by Pete Bodo
So while we've been pre-occupied with fairly weighty matters here, some news that will bring a smile to many of your faces just came through the pipeline: On Sunday, May 17th, the All-England Club, Wimbledon, will stage a special event to celebrate (and test) the new roof that has been installed over Centre Court. The festivities will include an exhibition match, featuring four names so familiar that it ought to banish any notion that what the AEC really wants to see is whether or not the roof collapses on everyone's head.
One of the icons who traipse onto the greensward a month before Wimbledon begins will be Andre Agassi. And as you know, Andre often insists that his wife, Steffi, accompany him to social functions, so she'll be there too - along with Tim Henman and Kim Clijsters - that's right, our much loved (by you), much maligned (by me). . . Champagne Kimmy, you remember, the plump lass who hates tennis but loves little puppies and children and long walks on the beach and - of course - pina coladas!
According to the official communique from Wimbledon: The event is designed to test the new roof and air management system with live tennis in front of a capacity crowd of 15,000. The programme will feature a men’s singles, a ladies’ singles and a mixed doubles match all played to the pro set format – the first to 8 games, with a tie-break at 8-8. The exact order of play will be confirmed nearer the time.
Ticket priced at £35.00 will go on general sale via Ticketmaster (0844 847 2481) at 10.00 am on Thursday 12 March 2009. There will be no on-day sales at the turnstiles. I am hoping that TW can score a credential for Rosangel to cover the event.
I wonder, is it possible to revive the original name of Mt. Murray, just for the day? Some of you may remember that the towering peak rose from the loam and turf of the serve-and-valley of the dinosaurs as Henman Hill, and many ancients and druids abandoned Stonehenge to worship there.
This inclusion of Champagne Kimmy is somewhat puzzling, given that she made just two semifinals at Wimbledon and lost both (and she's going to face-off against seven time champ Steffi Graf?) . Okay, so Henman never won Wimbledon, either. But hey, the guy is not merely British, he's actually English-British (as opposed to you know who), and he's got a mountain, or what passes for such in the pastoral reaches of southern England, named after him.
Henman always over-performed at Wimbledon, and he acquitted himself extremely well under an intense amount of scrutiny and pressure. He also took a fair amount of grief from London hipsters for being "too nice." The moniker "Gentleman Tim" was often delivered with a sneer rather than a smile. But there was only one thing, ever, wrong with Henman at Wimbledon, and that was. . . Pete Sampras (who led their career H2H by 6-1, including three meetings at Wimbledon - two of those semifinals).
So what do you think, are we looking at a Kim Clijsters comeback here? Personally, I don't see it. She's one of the all-time great chokers, and it's hard to imagine someone who's so unsteady summoning the sand to fight her way up through the rankings - especially at a time when the number of dangerous, tough, ambitious players is at an all-time high.
But you never know, and I have to confess it would be kind of fun to have her around again. . .
PS - Comment poster Melissa yesterday took exception to the way I characterized Nikki Pilic and his home nation, Yugoslavia, in my Golden Handcuffs post. While I meant no disrespect toward Pilic, whom I know and like, I think it was fair to characterize him as something less than an "iconic" player (his career-high ranking was no. 12, and he never won a major). Likewise, there was no malice in my characterization of Yugoslavia as something less than a tennis power. In both cases, my point was that in calling for the Wimbledon boycott the ATP chose to rally behind someone who could easily have been flung under the bus.
PPS - I'm still digging out from vacation, but I'll get back to our coaching series tomorrow.