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The Wimbledon Fortnight – Day Fourteen: My Mother’s Wimbledon Memories

Wimbledon is almost over. This final day, I'm giving the floor to my mother, who taught me why tennis is the greatest sport in the world. Read on!

It’s been thirteen days. Today, at day fourteen, Wimbledon will come to an end, and with it my daily tennis posts. In fact, I won’t be writing at all today, because, for the first time in the history of The Open Book, there will be a guest author. I wouldn’t have loved tennis as much if it wasn’t for her, and that’s why I want her to bring this Wimbledon Fortnight to a close. She is going to take you down memory lane and share her favourite Wimbledon moments with you. Please give it up for my tennis-loving mum!

Whenever I buy a new weekly planner, the Wimbledon Fortnight is the first event I write down in it. I’ve seen so many editions that it’s impossible to have a clear recollection of all of them. That’s why I’ll write down a couple of personal highlights. I had to make a few hard decisions, but that’s part of life, isn’t it?

First off, 1974. My first clear Wimbledon memory. I saw a picture in the newspaper, showing happy couple Jimmy Connors and Christ Evert. No idea who they were, until I saw the rest of the article. Apparently, they’d both won Wimbledon, the tennis tournament. I do believe I’d seen a couple of matches on the Dutch television, but didn’t really care about it that much.

Standing here, I relived all these amazing matches I’d watched over the years

A year later, in 1975, everything had changed. I had joined the local tennis club and started watching Wimbledon all the time. I was fifteen years old, attended secondary school, but didn’t have any homework at all for the duration of Wimbledon. Very strange indeed! What I remember most is the legendary one-time winner, black player Arthur Ashe. I still remember how he made a huge unforced error at match point, but still managed to beat Jimmy Connors.

After that, another man took over, a Swede called Bjorn Borg – you might have heard of him. I wasn’t attracted to him in the same way as the legions of girls who were worshipping him like a god (I actually think he’s much more handsome now!). He was stoic, traditional, and yet completely original, and I was impressed by his style. But to me, it only became truly interesting when Borg met his polar opposite John McEnroe. Oh, how I laughed when he had yet another outburst (“You cannot be serious!”), while Borg kept playing without breaking a sweat.

1985 was a big and very important year: I didn’t watch Wimbledon for the first time in ten years. Instead, I was enjoying a holiday with my husband-to-be Paul. We were on a campsite in France, in a small town with no tv, radio, or, obviously, mobile phones. When I saw the newspapers on the Monday after the Championships, I was in shock. There was this young boy with red hair lifting the Wimbledon Cup. I had no idea who he was, but it turned out to be German newcomer Boris Becker. He’s grown up to be one of my favourite tennis commentators on the BBC.

Determined not to miss Wimbledon ever again (I have always planned my holidays carefully around it since), I was glued to the television each year. During the eighties and nineties new players emerged, all with their own stories. There was Swedish player Stefan Edberg, flamboyant Andre Agassi, invincible Pete Sampras, and even a Dutch winner: Richard Krajicek. I loved watching these tournaments, year after year, saw winners come and go, and after these two Wimbledon weeks, my life returned to normal.

Until 2001, that is. That year, something so special happened at Wimbledon that I still cannot think of it without feeling the corners of my mouth lift upwards. Goran Ivanisevic, who had been in three Wimbledon finals but hadn’t managed to win the title yet, was given a wildcard after his ranking had dropped. He was struggling with injuries, and didn’t feel very motivated to continue playing tennis, but decided to give it one more go.

A Dutch sports journalist thought it was such an interesting story that he decided to follow Ivanisevic, and interview him after every match. Little did he know that Goran wouldn’t only win the first, second and third match, all the way until the semi-finals… Rain-tormented, that historical match between Goran and British hope Tin Henman was played over the course of three days, with eventually a Croatian crushing the dreams of a nation. The latter never won the title, but he did have a hill named after him.

One of my absolute heroes, Goran Ivanisevic. (He’s turned into quite a handsome man, too, hasn’t he?)

Because of the rain delay, the men’s final was held on a Monday. The second Monday of the Championships is called Manic Monday, but that day it was Magic Monday. I was lucky; it was my day off as a teacher, which allowed me to watch the match from beginning to end (that day, I had no idea where my children were after school – and to be honest, I didn’t care). The audience was going crazy; there were loud football fans, school children, and other people who wouldn’t mind watching a tennis match because they had never done so before; for no tickets had been sold prior to the match. It was an unprecedented atmosphere at the usually so composed Centre Court.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, Goran beat Australian Patrick Rafter (side note by Elke: I remember how mum used to stare at this man with a certain kind of greed in her eyes, that’s how handsome she thought he was) in a nerve-wracking five-setter. Goran’s feet gave out under him, he broke out into tears, and all over the world, tennis fans cried with him. Twenty minutes later, I heard a knock on my window. It was my brother, also with tears streaming down his face, who simply had to let me know that this was the best match he’d ever seen.

Two years later, however, we both had to reconsider those words. For in 2003, long-reigning champion Pete Sampras was beaten by up-and-coming Roger Federer. It was the year my daughter Elke started her love affair with Wimbledon and the almighty Swiss. She’s had a couple of other love affairs, but this one would stay in her heart forever.

Fast-forward ten years. After watching Federer win another couple of titles, it was time for someone else to lift the Cup. “The wait is over!” For the first time in decades, a British man, Andy Murray won Wimbledon, lifting the spirits of the nation. While Elke isn’t much of a fan, I must admit I’m quite enamoured with this sometimes grumpy, but often funny Scotsman: “I can’t play like Roger, but I can cry like him!” He’s a real fighter, plays endless rallies, and then pounce on his opponents mercilessly. I’m still impressed how he never succumbed to the media pressure of the entire United Kingdom desperately wanting a British man to win their favourite tennis tournament.

Five years later, in 2018, my daughter Elke and I finally attended Wimbledon – which you can read about right here at The Open Book. I cannot describe my emotions any better than she did. I’ve had a beautiful life, with my husband, my three children, and so much more, but this trip to London is definitely one I will cherish for the rest of my life.

It’s 2021 now. Roger Federer (despite having seen so many players come and go, he’ll always be my favourite player of all time) lost in the quarter-final, and I have no idea whether he’ll be back. We don’t know, and neither does he. I did enjoy watching a busload of new players showing off their skills on the Wimbledon turf. There are some nice personalities (and handsome players – come on, Matteo Berrettini!) and technically superb styles around, and I can’t wait to find out what they’ll do in the future.

For now I’ll just enjoy the summer, and the rest of the 50 weeks until Wimbledon 2022 starts. I might just start playing tennis myself again. I feel quite confident I’ll be rather good, for watching great tennis for forty-five years is bound to rub off on you and turn you into an immensely skilled player. Isn’t it?

Elke’s proud mum,

Bee

Thanks, Mum! That’s all! It’s been an amazing fourteen days, and even though I still think Roger Federer should have won the title, I do believe that the best part about tennis is the unpredictability of it. I will have time to read some books again, so that’s what I’ll be writing about again. If you’ve liked these last fourteen posts on Wimbledon, or if you want to read more book-related content, don’t forget to follow me for more book musings! Also, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts about Wimbledon, and the posts I’ve written about it!

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