Wimbledon Wrap

The last ball has been hit, the last strawberries eaten, the last photo taken, and we have two new Wimbledon Champions.
Press, TV, players, agents, friends, family , everyone has packed and made their way to Heathrow for the trip home.  The streets in Wimbledon are once again quiet and suburban.
I’m writing this from my home in Hermosa Beach, the french doors are open, and a cool ocean breeze sets the wind chime singing.  Music from my favorite jazz station fills the air.  Life is good.
By Day 13 everyone was looking forward to going home.  Grand Slams are amazing, exciting, and a lot of work.  The media have been working together in close proximity for weeks now, many of them since before the French in May, and to tell the truth we were getting on each others nerves.
Now that I’ve had a day’s rest and a great evening watching fireworks to celebrate America’s independence from the Brits, I’m ready to recap, so here are a few thoughts and observations from the fortnight
Fancy fingernails seem to be the cool  thing with the women here.
The fashion was unusually dull except for Venus and Mattock Sands.. what’s up with that tennis ball jacket?  Ok, I know, I know, give her points for being unique and you do have to do something to stand out with the boring “predominantly white” rule.  Serena usually gives us fodder for conversation, but was quite conservative this year as was Sharapova.  The men of course rarely give us anything to write about.

Celebs and royals came out to see and be seen.  Kate and William caused a stir, while Princess Beatrice and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall,  made a showing, but didn’t get nearly the paparazzi attention of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  Wimbledon Champion Bjorn Borg was in attendance looking as gorgeous as ever, chating with Aussie tennis legend, John Newcomb. Also sitting in the royal box with Mark Woodford was the ever hot Ivanisovic.

Diana Ross and Kim Cattrall were also spotted but for the most part, I have a really hard time recognizing who all the photogs in the pit are pointing their cameras at when not shooting the players, and there are always a lot of personalities who are famous in Britain who I have no idea about. I did finally recognize Rupert Grint of Harry Potter fame.. he actually looks just like a taller version of Ron Weasley, the boy he played in the famed films.

As for the tennis, some very interesting matches.  Mardy Fish gave notice in his first match that he might be more dangerous than anyone thought, defeating 6th seed Tomas Berdych in straight sets.  Fish, was seeded 10, but frankly no one was really paying much attention to him.  However he made it through to the quarters losing to Rafa in four.

Unseeded “Deliciano” Lopez served up 28 aces, 57 winners, eight unforced errors. and a spectacular loss to 8th seed, Andy Roddick, who left the court, head bowed, dragging his purple and green Wimbledon towel behind him.  When fans ask for autographs as he left, he threw his racquet into the stands, guess he figured he didn’t want to be using the losing racquet again.

Then of course there was the big upset.  Tsonga over Federer.  Frankly I wasn’t that surprised. When Tsonga is in form he can be a threat to anyone.  For the Swiss moving into the semi’s looked like a sure thing, after winning the first two sets, but Tsonga had other ideas.  Never giving up he knocked out The Fed’s cruise control and took the next three sets.  This was Roger’s first ever grand slam loss from two sets up.  To me, this marks the end of RF’s  domination of the grass courts at SW 19.

Later in press, the former Wimbledon Champion commented, “Quarters is a decent result. Obviously people think quarters is shocking, but people would die to play in the quarter-final stages of Grand Slam play.”  Yeah Roger, I’m sure you are truly satisfied with this result.  Could you ever show us how you really feel?  Then the former Wimbledon Champion, went on to say,      “­­It’s not something I’m used to doing, losing in quarter-finals, because it’s not something I’ve done in the last six years.”

The Murray/Nadal match-up in the semi’s was eagerly awaited by the British fans and press, but truthfully, I never thought that the Scot could prevail over the Spanish.  The Brits don’t really like Murray that much thinking him sour and not even close to the English gentlemen aura that Tim Henman possessed.

Okay want to talk about the women? In a quote I find eerily similar to Roger’s, Victoria Azarenka said after losing to Kvitova in the semi, “I haven’t lost to anybody who didn’t [go on to] win the tournament since March.”  Well, good for you Victoria..does this mean that you only lose to the best?  Does losing to the eventual winner ease the sting of the loss?

Truth is, everyone in the photo pit was talking about how horrible a final between Sharapova and Azarenka would be with all the screaming and shrieking streaming from each of them.  For sure you would need noise canceling headphones.  In one of her earlier matches, the fans actually started mimicking the Bulgarian’s  grunts and shouts.

