Monday, September 3, 2012

The A-Z of Wimbledon

By Steve Pearce at Wimbledon

Updated June 26, 2012 09:57:24

The sun is out, the Pimms is popping (ish), and the strawberries are being dolloped with cream.

All is in readiness for Wimbledon. What other sporting event embraces the dollop anyway? None spring to mind.

So where to start our journey around Wimbledon this year ... well I have decided it is time for an A-Z of the Championships. Why not?

And we shall start with 'P'.

OK, OK, it is a strange letter to start with I know. But then again why not? Rules are there to be bent are they not?

Now, for those not familiar to London, if you do not have your A-Z, you will truly struggle to find your way around this very large city. It is a map, a road map, in the ilk of a Melway, or a Sydway, or something like that and very much the bible of all drivers, cabbies and even the odd pedestrian.

So, these words over the next two weeks will become like a guide to Wimbledon. Well, sort of, although do not rely on it to find the new number two court ... which still mystifies most visitors as to its whereabouts.

So, P, what does it stand for here?

Pimms I hear you shout ... well, yes, true, and everyone has a glass when they come. But for the players, it is Pressure. And very much how each player chooses to handle that pressure, which brings us nicely to the Australian enigma that is Samantha Stosur.

The 28-year-old has been Australia's highest-ranked singles player for a couple of years now, but has never looked comfortable with the tag.

She has performed extremely well at Paris in reaching three semi-finals and one decider, and of course famously beat Serena Williams in her home major final at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York last September.

But even winning a major title has not really changed Sam, and she flopped again in the Australian summer, which is absolutely fine, and really is just about her and her reaction to the pressure and expectation of playing at home.

Her record is poor in Melbourne (she has never made it past the last 16) and is only marginally better there than the place where she usually also feels bundles of pressure - at Wimbledon.

But something has changed this year on the lawns of SW19. Well, for Stosur it has anyway.

She no longer expects to play well here, or get results for that matter, and crucially nor does anyone else. In fact the US Open champion is not even considered to have an outside chance of taking the title.


So perfect in fact that Samantha was superb on court three on the first day against Carla Suarez Navarro. She demolished the 40th-ranked player in the world with abject disdain.

If she can do the same to the leftie world number 72 Arantxa Rus, she will be back in the third round for just the second time and the first since 2009.

We will see how she progresses, but she certainly seems to be enjoying the distinct lack of pressure descending on her shoulders at the moment.

There is also a degree of pressure on 19-year-old Bernard Tomic to at least get close to his run to the quarter-finals last year. He has the ability, and tonight we will get to see how he handles the 'P' word. And the 'E' word for that matter too.

He is day two's main course for the Australians, but more of him tomorrow.

Lleyton of course loves the pressure. Loves putting himself under pressure and thrives in the cauldron. His problem this year stems from a steel toe, dodgy re-built hips, hand injuries and general lack of matches.

Certainly he will still fancy his chances against Tsonga, especially if he can deflect all the pressure onto the fifth seed. Should be fascinating. Again tomorrow.

For others, pressure is just a bit of fun really and something to be enjoyed. In truth, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic probably do not feel under a lot of it in the opening rounds in London, but irrespective both won easily.

Ditto Maria Sharapova, who dismantled Australian Anastasia Rodionova.

Kim Clijsters is retiring again after the US Open later this year. To some extent, she has heaped the pressure on herself to have a decent final Wimbledon, even if finally winning the title is probably beyond.

If she was under pressure, it did not show really as she ousted Jelena Jankovic, one of a series of dubious world number ones in the women's game in recent years.

For some time, Clijsters was seen as the under-achiever in women's tennis. Before her first US Open title in 2005, she contested and lost four major finals and was always bettered in tight situations by Jennifer Capriati, Serena Williams and most notably Justine Henin.

But finally in 2005 at Flushing Meadows she found a way to handle the 'P', beating Venus, Maria Sharapova and Mary Pierce on her way to the title.

Eighteen months later she retired to start a family and relieved the pressure on her 'tennis' self. Her second career as a mother has been a revelation.

There is still no Wimbledon title, but with renewed belief and self confidence, she has collected two more US Opens and famously the Australian Open title at what was once to be her adopted home in Melbourne.

She has learned how to deal with it; how to use it. There was a lot of disappointment along the way, but this Clijsters knows how to win. Sam can learn, and maybe she is. Let us hope so. There are clearly some parallels there.

Oh, but before I go, tips for the title. Djokovic in the men's, which I know is boring, but he is rather good at the moment.

And in the Ladies, I will plump for Serena. She is facing the end of her career in the next couple of years, but I get the impression she would like one more Wimbledon. And there is a woman who enjoys pressure. But probably not a Pimms.

Tags: tennis, sport, england, united-kingdom

First posted June 26, 2012 07:56:42

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