centre Court every year and almost never loses. But this is Novak's first Wimbledon defence and he's playing like no-one has told him this. Could he fall at the first hurdle to a clay court specialist with a wooden leg? Perhaps not, as Djokovic breaks Ferrero back for 2-2.

1328: Playing tennis on grass is a bit of a daft thing to do, when you really think about it.

1334: Novak Djokovic was born on 22nd May 1987 in Belgrade, which was then in Yugoslavia and is now of course the capital of Serbia. Serbia is a landlocked country, which means that whilst Djokovic excels on grass, clay and hard courts, he's not so good on water. Could he have been had Yugoslavia not been broken up by its ruinous civil wars? And could Novak be the most famous living Serbian? These are the big questions, one of which is almost certainly answerable.

1337: Juan Carlos Ferrero has very thin legs. They're like pipe cleaners with a Monster Munch on the end. It's 4-3 Djokovic, by the way.

1340: Old Crazylegs Ferrero has suddenly remembered that he's supposed to be completely obsolete and loses his second service game of the day. Now Djokovic is serving for the first set, one of three sets I suspect he will be aiming to win today.

1343: To celebrate his success in the first set, the TV director shows us some slow-motion close ups of Novak Djokovic, the man, in action: removing a racket from its plastic sheath, drinking a bottle of water... ooh stop it. IT IS 6-3 0-0* DJOKOVIC.

1345: Our first view of Henman Hill. I like the fact that it will always be known as Henman Hill, which is a fair reflection of Our Tim's contribution to British tennis. I don't so much like being waved at by 2,500 menopausal women, and as such I treat the camera cutting away to the scene there with great disdain.

1349: In many ways, this match puts me in mind of last night's penalty shoot-out in the European Championships. Juan Carlos Ferrero is currently expertly essaying the part of England. 6-3 1-1*

1352: Djokovic is settling in nicely. As the BBC commentary team, he's seeing the ball a lot better now. He's seeing it as large as a watermelon, in fact. All of which is well and good until you consider the fact that he has just gone to fetch a racket of appropriate size for such an eventuality. Nevertheless, Djokovic has broken Ferrero again. With his big racket. 6-3 *2-1.

1357: Remember when the mini fridge on the back of the umpire's chair at Wimbledon was full to the gunnels with Robinson's Lemon Barley Water? I miss those days. It made for a world where you could believe some of the world's finest athletes were powered solely by lemons and barley. A cursory glance in the same fridge now reveals a saddeningly modern sight: 4 cans of Monster energy drink, 12 blue things which have apparently got electrolytes in and Maria Sharapova's femidom.

1359: Apparently the net on a tennis court is 6 inches lower on the centre line than it is at either end. I find it hard to believe the dip is so pronounced by just looking at it, but there you go. I can see I am going to need to go and measure it with whatever I have to hand.

1401: Has anyone ever hit the ball so hard that it's been turned into strips of yellow fuzzy rubber tagliatele?

1405: Latest from other courts: David Nalbandian has so far managed to avoid assaulting anyone, but he's a set and a break down to Janko Tipsarevic on Court 1. Meanwhile, five-time ladies' singles champion Venus Williams is 0-5 behind to Russia's Elena Vesnina. Who is from Russia.

1407: I'm not sure what it is about families' box man, but in my mind there is no way that he is not from Austria. Also, he doesn't ever seem to age, which adds further fuel, perhaps, to my "figment of my imagination" theory.

1412: Venus Williams' tormentor, Elena Vesnina is 25, from Russia and a former world number 22. She was born in Lviv (now in Ukraine, as you football fans will know) but lives in Sochi. She is more of a doubles specialist, having reached the final of both the French Open (2009, 2011) and Wimbledon (2010). Her best performance in the Wimbledon singles to date was round 4 in 2009. And if you think I'm just reading all of this off of Wikipedia, how do you reckon Sue Barker does it?

1415: Ah, now, Hawkeye makes its first appearance on Centre this year. I am largely indifferent towards Hawkeye, not least because of the way everyone claps waiting for its verdict. I am opposed to a lot of technological intervention in sport, actually. I think it causes as many problems and poses as many questions as it solves or answers. However, I accept that it is necessary in sports such as Formula 1 motor racing or robot golf.