As for Kvitova, she came through to the semi’s with no big challenges.  A player that no one knew much about even though she was seeded 8, she moved through the draw without drama or fanfare.  The first lefty to win the women’s title since her role model Czech born Martina Navratilova won in 1994,  at 21 it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more of the tall Czech.

Petra, may have also made unintentional history at the Championships by dropping an F-bomb when Wimbledon Chairman Phillip Brooke  showed her the Wimbledon plaque with her name engraved on it minutes after the match, here’s the link.  I think we are going to like this new champion!

As for the men, DJ’s win wasn’t really a surprise.  He’s been on a roll since the beginning of the year.  His loss in paris ending his winning streak actually took the pressure off a bit for Wimbledon.  He’s been stuck at number 3 behind Nadal and Federer for the past four years, but gained the number one ranking with his semi-final win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  It looks to me like  the Nadal/Federer rivalry is finished and a new Djokovic/Nadal rivalry is born. Federer is five years senior to Nadal who just turned 25, and six years older the 24-year-old Serb.  Thirty is not exactly over the hill, but tennis is a young players sport, and with so many younger players with a lot of desire, the Fed Express is going to have a very long road to gain a number one or two ranking again.

While all the other photographers were jockeying to get photos of Nola with the gold trophy,  I couldn’t help but notice Rafa sitting in his chair looking wistfully at the finalist trophy.  I had a feeling that he was already thinking about how to regain the number one ranking.

So the mantle has been passed two first time champions hold the gold cups and we put another Wimbledon to rest.


The Flying Frenchman

A lot is being written about Rafa, Novak and Murray, and Tsonga is sort of being treated as the also ran, but he is one of my favorites.  First of all the name  “Tsonga”.. its musical, rolls off your lips like a song.  Second, the smile.. lights up his face like a high wattage bulb and makes you want to smile along with him.  When he wins, he dances around the court, when he looses, he  congratulates the winner warmly.

I love the fact that when the fans cheered him as he left the court after losing to Nadal, he looked up and let that smile lighten up the stadium.  So unlike other’s who I won’t mention who sulk off the court looking down and angry like a child who has just been reprimanded.

In the post match interview one of the reporters commented on how Jo-Wilfried had caught the hearts of the Wimbledon crowd to which he replied, ” If you give to them, they give to you”  so true. I love this quote, someone should make a shirt with this Tsonga sentiment.  JW is a player who always gives 1000 percent, who never gives up and who has an air of likability about him.  I mentioned this to the photographer sitting next to me and he replied, “yes, he’s the kind of guy who you’d like to have a beer with”.

Ask what he particularly likes about the grass court-court game, Tsonga answered, ” Maybe you can dive.  Yeah, because this is the only surface you can really dive, because on the other, if you dive you go directly to the hospital.  So this is good.”  And dive he did.  this semi-final match against the now number one player in the world, Novak Djokovic was full of more thrills, spills, splits and dives that you see at Barnum and Baily.  I don’t know if the grass was particularly slippery, but both players were slipping and sliding as they were playing on the red clay of Roland Garros.  
There was one point in the third set where both players fell, and then were able to get up and continue the point totally amazing.  It was hard to take photos, I just wanted to watch the play. During another rally  Tsonga dove twice and Djokovic once while on another point, after both dived, the two lay on the ground looking at each other as if they both decided to take a rest .I’m giving you this link so you can see this point for yourself.  Trust me you will be amazed and entertained.  http://tennisplanet.typepad.com/blog/2011/07/incredible-points-djokovic-tsonga-semifinal-wimbledon-2011.html.
I knew going in that his was going to be a match full of good photos both players are very entertaining and give great images, but truthfully this match surpassed my expectations.
Born in Le Mans France to a French mother and a Congolese father, Jo-Wilfrieds father moved to France to become a professional handball player, so perhaps this is where the Muhammad Ali look-alike gets his athletic ability.
His website logo is “Impossible is Nothing”  This is attitude has brought him through years of hard times with injury and illness,  let’s hope that the 26-year-old can stay healthy and that we’ll see a lot more of him in the future.

