In 2001, as Tim Henman reached the Wimbledon semi-finals, he sparked a frenzy in the country—his face adorned Tube station walls, British tabloids screamed “Henmania” with every match he won and the giant screen on the grounds invited hundreds of viewers to watch proceedings perched on “Henman Hill”. He almost won the semis before being thwarted by rain breaks, self-doubt and a man with half a shoulder called Goran Ivanisevic.
What Henman did by losing was to maintain a Wimbledon tradition—no local lad has won here since Fred Perry in 1936. At the time of writing this, another local—a Scotsman actually—waits in the semis to break that tradition, with hundreds watching from the same hill now named (Andy) Murray’s Mound.
Click here to view a slideshow on the newsmakers of Wimbeldon
Tradition is something Wimbledon takes pride in—the Williams sisters have swapped the favourite’s tag for a decade now; there is always that celebrity in the crowd, be it Brian Lara or Sachin Tendulkar or Bobby Charlton; Anna Kournikova is still the hottest contestant; the grass still pristine clean, kept clear even of pigeon droppings, as Rufus the hawk circles over the grounds to scare them away. No wonder Martina Navratilova plucked a few blades as souvenir when she retired, safe in the knowledge of its hygiene.
But 2010 was also different in some ways.
For one, there was little to separate the top players from the hopeful ones—a parity best exemplified by a match that could not decide a winner for over 11 hours and three days. Roger Federer struggled all along till he was put out of misery in the quarter-finals, for the first time since 2002; Andy Roddick, Venus Williams and the two Belgians returnees lost early while the “king of clay” Rafael Nadal, despite hiccups, is the current favourite.
The big fall: Roger Federer’s (right) ouster by Tomas Berdych (above) in the quarter-final has been this year’s biggest upset. Gary Hershorn/Reuters
The relatively rain-free fortnight produced sparks on court—James Blake had an argument during a match with commentator Pam Shriver, calling her an “ass” while she retorted with “rabbit ears”, and Romanian Victor Hanescu spat at a bunch of men harassing him in apparently the first instance of courtside hooliganism in Wimbledon’s history. It’s not yet known if the “drunk hooligans” thought they were at a World Cup football match.
Finally, the event got its first official poet in Matt Harvey. Sample this, courtesy the official Wimbledon website:
THE GREAT UPSETS
1965: Charlie Pasarell of the US, Spanish legend Manuel Santana becomes the first defending champion to lose in Wimbledon’s first round.
1970: British player Roger Taylor ends Rod Laver’s 31-match winning streak in the quarter-final. Only two other British men have reached the semis since Taylor.
1985: Kevin Curren becomes the only player to beat World No. 1 John McEnroe and World No. 3 Jimmy Connors at the same Grand Slam. He wins both matches in straight sets before going down to a 17-year-old Boris Becker in a heated final.
1987 : 70th-ranked Peter Doohan beats Boris Becker in the second round. Becker had been unbeaten at Wimbledon since 1985; Doohan had never before gone beyond the first round.
1994 : Steffi Graf goes down to Lori McNeil in straight sets, becoming the first women’s defending champion to lose in the first round. It was also the first time Graf had lost her opening match in any tournament since 1992.
1996: World No. 1 Pete Sampras, unbeaten at Wimbledon since 1993, loses to World No. 14 Richard Krajicek.
2002: George Bastl, ranked 145th in the world, takes out Pete Sampras in the second round
2003: Ivo Karlovic, ranked a lowly 203 but standing tall at 6ft 10 inches, beats defending champion Lleyton Hewitt in the first round.
2010 : Six-time winner and defending champion Roger Federer loses to Tomas Berdych in the quarter-final. This is the first time since 2002 that Federer fails to reach the final.
A game in the life
Bounce bounce bounce bounce
Thwackety wackety zingety ping
Hittety backety pingety zang
Wack, thwok, thwack, pok, Thwikety, thwekity, thwokity, thwakity