After 77 years, Murray restores British rule

There are no science fiction elements in Wimbledon, though it is usually so quiet here that daily rounds by the security helicopters can be alarming.

Updated: July 08, 2013 15:50 IST
  • Total Shares

Wimbledon is only about 10 miles from central London. From high spots at the All England Club, you can see the London skyline, the Shard slicing into view even on overcast days.

But Wimbledon feels a world away, like the town in the new television show "Under the Dome" that is cut off from the outside world by a giant impenetrable bubble.

There are no science fiction elements in Wimbledon, though it is usually so quiet here that daily rounds by the security helicopters can be alarming.

More than anything, Wimbledon is comfortable. That word was uttered by players again and again in the last two weeks. When players say Wimbledon is their favorite tournament, they are talking about the history, the prestige and the elegant grounds, where the design aesthetic has been called "tennis in an English garden."

The grass courts, ivy-covered walls, roses, and purple and white hydrangeas. The wooden benches, picnic tables and canvas patio chairs. Live music every day, Pimm's, Champagne, strawberries and cream. It's like having a backyard party with 40,000 of your closest friends.

But often players are talking about their lives outside the grounds. Many rent rooms, apartments or homes nearby for the tournament. So do tennis officials, coaches, tournament workers, journalists and fans.

When they get to Wimbledon, they don't just stay here. They live here.

Novak Djokovic's Twitter feed during the tournament was full of pictures of him at his Wimbledon house: eating breakfast, getting ready to play golf, hanging out with his team around the dinner table at night. Even his beloved poodle, Pierre, was there.

"When I come back from my work, first thing I see when I open the door of the house is him," Djokovic said. "He greets me. That's a huge joy."

After upsetting No. 1 Serena Williams last week, Sabine Lisicki was asked why she was more successful at Wimbledon than at other events.

Instead of talking about her big serve, she talked about being in a house with her whole team and being able to cook her own food in her own kitchen.

"That's probably one thing we're trying to do more often in the future, to be able to rent apartments at tournaments, because that's when I feel most comfortable," Lisicki said.

Marion Bartoli, who won the women's title Saturday, also said she loved to do her own cooking at night and go into Wimbledon Village for breakfast on her days off.

"You feel less stress," she said. "You feel a bit like you're at home at some point. It's true that it's a comfy tournament. I believe that's why every player is loving it so much here, compared to New York City or whatever, where you feel a lot more stress around, there is a lot more things going on."

Wimbledon is about the same distance from London as the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is from Midtown Manhattan. From the top row of Arthur Ashe Stadium, you can see the New York skyline. But in Flushing Meadows, you never feel very far from the buzz of Manhattan. That is probably the point.

At Wimbledon, the point is to escape: maybe to another time, definitely to another place.

Conchita Martinez, who played professionally from 1988 to 2006 and won Wimbledon in 1994, stayed in a hotel in London during the tournament early in her career. But she said that tension built up in traffic during the 45-minute drive to the club. Later she decided to stay in a house nearby.

"It's something I discovered more towards the end of my career when traveling the tour, but it makes a huge difference," Martinez said. "It's like a home away from home. You should be really focused on what you're doing, and being focused for 14 days is quite a task, and external things can make you lose concentration."

Nathalie Tauziat, a French pro from 1984 to 2003, said she even preferred Wimbledon over her home tournament at Roland Garros because the accommodations were more relaxing.

Jane Scoon, who coordinates accommodations through Wimbledon Homes Bed and Breakfast, said her business started more than 20 years ago with one family putting a sign in its window that fans saw while walking by. Now she has about 120 host families and is hoping for more because demand for home stays has increased significantly over the years.

It is not unusual to find players, officials, reporters and fans in the same restaurant on High Street in the Village. It is also not unusual to find them renting rooms in the same house, eating a continental breakfast together in the morning.

Some families have hosted the same people for years. Some hang banners supporting the players who are their houseguests.

That is part of Wimbledon's embrace: the comforts of home, familiar and familial surroundings.

During the first week of the tournament, Sloane Stephens wanted to get a news conference over with quickly so she could get to Rajdoot, her favorite Indian restaurant in the Village, before it closed.

"It's been a year, and the guy brought out my order on the first day," she said. "He was like, 'Pineapple juice, chicken tikka masala and the rice.'"

© 2013 New York Times News Service

For the latest Sports news , like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and get the NDTV Cricket app for Android or iOS

Leave a comment