The Queue

The British tradition of Queueing is legendary they pride themselves on being exceptionally good at it, and the Wimbledon Queue is  no exception.  As much a part of Wimbledon as strawberries and cream, camping overnight for a chance to purchase coveted Center Court tickets has become the highlight of many fans year.
I spoke to two women in the queue who have been lining up for tickets for thirty-five years!  They originally met in the queue and have made it a tradition to meet every year for a chat, card game, and the fun of camping out.
Sort of a cross between music festival and Scouts Camp, the overnight adventure is as much fun for most as actually getting inside the wrought iron gates of the AELTC.
Up until recent years  the sidewalk along Church Road was the scene of the festivities.  People gave up the comfort of their beds to sleep on the hard concrete of SW19.  A party atmosphere prevailed and part of the fun of it was the outrageous idea of sleeping on a public sidewalk.  People brought portable barbecue setups, music, and games. They drank a lot alcohol, had a lot of fun, but never really got out of control.
It was colorful and cool. Enterprising peddlers would roam the queue selling umbrellas, burgers cold drinks and the local takeaway places would even deliver to your spot! I always enjoyed walking back to my rental in Southfields and stopping along the way for a chat or a beer .. yes, they were very friendly and always invited you to join the party.
Then a few years ago the residents of Wimbledon decided they had enough of the campers, and protests moved the Queue across the street to Wimbledon Park.  Still nice, still fun, but a totally different atmosphere, much more civilized.  Spontaneity has been replaced with organization.  Sleeping on the street has been replaced with sleeping in tents on the grass.  It’s much more Scout camp than Mad behavior.  
Burger and cappuccino Vans give an alternative to those that don’t bring or run out of food.  There are even Port-a-Loos.  The stewards give the wakeup call at 6AM when tents and camping gear must be packed up.
The lines when I crossed the park on Monday were unbelievable.  snaking up and down the park there seemed to be no end.  I ask one of the Honorary Stewards how many people were in the Queue and he told me around 8,000.  EIGHT THOUSAND! I couldn’t believe it.  Plus it was only 9:30 AM and the line would surly increase with people who hadn’t camped overnight in the park.  Would everyone get in?  Yes, probably but for many not until around 5PM.  This means that a good number of the fans would have been waiting in line for more than 24 hours.  There is no way any American would do this .. or French for that matter .. the Aussie’s, well maybe, they’re mad enough and they do have that English history.


Day 8 Hassan Ndayishimiye

You say you’ve never heard of Burundi?  Well neither had I until this week when I heard about Hassan Ndayishimiye, a 16 year old playing in the juniors to be the first tennis player to represent the East African country of Burundi in the Wimbledon Championships.
My curiosity was immediately sparked and I started researching this country that I knew nothing about.  One of the world poorest countries,  approximately 80% of the Burundi population lives in poverty.  According to the World Food Program, 56% of children under age five suffer from chronic malnutrition. Life expectancy at birth is estimated at 48.5 years.
Officially known as the Republic of Burundi, located in the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa, the country is landlocked but it’s southwestern border is adjacent to Lake Tanganyika.
So how did this young man who was raised in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, and grew up in a shantytown, make it to the Wimbledon Championships?
His tennis pro father encouraged is son even though Hassan was often reluctant, saying that his father actually forced him to play, but then when he started winning he liked tennis, because like any kid in the world he liked winning.
The young player progressed and won a few tournaments.  Ndayishimiye has been training at the ITF Training Center in Pretoria, South Africa since 2009.  The ITF and the Grand Slam Development Fund offers young players from developing nations an opportunity to advance their training.
The International Tennis Federation requested a wild card from the All England Club into the qualifying and he won his two matches to reach the main draw.
Hassan won his first round match yesterday but lost a hard-fought 3 set second round match to Frederico Ferre Silva of Portugal today.  However, the young Burundian looks like a player.  He’s quick around the court, has a big forehand, and gives his all on every point.  His father has also apparently taught him good manners.  I noticed on a call that he didn’t agree with, he didn’t make a fuss, just shook it off and continued to play his best. You can’t help but cheer for this teen and hope he makes it in tennis.
Ndayishimiye is obviously having the time of his life just being at Wimbledon, and rubbing shoulders with some of the top players in the world.  He was quoted on the ITF website as saying,  “I just have to thank the ITF and the Development Fund for giving me this chance and believing in me. I just want to take this opportunity to play as hard as I can. My goal is to just take each match at a time.”
I’ll be watching for him at the US Open and will be sending out more reports on his progress. and I want to say thank you Hassan for this feel good story, and for putting a smile on my face today.

Monday Day 7

Having the middle Sunday off is the best tradition of the Wimbledon Championship.  Every grand slam should do this, but instead the French have added a day so they now have a fifteen day event.  This is way too much for any event except the Olympics which has a lot of events rather than just players hitting a yellow ball over a net day after day, for hours and hours.

I started my wonderful Sunday having brunch with friends at Covent Garden, the on to the Tate Modern for the Miro Exhibit.  All the museums in London
are free which I think is great.  I love Joan Miro’s work, the way he reduces everything to a simple arrangement of signs, often on a brilliant blue background reminiscent of the Catalonia sky.   Born in Barcelona, he spend his last years in Majorca, the home of both Carlos Moya and Rafael Nadal.

