Centre Court – Saturday 14th July 2018

Play started an hour earlier than usual with the continuation of last night’s epic Djokovic versus Nadal semi-final. Suspended at 11pm with the score Djokovic leading 2 sets to 1, since the match had started with the roof closed it continued under the roof, despite the hot sunshine. The closed roof added to the intensity of the match, and while the air conditioning kept the temperature pleasant, it created a very dry atmosphere—I was glad the roof was open for the subsequent matches.

Nadal came out of the chair firing on all cylinders and raced to a 3-0 lead in the first set played today. It was a weird pattern but every set where I was away from my seat for the first 3 games featured a break of serve! In all but one case this was subsequently wiped out so I didn’t feel I had missed the crucial part of the set. Despite being broken back by Djokovic, Nadal conjured up another break and served out the set to take us to a decider. The crowd was ecstatic—never could they have imagined when they purchased their ticket for the Ladies Final that there would be an hors d’oeuvre of this quality.

The tennis in that final set was sublime. Big power shots that would normally be winners repeatedly returned, break points denied by ace after ace, and sliced backhands sliding low over the net—a masterclass in shot making and retrieving from both players. After the score passed six games-all the tension ratcheted up to 11. After two hours of sitting the body starts to yearn to stretch, but the crowd remained packed, no one wanting to leave and potentially miss the decisive game. Nadal went 15-40 down, but recovered. Then it was Djokovic’s turn to overturn break points. But you felt Djokovic had the upper hand serving first and Nadal might just be running out of steam quicker than his opponent. And then suddenly it was 0-40 to Djokovic, three match points, and a forehand into the net from Nadal brought this exquisite contest to a conclusion after five hours and fourteen minutes on court.

Serena Williams versus Angelique Kerber promised to be a very different affair. An early break of Serena’s serve was wiped out to love in the fourth game. But Serena never looked comfortable on court—measured and almost a little weary between points—in contrast to her opponent who chased every ball with a spritely energy that produced winners off well placed balls that would ordinarily been good enough to force an error. When Serena tried counteract that by upping the aggression of her shots, she pushed the ball long and Kerber’s decisive steady play made her a deserving champion.

The Men’s Doubles offered an enjoyable dessert to the day. Bryan and Sock clinching the first and third sets with a single break, and their opponents Klaasen and Venus being worthy winners of a tight second set tie break. The fourth set looked to be heading to another tie break, Bryan saving break point at 5-6 with a big serve, but then on the next break point a careless foot fault (his second of the game) lost them the set! It was 9pm so the roof was closed and we were presented another fifth set shoot out under the lights.

The fifth set followed the pattern of the previous ones with few chances for either side—this was another masterclass display of high quality doubles tennis from two evenly matched teams. Balls rifled low and at the body of the net player returned by swift and dexterous reflexes. And then, in the 11th game, at 30-30 on their serve, the fine balance of play dipped slightly against Venus and Klaasen to give the tiniest of openings for their opponents to break serve, which they took. Now, Mike Bryan–villain of the 12th game in the previous set–was presented the chance to serve for the Championship. There was no repeat of the self-inflicted errors, and the title was won!

Wimbledon 2015, Day 13 Court 1

Our name came out of the tennis club ballot for Wimbledon this year—Court 1 tickets on the final day. With the Centre Court roof protecting the schedule from rain delays, it is no longer likely to see any main draw matches on Court 1 on the final Sunday but the atmosphere in the ground was fantastic and we saw potential future stars in the boys’ singles and doubles finals, plus some very entertaining invitation doubles.

The eventual winner of the boys’ singles was a tall American named Reilly Opelka with a giant serve. I had some fun capturing it using the “Slow-Mo” video mode on my camera.

I also recorded an entire point of the doubles, here it is at 6x speed.

Some action from the Boys Doubles final (made with Hyperlapse)

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London 2012 Olympics

Leading up to the event, mention of the Olympics in conversation led to pessimistic discussions of two weeks enforced working from home or even “escaping” London before the city gridlocked. While road users moaned about lanes being reserved for IOC bureaucrats, official websites indicated that there would be a 30 minute wait to board trains at key underground stations.

A week into the event and everything has changed. The transport and general chaos that everyone thought inevitable has not materialised. The transport has been no busier than usual, the attendees’ tube etiquette no worse than the standard tourists, and at times it has seemed that the only delay was due to officious one way systems that continued to be enforced despite deserted passageways.

I, for one, am really glad that I did not leave town for the duration. The clutch of gold medals won by Team GB have undoubtedly helped kindle interest in the games, but there is also a great atmosphere in the city. Sports rarely heard of in Britain, such as beach volleyball, have won new converts with their party atmosphere and many nations are hosting a “hospitality house” with exhibitions, concerts and parties. You can even spot medal winners on the bus!

And what about that much vaunted legacy of the games? With so much success by both sexes in boats and on bikes, surely it is time to end the illusion that men’s football is our national game?

Day 5 of the Olympic Tennis

Photographs from day five of the Olympic tennis tournament at the All England Club in Wimbledon. We saw Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko on the practice courts in the morning. Then Roger Federer v Denis Istomin, Azarenka v Petrova, and Sabine Lisicki against Maria Sharapova from some great seats on the Number 1 court.

Bermondsey Street

Bermondsey Street runs south from the always busy1 “More London” riverside but (fortunately!) few tourists seem keen to venture under the imposing railway bridge to visit. Consequently it normally has a quiet village-like atmosphere, there’s even a little park half way down which might be the Village Green.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon it was bustling (for a village!) with friends and families heading to the gastro pubs and other brunch places (including a genuine greasy spoon!).

  1. even on Christmas Day! [back]

Happiness at the National Theatre

The National Theatre is one of those buildings on the South Bank which was erected in the 1960’s by people who though concrete was an attractive building material. The name also suggests a rather high-brow entertainment-offering, and consequently I have never really paid much attention to it. However I have learned that this ugly building hides in fact not one but three theatres, making an enquiry about returned tickets at its box office the ideal way to end a spontaneous afternoon visit to the South Bank.

My prejudice about boring and/or expensive “high brow” content was also allayed last night when I saw a new play called Happy Now, a black but razor-sharp comedy about modern life in the vein of Ayekbourn’s Absurd Person Singular. I thoroughly recommend it.

(Incidentally, the play’s haunting title music is Michelle Branch’s, Are you happy now? [itunes link].)