Wimbledon 2021: ATT returns to a familiar home

Day 2 at SW19 delivered more drama, and AllThingsTennis was there first-hand for, well some of it. I had to leave a bit earlier than planned yesterday so didn’t quite see out Federer’s lucky escape or the conclusion of the Shapovalov/Kohlschreiber epic, let alone Serena’s sad retirement.

But on a day where quite rightly the nation’s eyes were on Wembley, I found plenty to savour and more importantly, found that The Championships had retained everything that makes them so great and amidst this ongoing pandemic, even found new ways to improve the experience.

My day started with a stroll around the grounds to see what had changed (nothing major) and frankly, to remember my bearings. It seems that after only a year missed, I have forgotten the entire layout. In truth though, things are very much present and correct, the beautiful people still swan around, the Stella Artois and Pimms still flows aplenty and the odd football shirts are treated with slight contempt.

What is different? Well there is mask wearing and social distancing of sorts, but it is shall we say relaxed. That does however make sense as you’re not allowed into the grounds without proof of a negative lateral flow test, covid-safe wristbands allow a sense of calm for all. Most notably of all, if you survive the mad rush to get a ticket online then you simply arrive on the day at a reasonable time, scan your virtual ticket and you’re in.

A glorious lack of what I’m afraid to say has now become an impossible Queue, and the experience was all the better for it.

It still seems like yesterday that I was sat watching a fresh-faced Vera Zvonareva at Eastbourne, now the Russian is well and truly in her twilight years but still had the quality on court 7 to classily sweep through.

Some glimpses here and there of ATT regulars Gilles Simon, Richard Gasquet and Fabio Fognini followed, as did a chance spot of Feliciano Lopez wistfully looking round the grounds following his first round defeat to Dan Evans. Reflecting perhaps on so many sparkling performances in years gone by here.

Then I turned my attention to the younger half of my favourite doubles pairing. Pierre-Hugues Herbert, one feels is purely using the singles competition in majors for practice, and that is fine. But the Frenchman is so graceful and possesses such an effortless all-court game that one does wish to see more of him. Against Pablo Andujar, he was close to taking the third set before the rain came and I headed to Centre.

Ash Barty was a little embarrassed to be opening play in defending champ Simona’s absence despite tradition dictating it should actually be the losing finalist. The world number one looked to be cruising against the personable veteran Carla Suarez-Navarro, until I sat in my seat that is. Some of the best shots of the day ensued in an entertaining 2nd set which the Spaniard took on a tiebreak. As quickly as she had vanished, Barty suddenly regained her mojo, composure and accuracy. It was soon over.

And then Roger, I was so determined to see him this year as I firmly believe it to be his last. I’ve said before the great Swiss is really looking his nearly 40 years now, in the flesh this was only more apparent. The movement wasn’t there and – with this such a vital cog in the Federer machine – the unforced errors flowed. Adrian Mannarino is no slouch of course and at 41 in the world hardly an ideal first round opponent. But make no mistake, Federer was not the better player and was on the ropes before the nasty knee injury for the Frenchman.

Anyway, a brief sojourn to the gift shop (Sophie wanted a mug) and I was on my way home, which is where the football is heading too right?

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