There was also a wonderful photography exhibit about the war in Afghanistan.  Irish photographer, John Burke made extraordinary images of the Second Anglo-Alghan War ( 1878-1880).  Simon Norfolk who is a contemporary photographer researched Burke’s vantage points and made digital versions from the same or similar locations.
The exhibit makes a powerful statement on the state of the country and the futility of war. For 130 years the Afghan people  have endured imperialism and conflict.  Yet when you see these images made over 100 years apart nothing has really changed.  This is a show that everyone should see.  I’m going to try to contact someone at the Tate and see if they have any plans to bring this show to the USA.

It’s a hot day and walking along the river at Southbank I come across this scene,
kids having a lot fun playing in this fountain. I doubt this is what the artist who created the waterworks had this in mind, but it’s looking very tempting on this 90 degree day.

Next, a boat trip down the Themes, shopping at Canary Wharf, and some night photography, which is one of my favorite ways to spend an evening.

Nine PM Monday. The sisters have both hit the dust .. or should I say grass today.  Venus bowed out to Tsvetana Pironkova who has never been past the second round of a grand slam, 6-2, 6-3. Over on court one Marion Bartoli who lost to Venus in the 2007 final took out her revenge on Serena, defeating the four-time Champion in straight sets.

That leaves Mardy Fish .. the late bloomer, and the Bryans to carry the stars and stripes for the USA.

The Brits had a big exciting day with Andy Murray reaching the last eight, defeating France’s Richard Gasquet, and to top it off, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were in attendance.  The Duchess in a gorgeous white summer dress, did the royals proud.  Kate is a big favorite here and is certainly showing Diana’s flair for fashion. There were more camera’s pointed at her than Murray.  Of course she is much better looking .. and most of the photographers are male, so what would you expect?  

Feliciano Lopes, better known among the women here as “Deliciano” gave us a huge scare,  nearly losing to qualifier Lukasz Kubot,  who had won the first two sets, and had two match points in the third,  before the tour heart-throb rallied and won in five tight ones.  He meets Murray next which could be an interesting. Murray’s mother Judy, is the one who tagged the handsome Spanish with the Deliciano nickname and it’s causing Andy more than a little embarrasment.  Commenting to reporters the number four seed, said,  ‘I think it’s about time she stopped that nonsense. It’s making me throw up. It’s disgusting.’
Well, Judy, I’m with you, the Spaniard is gorgeous and a really nice guy too, so go for it, have a little fun.  Andy apparently doesn’t have the same sense of humor as his Mum or Lopez who doesn’t seem to mind at all. 