1419: I may have lost sight of reportage slightly, so now would be a good time to point out that Djokovic is now really motoring away convincingly, and leading 6-3, 5-3*. Ferrero has just faced down two set points on his own serve, though, so perhaps he is lulling Djokovic into a false sense of security?

1422: He was not, probably. 6-3, 6-3.

1423: David Nalbandian has now gotten more games into his first round match without physically attacking anyone than he managed during the final at Queen's, but there's a glint in his eye so I'd still recommend wearing a cup.

1425: Which animal do you reckon would be the most inconvenient to be loose on Centre Court at Wimbledon? Within reason, I mean. We all know that a lion or a randy bull elephant loose at any sporting event would be far from ideal.

1427: I'd quite like another R. White's lemonade ice lolly now, but there's only one left in the box and my girlfriend - who bought them - hasn't had one yet. God; if you think it would be OK for me to eat the last R. White's lemonade ice lolly, send me no sign.

1429: Juan Carlos Ferrero is starting to looks like he doesn't believe he can win this. Lesser mortals wouldn't have to wait until they were 6-3, 6-3, 1-0 (30-40) down to the reigning champion and world number 1 on the Centre Court at Wimbledon before this happened, but Ferrero is made of pure beef.

1431: God sent me no sign, but He in His infinite wisdom also blessed me with a conscience. Rats. I've decided to just lick some moss instead.

1434: I think they should bring back trousers at Wimbledon.

1436: I love tennis, but even I accept the game would be more entertaining if each player had to have a glass of Pimm's at each change of ends.

1440: On Court 4, there are already signs that the grass is starting to wear away around the baseline. Grass used to be made of sterner stuff. But no matter, as Vesnina is still giving Venus Williams a serious run for her money, leading 6-1, 4-2. It is a sonically interesting match, too. Venus favours her now classic "hup-uggh" but Vesnina is breaking in a "hueegghhy" which seems to be highly effective on this surface.

1444: I turned over to see what was happening with Vesnina and Williams and upon my return to Centre Court found Djokovic was now serving for the match at 5-1 in the third set.

1445: On Court 4, incidentally,  there are still four bottles of Robinson's Barley Water proudly on display under the umpire's chair. But in keeping with the modern world of MTV and cellular telephones, it is diluted exclusively with lager.

1446: I could go for a Lemon Budvarley Water right now.

1450: Djokovic is through, 6-3 6-3 6-1. This raises the question: Juan Carlos Ferrero is out of Wimbledon a mere hour and 48 minutes after it started... what's his schedule going to be like for the rest of the fortnight? Play some doubles? Move on to enter another tournament next week? Or just dick around eating pies in the hotel room? With the money for a first round loser at Wimbledon being well over £10,000, I'm pretty sure I know which one I would opt for.

1452: Elena Vesnina has knocked out Venus Williams, 6-1, 6-3. Venus is the very picture of dignity and sportsmanship and doesn't even take a bottle of Barley Water like you or might have done. Also, it turns out it was Court 2, rather than Court 4. Currently on Court 4: wasps.

1457: Next on Centre is Maria Sharapova, not the reigning champion but perhaps Petra Kvitova is caught up with those wasps on 4? Sharapova's up against Flora Notachanceinhell of East Europeania.

1504: Maria's competition is in fact the Russian-born Australian Anastasia Rodionova. Apparently she's a ornery sort when she plays, so that could prove entertaining. However, her best at Wimbledon is round 3 in 2010. Mind you, she is the reigning Commonwealth singles and doubles champion. However, this may be related to Russia's - and therefore Maria Sharapova's - peculiar ongoing reluctance to join the Commonwealth as much as it is to do with her talent. Let's find out, in the company of former British number 14 and world number 1693 Terry Backhand and American starlet Teeth Ferguson.

1505: They've only just finished hitting up before the match but Rodionova already looks like she's fair gasping for some lemon barley water.

1508: Rodionova has made a bold start, losing the first seven points consecutively in order to spook Maria Sharapova into changing her approach.

1511: Idea: shoes with rackets attached to the toes.

1516: "Jack, draw me like one of your French girls. And make my bush look like the Centre Court lawn on day one at Wimbledon."

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