After I finished watching Roger Federer lift his 15th Masters Shield in Madrid, I diverted my attention to a distant place in Britain, which was hosting the inaugural ceremony of its unveiling of the exotic roof at the grandest of tennis venues—Center Court, Wimbledon.
The start of the ceremony conflicted with the 20th match between Federer and Nadal, so I missed the beginning part of the show, but managed to get the final few points of the exhibition between Tim Henman and Andre Agassi.
I couldn’t help but break into a mischievous smile when Agassi won the final point against Henman to win the set 6-4. Perhaps it is fate’s choice that the best British tennis player (after Andy Murray, of course) missed yet another opportunity to win something in front of his home crowd.
The players shared quite a few laughs and, soon enough, nostalgic blood started flowing in my veins as Boris Becker walked on to the lush-green court amidst huge applause for the youngest Wimbledon Champion.
Becker fondly recalled his memories of the place and cheered the crowd by joking: “I’d still give Rafa a chance in the best of five,” when asked about Henman’s and Agassi’s chances against the generation of the new millennium.
The best part of the ceremony though was its final exhibition match, when the winner of 22 Grand Slams, Steffi Graf, graced the center court with her charming personality, alongside the rejuvenated Kim Clijsters.
It was a great feeling as Steffi, looking as gracious as in her glory days, looked relaxed, happy, and smiling while playing the Belgian. She was clearly glad to be back at this special venue of hers, and even entertained the crowd with some comic antics which were never associated with her during her professional days.
Clijsters won the set 6-4, but it was a good match with some entertaining rallies which took it out of 39-year-old. Either way, I couldn’t help but admire Steffi Graf's level of play, specially considering that she had left professional tennis almost 10 years ago!
The one thing that stood out in those 30 minutes was how aesthetic the women’s game used to be before the current generation of power players—barring Justin Henin—took over.
Steffi’s backhand slice still had the same artistic look—and venom—to it, and it is remarkable how she moved and volleyed with the same ease as before. Superlative movement is an important part of a champion’s arsenal, and Steffi probably presented a lesson to the Sharapova's of today’s game on how natural, and pleasing, it can be to hit a forehand down-the-line and rush to the net with the speed of a cat.
Anyway, I am moving on and so did the ceremony, which reached its concluding parts—nostalgic blood still flowing vehemently—as Steffi gave a touching interview at the end. She was content. The stage was memorable.
Perhaps the finishing script was written in the stars, as the final token of appreciation for the four players was marked by heavy rain falling on top of the newly constructed roof. After all, wasn’t this the purpose the roof was constructed for?
Thank you, Wimbledon, for taking me down memory lane.
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