If anyone remembers Fiddler On the Roof with Zero Mostel up on the roof  belting out  TRADITION! TRADIIIIITTTTIIIIOOOON!  That’s the tune that keeps running through my brain while here at the Wimbledon Championships, or to be correct ” The Championships” which is what this tournament  is traditionally called, as if this were the one and only event worthy of the name “Championships”.
The traditions here are deeply rooted, and stubbornly held.  Change comes in tiny increments. We jest and some rebel against these time-honored conventions, but they have preserved a sort of old world charm on the lush lawns of the AELTC. You get a feeling that the clock has stopped, there is still time for tea at 4PM,  or a leisurely picnic on the grass at Henman Hill.
Purple and Green:
These have been the clubs official colors since 1909. Until 2006 all officials, umpires, lines and ball people were dressed in conservative green uniforms.  This is one tradition that  photographers wish hadn’t changed.  We hate the Ralph Lauren designed outfits on the Linesmen and women.
The club prides itself on lack of advertising, but those uniforms are the most blatant RL advertisement you can imagine.  Navy blazers, trimmed in white, cream trousers, and blue and white striped shirts, with diagonally stripped purple and green ties. They are more prominent than the players.  I have to always be careful not to shoot a player with cream legs poking out from behind making the player look as though he had 4 legs.  Horrible.  In my humble opinion, the linespeople should be in the background.  They should blend in and not be noticed. 
However, the purple and green color scheme is still carried out everywhere else.  Huge hanging baskets of Purple Petunia’s with their green leaves adorn buildings and seating areas.  Signage, awnings, benches, and official apparel all have the official colors.
Grass Courts:
Wimbledon is the only tournament still played on what they like to refer to as a “natural surface”.  Originally, all four of the slams, Wimbledon, the French, US Open and the Australian were played on grass, but the French is now played on the famous red clay of Roland Garros, and Australia and the US are hard courts.
Dress Code:
Everyone knows about the famous “predominately white” dress code for players.  Colorful rebel Andre Agassi boycotted the tournament for several years because he didn’t want to conform to this ruling, and both John McEnroe and Anna Kornikova were ask to leave the court for wearing black shorts.  However I have to add that even though the players adhere to this dictum, that doesn’t keep them from still wearing some outrageous outfits.  The sisters always manage to make their own personal fashion statement, and Sharapova’s “swan” dress a couple of years ago was really …um.. well.. awful.
Reference to the players:
The men’s events are politely refered to as “Gentlemen’s singles,  or doubles, and the women’s, as the “ladies singles or doubles”.  Unfortunately the term “gentleman” or “lady” does not always describe behavior.
Strawberries and Cream:
Grade 1 Kentish strawberries are the only berries deemed of high enough quality to be consumed at The Championships, and it’s been reported that around 28,000 kilos or 61,729.43 pounds are sold during the fortnight along with 7,000 liters of cream, or about 1850 gallons.  And that is not low-fat cream … it is thick and  yummy.
Pimm’s Spritzer is to Wimbledon is what the Mint Julep is to the Kentucky Derby.  Pimm’s , a gin-based liquor is mixed with ginger ale and garnished with fresh fruit.  I don’t have the figures on how much is imbibed here, but I promise.. it’s a lot.  Warning!  This is a dangerous drink, very easy to drink as thought it was lemonade, but believe me, it packs a wallop.
This is not an officially recognized tradition, but face it, rain and Wimbledon go together like ham and cheese, bacon and eggs.  The covers go on an off on a regular basis.  This first week has been carrying on the tradition with vigor.  I never go anywhere without an umbrella, and let me tell you, it’s not easy to balance two heavy cameras, a bag, and an open umbrella at the same time.
And speaking of weather, its cold and raining right now so I’m going to honor a tradition of my own, and go to the bar for a cappuccino.

Wimbledon Day 3, Fashion and Faces

Venus Williams has once again been able to come up with a “You’ve Got To Be Kidding” outfit. The Christian Science Monitor was very Christian in calling it ” goddess-like in keeping with her name” and WageRun.com called it “stylish”.  Well I have another name for it .. if I were to be kind I’d call it unique, if I were to be truthful, I’d call it .. actually, there are several words that come to mind, awful, ridiculous, inappropriate, unflattering, silly, you see what I mean, I could go on and on.  I don’t understand anything about this outfit.  It’s been called a jump suit, but that doesn’t really fit, unless you were going to jump off a cliff and try to fly by flapping the sleeves in the wind.  And what’s up with the cutout back with the brown inset, is this another attempt at “illusion” as she called her Australian Open dress with the “nude” undergarment.  The only illusion here is by Venus having the illusion that this outfit is trendy and cool. In the past, I’ve defended her and applauded her for daring to be different, but in my opinion she has gone over the edge on this one.  One thing I do kind of like, although I hate to admit it in print, is her glittery nails matching her glittery ring.  Are those real diamonds?
And as long as we are on a fashion rage, what in the world is Bethanie Mattek-Sands wearing?  We all know about the knee sox, but this dress? Trying too hard to be different in my opinion.  While we are on BM-S are her NFL eye blacks really that scary looking?  Football players wear this to cut down on the glare, but lets face it there is no glare at Wimbledon.  In fact, we would welcome a bit if glare.  If you want to see a scary face, how about cute little Kimiko Date-Krumm, now this is a face that’s could frighten you.  
On to Nadal.. what’s up with the blue accent stripes around his underarm?  Are we now supposed to be drawn to watch how much he sweats?  C’mon Nike this shirt is not good.  
I couldn’t help but notice that even though the number one player in the world, the ultra exciting, ultra gorgeous Rafa was on court, at 4PM the Royal Box was totally empty.  Come now, this is England, you must have your tea.  Who would ever think of missing tea just to watch a tennis match.
You get the feeling that this is really more of a social event than a tennis tournament.  I’m sure many come here and never even watch a match.  They just h­­ang out at the bar gossiping with friends, sipping  Pims and Champange.  Or for those who prefer a more casual day, they can picnic on Henman Hill with Cornish pasties or perhaps meat sandwiches made with pickle and salad, cheese and onion is another favorite.   Oh, and yes, they can watch tennis on the big screen just to have something to tell their neighbors about when they get home.
I jest but you’ve got to love it, the traditions are what make this tournament uniquely English and wonderful.