To win is to have your name immortalised forever alongside the greats; Pete Sampras, Bjorn Borg and Boris Becker, just to name a few. All the players agree that the mental and physical strain is like no other competition in the tennis calendar. Rafael Nadal once said: ‘I play each point like my life depends on it’, and I would imagine that saying holds true for many players as they battle through. For one man, there is nowhere to hide as the questions begin to appear in the British papers and people begin to wonder once more whether he can achieve the impossible; a British Wimbledon victory last seen by the great Fred Perry all the way back in 1936. Andy Murray must have the shoulders of a giant as he struggles time and time again to break the hold of the Elite Three of the tennis world: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Rodger Federer.
The press: the uncontrollable parasite that switches opinions with the wind, shovelling pressure on the British players to perform. For them the burden must be horrible; players like Andy know that they can go from being the pride of the public and the papers, to being criticised and mocked within a blink of an eye. One minute the crowd will be cheering his name as he dispatches a powerful winner down the court, but with that elusive Grand Slam title lurking like a shadow behind him wherever he goes, he knows that his every move will be watched and analysed carefully. Some of the younger British players like Heather Watson and Laura Robson escape with less expectation resting on them. If they lose, they have gained valuable experience, if they win, they have defied expectation. Yet for Andy Murray it is a different story: the eyes of the public and the critics watch with eager anticipation, ready to shower him in glory if success comes, or cut him down to size should he fail.
It isn’t just the fans at Wimbledon that are often weird and wonderful – some of the stars on the courts are too. Maria Sharapova, the leggy Russian, grunting her way through the tournament; forcing many fans to put their hands over their ears or turn down their television if they are watching from the comfort of their own homes. Then there’s the giant of a man, Ivo Karlovic; size sixteen feet and 6’10 tall, the tallest man to ever play on the ATP circuit. Not even his monstrous serves, amongst the fastest in the world, could stop him from being dispatched by Britain’s very own Andy Murray in the second round, however. How could we forget Ana Ivanovic? Stunningly attractive and not too shabby with a racquet either. Not to worry Ana, if you do ever want to give up tennis I’m sure you could have a career in modelling somewhere.
So, whether it is to watch an epic five-set battle under the roof of Centre Court as the rain falls from the sky, the acoustics magnified wonderfully as the stars trade shots; or to sit back and appreciate a three-set walkover in the sparkling sunshine, fans flock to the stands of Wimbledon with enthusiasm. The inevitable traditionalism of the strawberries and cream, the spotting of famous faces amongst the crowd as you sip from a Pimm’s Cup. There is patriotism at these games that rivals that of the Jubilee; many fans clad in ‘Come on Andy’ t-shirts or waving United Kingdom flags with gusto. A diverse audience, fans from as far as Australia and America making the trip, but one which shares a common feeling: an intense love for the sport of tennis and the spectacle which is, Wimbledon.