Williams Sisters Stars of Wimbledon
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This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
There has been no shortage of drama at Wimbledon this year. Even the persistent rain has played a starring role. If it's nerve-wracking for us fans to watch a match delayed over and over again, to the extent of taking literally days to play it out, we can only imagine what kind of concentration it demands of the players. You plan your warm-ups, your pre-match meals. You come into the match with a game plan. When you are interrupted by a downpour, you wait in the locker room, having no idea when you'll resume play and this year, far more than any other in recent memory, the players have dealt with hours-long and in some cases days-long delays.
Rafael Nadal and Robin Soderling started their third-round match on Saturday. Over the following five days, dark clouds continually swept overhead and rain interrupted their five-set marathon an unprecedented eight times. Yesterday, Nadal finally prevailed but you had to admire both players, all the players, for having to abandon their comfort level of rhythm and ritual preparations. The new retractable roof will cover Center Court in two years, which will relieve the rain dilemma. But, as much as the traditions of Wimbledon are still honored, the requisite all-white clothing, etc., it's confounding that the tournament persists in taking the middle Sunday off. Continuing play on that middle Sunday would salvage much of the rain issue. Also, why can't they install lights for night play on the two main courts? The night matches at the U.S. Open in New York make for particularly theatrical entertainment and summer evenings out at Wimbledon would be lovely... as well as providing yet additional hours to finish rain-delayed matches.
The men's draw has been brimming with a wide variety of personalities and particular skills as well. From the sublime elegance of Roger Federer to the scrap of Marcos Baghdatis, the men have carved out a plethora of beautifully executed points. The lone American left on the men's side, Andy Roddick, is playing a mature game, his lethal serve in a groove... and how great is it so see the legendary Jimmy Connors coaching Roddick these days. The rain has prompted plenty of Connors replay moments. That classic return of serve, that deadly flat two-handed backhand. Great stuff. Great memories.
On the women's side, need we say more than "Williams"? We could talk about the Russians, the Serbs, the fact that Justine Henin is on track to perhaps win her first title on the English grass. But honestly, the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, dominate the story-lines of the women's game. Starting at the Australian Open earlier this year, Serena has served notice that she doesn't want to throw away the rest of her court career after all. She's dropped some serious weight. She's fought through painful injuries. She's proven that her hunger for championship moments is very much alive. The sisters' close bond is inspiring in itself. They will each sit in the cold drizzle, skip their own rest or practice time, to take a seat in the stands to root the other one on. No sibling rivalry here.
Serena is out now and she points across the locker room at her sister and says "That's the next Wimbledon champion right there!" Venus, as has her baby sister, has been criticized over recent years for throwing away her considerable talents, for diluting her focus with her design business and her celebrity outings. But, as has her baby sister, she seems to have found her heart for the game again. Venus is into the semi-finals now, with the hardest serve and the fastest footwork among the her peers, and it's mighty good to see her playing the high quality tennis at 27 that she first demonstrated ten years ago.
Their father, Richard, perhaps summed it up best. He said about England, long suffering for 30 years now without a Wimbledon winner: "This entire country can't produce a champion? Heck, I've produced TWO!"
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.
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