The Saturday lineup at Wimbledon was a tennis lover’s delight. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Petra Kvitova, Jelena Ostapenko, Victoria Azarenka were just a few in action.
But none of them played a point. Saturday at Wimbledon is “Media Day,” an afternoon cavalcade of press conferences, followed by each player walking through a gauntlet of cameras gathered from all over the world, spread across a lawn located adjacent to the player dining area.
On a singular basis, to witness one of these interviews has the potential (repeat: potential) to be a compelling experience. Rafael Nadal may have just won his tenth Roland Garros title, but at Wimbledon, after reaching five finals from 2006-’11, hasn’t been to the quarters since. It’s an awkward topic, but surely one of curiosity. Alas, the question was posed in rather awkward fashion:
Q. You haven't been very successful in the most recent years here in Wimbledon. Does this maybe affect you a bit in a negative way, especially psychologically, or do you also draw motivation from the fact that you have won two times here before?
RAFAEL NADAL: My motivation is always high in all the events that I play. If not, I am not playing. You can imagine always playing here in Wimbledon for me has been very, very special. Was one of the biggest goals that I have when I start to have success in this sport, play well in this tournament. I did five times.
Then there was Victoria Azarenka, armed with a double comeback from both injury and pregnancy. “It feels great,” she said. “I didn't play last year, so it feels like it's been, you know, almost two years that I didn't play here. I always love coming here. Such a special event for any tennis player, any tennis fan. Being back here with an extra member of my team is really special (smiling).”
Petra Kvitova, her life turned upside-down by last year’s horrific stabbing of her left hand, also offered perspective: “I think I see life and tennis from little bit different angle than before. I think that before I was very nervous before every match. Now I seeing that I shouldn't be. There's more important things in the life that should be more important than just tennis. On the other hand I found out how I missed tennis through the period I didn't play. It was difficult time to watching girls playing on the TV, me sitting in the sofa with the hand in a splint. I find out how I love this sport.”
So it is a day of perspective and possibilities, strongly flavored by hope, eagerness. But over the long haul, of many similar questions asked by each particular outlet looking for its own juicy quote, the day can also frustrating. No one more than an athlete understands the severe limitations of words; in this case, specifically, as a way to describe all the feelings that accompany the tournament every tennis player dreams of playing. Leave the speeches to the kings and the queens, the poetry to the bards. Tennis royalty favors the racquet.