A Coming of Age Tale, Wimbledon 18 years later
I always feel something special when I set foot in London, but even more so this time of year when the most prestigious and oldest tournament in the world is played. Wimbledon is a unique grand slam, standing out from the others with its strict dress code for competitors and its long-standing traditions (Strawberries and cream anyone?!) It is the only major that is still played on a grass court and many players find the experience to be a bit intimidating to say the least. Although it can be extreme, when you repeat this year after year, you learn to love it and accept the fact that you have to play on a completely different surface. Preparing for Wimbledon can be very difficult especially in the wake of Roland Garros in Paris, players are exhausted and it takes incredible focus and stamina to play well at this very demanding grand slam.
The training for Wimbledon is held at Aorangi Park tucked away behind Court 1 and consists of 22 pristine courts, available to any player the week before the Championships, for an hour at a time. Of course, those who are former champions, and thus honorary members, can practice as much as they like. Players do have an opportunity to step onto the Wimbledon courts before playing their first match, but can only play for one hour total so as not to wear out the immaculately manicured grass courts.
The sensation of playing on pristine grass that almost no one has stepped on is impressive, it’s like playing on a perfectly soft rug. A few adjustments are necessary of course, each player has to modify their stroke since the speed and bounce of the track are completely different but the feeling is out of this world. It is important to approach Wimbledon with an open mind and a positive attitude, accepting that maybe you won’t be able to play as well as you do on your favorite surface.
I love to walk around the premises the weekend before the tournament starts, the grounds are beautiful! Everything is immaculate and lavishly decorated with gorgeous flowers. The Wimbledon colors of lilac, white and green are a feast for the eyes. With almost no one there you can really appreciate all the effort the organizers put into this prestigious event to make it all perfect.
This year is especially emotional for me because it is the eighteenth anniversary of my victory at Wimbledon. July 2nd 1994. I will never forget that day as the memory is perfectly ingrained in my mind, I was 22 years old. I still get goose bumps when I reminisce about getting crowned all those years ago. I am so grateful for the love and support from all of you who remember the match with as much affection as I. So on this coming of age anniversary, July 2nd 2012, let’s raise a glass and toast to our great achievements.