I am unashamedly in love with tennis. I can pin point, perhaps not to the day, but certainly the year in which I first picked up a racquet for the very first time.
In June 2002, aged seven and a half as I would then commonly refer to myself, I first became aware of Wimbledon. I can still distinctly remember watching the final that year in my Nan’s living room, lying on my belly with my head cupped in both hands. For 116 minutes I was transfixed as Lleyton Hewitt won his first and only Wimbledon title, beating David Nalbandian for the loss of only six games. He instantly became my sporting idol and tennis became my obsession.
I spent the rest of the summer hitting two yellow foam balls against the french window at the back of the house (alas, not at once), pretending that the handle that jutted out half way up was the net cord. In that indefatigable manner that all young boys of a certain age have, I would stand outside for hours pretending to be Hewitt, vanquishing my ethereal foes on my small patio court. My Mum probably couldn’t believe her luck that I was so engrossed, keeping me out of mischief for the remainder of the holidays.
After joining a club and trading in my foam balls for the real things, it wasn’t just a summer activity anymore. Regardless, that fortnight that stretched from June into July was the two weeks I craved more than any other. Ironically I probably played less in those two weeks than the other fifty, as I learnt the names of the players and tried to watch as many matches as possible, while somebody wittered on about Pimms and its rapid consumption. I didn’t quite understand but if it wasn’t Ribena I didn’t care (other squash drinks are available.)
For sheer entertainment and pure quality, my favorite match will always be the 2008 final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The juxtaposing styles of play, the elegance of the Swiss and sheer brutality of the Spaniard, have always made for classic encounters. But for me, watching the two greatest players of all time (I don’t care what you say) duke it out on the court where I had first started watching tennis six years ago, was extra special. In what will surely go down in history as the greatest match ever, I was still pretty confident I could take either of them on my patio throne.
I would be a fool to deny that with less than a week to go, I am as excited as ever to watch how Wimbledon will pan out. I’m actually going home the weekend beforehand, the calendar says that there are a couple of family birthdays to celebrate and my presence will be required but really the idea of watching every last ball in anything other than HD makes me shiver.
I’m tennis mad and I wouldn’t want it any other way.