Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The Casual Tennis Fan's Nostalgia for an Earlier, Curated and Timeshifted Wimbledon

What Does One 5x Wimbledon Winner Do When She Knocks Another 5x Winner Out of the Tournament?

Once upon a time, Wimbledon was broadcast in the US by over-the-air networks on a tape-delay basis. The time difference between the US and Wimbledon gave them plenty of time to select the best matches in the early rounds, so you could be assured of good tennis most days of the tournament. It was just the right amount of tennis -- enough to make you wish for more, but not enough to burn you out. News media cooperated with the networks and did not broadcast results in the US until the matches had been aired. The internet changed all that, but even well into the internet era, news anchors would give spoiler alerts -- "now's the time to turn down the sound if you don't want to know the results" -- to those who wanted to preserve their tape delay suspense. That's long gone; we live in a real-time world.

Back then I used to fantasize how great it would be if I could select for myself among all the matches, and get replays of the ones I missed because of schedule conflicts. Be careful what you wish for. Streaming ESPN3 brought me exactly what I wished for, with the result that now I'm "all tennissed out," suffering from extreme tennis fatigue, and we're just to the women's semifinals. Whether focusing intently on the matches I'm watching, or trying to multitask at the same time, the result is the same, a numb, exhausted brainfog, combined with the wish this would all be over soon. The idea of someone curating the best matches and broadcasting them later at a reasonable hour now seems positively civilized.

The only thing keeping me going this year is the remarkable saga of the Williams sister. Both Serena and Venus have made it to the semifinals. It's the first time Venus has gotten past the early rounds since she was diagnosed  five years ago with Sjogren's Syndrome, a debilitating, incurable autoimmune disorder that limits her playing and practice time. Nevertheless, aided by a vegan diet, she has battled her way back, the oldest woman in this year's women's field.

Serena has the less challenging semifinal opponent; Venus has to make it past #4 seed Angelieque Kerber to get to the final. But the way she's been playing, I wouldn't bet against an all-Williams final. The two oldest women in the tournament battling it out for the championship. That would be a match for the record books.

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