Wimbledon: Their games may be a bit rusty because they’ve been sidelined for almost a year, but the Williams sisters—Venus and Serena—sure know how to laugh. That’s why their press conferences are usually well-attended.
When Serena was asked, just ahead of the tournament, which shot she really missed hitting when she returned to practice for the first time in months after her injuries, she said: “Definitely a serve, but I didn’t travel with my serve to Eastbourne (the grass court warm-up event played in the week preceding Wimbledon), so I hope it came with me (here). I hope he was in my luggage coming to Wimbledon because I’ve missed him.”
Asked if she spent some extra time with her sister Venus, who was also out injured, Serena jokingly admitted it felt good to see her sister being sidelined. “Sometimes, it’s been good because—I hate to say this—when you’re down, it’s always good to see someone down with you. She was down with me. I was like, ha-ha. Maybe we’ll come back together.”
Super volunteers: Stewards have to ensure order, come rain or shine. Getty Images
The army of volunteers
Managing more than 35,000 people a day is no mean feat, but things run smoothly at Wimbledon during the 125-year-old Championships fortnight, thanks to a well-organized army of volunteers, also called stewards, who control and guide crowds. Their job includes patrolling the grounds and ensuring everyone gets their seats.
One steward, taking a short break over a plate of fresh fruits, says some like him, retired professionals, volunteer because they love tennis and enjoy the Wimbledon experience. “People from all walks of life, such as doctors, lawyers, retired military personnel, volunteer,” he says, without identifying himself. Only head stewards are allowed to speak to the media.
This steward says he has been coming here for 15 years. “I get to be at the Centre Court almost every day, free of cost. I get to see all the matches.” That says it all.
The punctual rain
Habitual latecomers could learn a thing or two from the British weather. Either that or the weather forecast is really precise. At around 11am on the first day, John Parry—who is the Voice of Wimbledon—got the forecast that it would rain at about 5pm. He whispered this in my ear carefully, so others wouldn’t hear, just outside his office on the first floor of the Centre Court building that houses the offices of the tournament referees and umpires. “I seem to have a busy day ahead since the weather forecasters seated right next to me in my office say it will rain at 5pm,” he said with alarming surety.
What began as a bright, sunny day turned wet almost on cue.
Parry, 71, a retired Wimbledon chair umpire who has officiated in more finals (eight) here than any other, has to make several announcements throughout the day—to be heard across the grounds on loudspeakers—about rain, when play begins, or if play is suspended, and so on. Precisely at 5pm, as the first drops began falling, Parry’s baritone rang out: “Ladies and gentlemen, play is suspended due to rain.”
The third dimension
What’s common between Wimbledon and movies such as Avatar, Kung Fu Panda and Alice in Wonderland? Answer: 3D technology. The world’s oldest tennis tournament goes 3D for the first time ever, also making it one of the first tennis tournaments to be shown in high-definition 3D. In 2010, the French Open was shot and broadcast selectively in 3D. At Wimbledon, both the women’s and men’s singles finals, as well as the men’s singles semi-finals, will be broadcast in 3D across the world. Now who says Wimbledon is only tradition, no modernity?
Inside a special viewing booth set up by Sony—Wimbledon’s official 3D partner—underneath the Centre Court building, tennis fans will be able to see highlights of the first and second week on 3D, starting 28 June. Wait in a queue and when your turn comes, you will be handed 3D goggles. You can then go in and enjoy tennis in a unique way or even play tennis in 3D at the PlayStation counter. But the AELTC (All England Lawn Tennis Club) booths will only show highlights, not live tennis, as they fear it may lead to huge queues.
Reactions on the Isner-Mahut match
John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, who played for 11 hours over three days last year, amazingly met again in a first-round rematch at Wimbledon on Tuesday. Isner won. Here are some player reactions to last year’s match, taken ahead of Tuesday’s clash.
I thought it was a joke. I thought, well, is it really real? Is it really true? Then I thought, for sure, I won’t have to play after them because I know I’m the first on, so…I was like, whew. Thank God. I just remember (last year) it was during World Cup. I watched that and then I switched to watch USA at the World Cup. Then, three days later, they’re still going. I would have been like, peace, at this point.
Everybody, all the players, couldn’t believe that was the case. You’re like, is that really the draw? Now it’s tricky because many people are going to expect something similar, which is basically impossible. In some ways, I wish that was the only match they played.
It’s just amazing. You would go, practise and then you’d come back and you’d be like, oh, it’s still going. Then you’d go for lunch, come back, it’s like 34-all. It’s just weird. Every time you would go away and do something, you were sort of preparing yourself for the next match.
Question: Are you staying for their match?
Roddick: Stay? No. I have to play tomorrow. I can’t stay here for three nights.
I started laughing a little bit because I remember last year, I was playing doubles here and I turned on the TV when it was 21-21in the fifth set. When I went on to play (doubles), it was 28-28. When I came back, they were still playing.