Friday, 29 June 2012

Advantage Underdog

I love tennis. Love it. And yesterday I fully intended to write a post justifying my love of tennis by pointing out just how perfect it is for research (aka my tenuous reasons for slacking off during every Grand Slam and Queens but especially at Wimbledon time).

I was going to illustrate my point with pictures of First Tennis Crush Stefan Edburg who had the most beautiful legs any man has ever sported, followed by Aussies Pat Rafter and Mark Philappoussis who used to play doubles *faints* dazzling their opponents with their gorgeous faces. Possibly. They dazzled me anyway. And then, after I had treated you to fit men in tennis whites, *swoons* I was going to make some serious points about handsome men who make money through hard work and dedication and then (Federer, Agassi) set up charitable foundations with their loot. Proper heroes. Proper inspiration for any romance writer. (Okay, Philippoussis ended up on The Bachelor, we'll gloss over that).

And then last night's match happened and suddenly I had the perfect inspiration for my post.

In this country we love to think that Wimbledon is special. Andy Murray may have made it to US and Australian Open Finals but they don't count. (I don't agree with that statement at all btw Andy if you happen to stumble upon this but we both know that most of the UK does). No matter how large the sports section, throughout most of the year tennis barely merits a paragraph. Growing up I didn't even realise there were other tournaments. And then for two weeks the country goes tennis crazy.

Wimbledon. The whites of the players against the green of the court. The thud of the ball on the grass.  The red button allowing you to select your match; if only they'd had that when, no matter how thrilling the other matches, the Beeb made us watch Henman grind his way to another plucky defeat.

A place where dreams can come true.

I've only set foot in the hallowed grounds once. A school trip when I was in the sixth. We had tickets for the outside court seats but I begged my way onto Centre Court. Memory is a funny thing isn't it? I was convinced I saw Goran Ivanisevic lose to Lendl in the fouth round Wikipedia tells me I saw him beat Kevin Curren. Either way (!), it was the first time I had seen or heard of the hot headed Croat but, like all the crowd that day, I was rooting for the underdog. It took him another 11 years to finally gain the title, on a Monday in a rainy July, a wildcard entry not expected to get past the third round, if he was lucky. He worked hard, he kept believing He never gave up.

Last night another unknown achieved the unthinkable. A 26 year old journeyman, used to the challenger tour, who had failed to even get past the first round of qualifying in previous years, came out onto Centre Court and blew away the world no, 2. If that happened in a film we would laugh at it as unrealistic, but it happened. The tension as he came onto serve for the match was incredible. The crowd expectant, Rafa wound up tight. Back home both my OH and I had our knuckles stuffed in our mouths, like children, transfixed on the screen. We expected him to choke. To blow that first match point like so many others before him. A nervous flicker up to the sky. A visible deep breath. An ace. Lukas Rosol in the history books.

Twenty six is young; but not for a tennis player. Miracles do happen, but not usually against a take-no-prisoners-champion on Centre Court. Hard work, self belief and having a go no matter what, it's worth a try isn't it? You never know where it might take you.* Just ask Rosol.

*Goes off to practice backhands dreaming of my Centre Court debut. Oh alright, really goes off to rewrite that first chapter for the umpeenth time and dream of that elusive contract.


Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, Stefan Edberg! He was just gorgeous wasn't he? Brought back some memories of lusting over him as a teenager!!

Rose Red said...

I cried the year he lost in three sets to Boris; huge crush. Huge. For all their talent today's players just don't have the same oomph! Or legs.