It’s always an odd day, that first one at Wimbledon. Fly all night from California, wonder if I actually slept, sift through customs, an hour-long drive to London, arrive at a flat, buy some food – this is often usually the zombie-like phase of entry to the tournament.
Stroll the grounds of the All England Club, now in that quiet, pre-tournament phase. Come Monday, thousands will be on site. But today, various officials, scattered media and, yes, players, off to practice.
And then, presto, there he was, Roger Federer, engrossed in a grass court workout with Jiri Vesely. Federer was on Court 14, a tidy court (seating capacity: 325) a stone’s throw northwest of Centre Court. There were less than 20 of us at this session; and yes, it was a glorious site: Federer, all in white, juxtaposed against the fresh green grass. From ten feet away, his lithe physique and quiet footwork is even more breathtaking – the small adjustment steps, the superb balance and then, well, time to just take a crack at the ball and let it rip.
As we’ve seen all year, Federer’s improved topspin backhand is the new toy, aided by everything from his bigger racquet head to the confidence he gained while practicing it while taking off the last half of 2016. Turn and rip, turn and rip, turn and rip.
There’ll be plenty of compelling competition at this Wimbledon, but it will be hard to find anything as sublime as watching this elegant greeting from the guy who’s won the club championship seven times.