Monday, July 8, 2013

And the Living Rooms of the Nation Exploded into Joy

Ramblings on the madness and mayhem of seeing a Brit win Wimbledon

He and I have one thing in common. Neither Andy Murray or I have any memory of what happened on that last point. I know that he served. I know that the point was awarded to him. I don’t remember if he hit a winner or if Djokovic lost the point. All I remember was jumping up and down, screaming like a lunatic with a number of others, and knowing that the living room I was in was like countless others around the country. A British man had won the Wimbledon title for the first time in 77 years.

Lord knows how many millions – how many hundreds of millions – had dreamt of this moment: the moment where, by hook or by crook, a British man would be “All England Lawn Tennis Club Single Handed Champion of the World”, as the trophy proclaims. No-one – not one person – could have known what it would be like to be alive when the final ball crashed into the net (Djokovic did hit it into the net - I checked). It was perhaps the single greatest moment of sport I have ever experienced. Better than any of the partisan footballing triumphs I have seen. Better (just) than the Ashes being reclaimed in 2005. I can only imagine that England finally getting over its paradoxical sense of entitlement and inferiority, before actually fighting to claim the Football “Coupe de Monde”, and then doing so, could top this.

Do you want a match report? Look elsewhere – I can tell you very little. It was a match of high quality, even if (thankfully) Novak Djokovic did not bring his superlative, very, best game. The rallies were extraordinary. These two are capable of doing things with a racquet that defy belief. When a point looks almost certainly lost, they see opportunity, They are deservedly the best players in the world, and any encounter is instantly going to be classic. It was extraordinary, and there were countless moments when my comrades and I had to say “Fair play to Djokovic”.

However, I cannot tell you what happened in sufficient detail. It was not a match one remembered in detail. It was a living, breathing thing that one experienced. The question was not “What’s the score?” The question was “How’s he doing?” Was he ahead? Was he behind? Numbers like 6-4, 7-5 and 6-4 again meant nothing. It was all about being there, in flesh or in spirit, and being absorbed.

There was no greater example of this than the final game. Murray had three championship points. Three! Surely, this was the time. Surely, there was nothing that could stop this now. We all believed. It would be blasphemy not to have faith. Nevertheless, one-by-one, the points slipped away and suddenly we no longer believed that the 77-year wait was about to end. Rather, we believed that the most astonishing sporting collapse could be about to happen. That from the most invincible position, the Scotsman might produce a calamity that even the England cricket team would be incapable of.

However, he somehow survived and then, somehow, won in a manner that Goran Ivanisevic might have thought a little risky. God knows how, but he did it. He bloody did it, and a nation roared with joy.

The relief was terrific and it is a memory that was instantly immortal, but, obviously, Wimbledon has blown it. They don’t have a next series. Like when a TV show answers the “Will-they-won’t-they?” with “They will”, there will never be the same height of interest. We should all sidle off now. However, I sense that we’ll come back for more. After all, did you know that by 2014 we’ll have been waiting for one year for a Wimbledon champion?

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