Atmosphere and tradition scream at you from every corner, as does the reputed organisational efficiency, touched with efficient British pomposity.
Yes, there are strawberries everywhere. Yes, the weather is playing cloudy-cloudy and boy, are those press benches uncomfortably school-like. But who cares, eh? People filter in from noon for a match that is scheduled for 1 pm, some with picnic baskets, everyone with a story to tell about how they got there.
Then the excitement builds up. The ball kids walk on to applause as do the lines judges and then the umpire, Enric Molina. By the time the players walk out, the spectators are primed and ready. The buzz grows as the players warm up and then settles down to a hush as the umpire calls time.
Federer and Victor Hanescu had a 5-0 head-to-head but that doesn’t mean that Hanescu didn’t try. He showed some net skills and some baseline power. But in person as on television, Federer’s game is not one thing or the other. It is a magical meeting point of multiple skills.
There is more time in real life than there is on television. Time to caress that ball to an unbelievable angle, to smash it at the net, to flick it gently to land in no man’s territory or to hit it with speed and topspin to a winner.
The score was 6-3, 6-2, 6-0. Roger, the imperious. The sort of Federer you want to see at Wimbledon. Even as the crowd tried to spur Hanescu on, as Federer broke in the first games of the second and third sets, everyone suspected what the outcome would be.
And Hanescu tried but this was not one of those days. This was a Federer in a hurry, which is why the match lasted 68 minutes. And this is a Grand Slam, five sets to win, no tie break in the fifth set; as important as Pimms, strawberries and mind the gap.
In his press conference later, Federer said all the right things, adding that he had packed for five sets. But make no mistake, there was a message in his game to the rest of the field and to all those naysayers that bay around any player who has 17 Grand Slams, has crossed the age of 30 and refuses to retire!
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