Amid all the pomp and elegance, hope and glory that attend this competition known such as Wimbledon, an overlooked quality of this host nation is its joyful, playful engagement with the tennis -- and how that passion plays out at this event.
It can be spotted in the queue, that overnight ritual that in some ways is a tennis Woodstock, a lengthy, sweaty, communal gathering of zealots seeking deliverance.
It can be spotted each morning, as well-behaved fans gingerly press forward, paced by guards, eager at last to enter the grounds at the appointed hour of 10:30.
It can be spotted following a match on the outside courts, ascending stars such as Jelena Ostapenko and Alexander Zverev mobbed on Wimbledon’s narrow walkways, protected by a phalanx of security guards, ushered peacefully and methodically through thick crowds.
It can be spotted late in the day, when a tennis icon such as Boris Becker, John McEnroe or Chris Evert is seen on the grounds and a handful of fans and camera crews set off in pursuit – though only for a brief while, the star eventually vanishing into a sea of bodies.
It can be spotted on Centre Court, fans in rapture as such iconic champions as Venus Williams and Roger Federer thrill them yet again. Nothing in tennis is quite as evocative as a late afternoon at Wimbledon, the sun casting its shadow over the lawn, Wimbledon’s concepts of triumph and disaster in full splendor.
And then there come other moments. Each morning, I enter Wimbledon on Somerset Road, located on the west side of the All England Club. As I make my way towards the entrance outside Gate 13, I pass by an honorary steward. “How goes it for you this year at The Championships?” I asked him last Monday.
“Can’t complain. Still in it as the second week begins.”
“Good luck today and hope you make it to the next round.”
A day later, I asked the same question and was told, “It’s looking good for our team.”
“Are you in the quarters now?”
“That’s where we lost last year. Hoping to do better this time.”
Come Thursday: “In the semis?”
“Yes, later today.”
But on Friday, I was told, “Bad luck. Late in the match, my partner lost his temper and we were defaulted.”
Today, I followed up.
“Word has it he might receive a fine – and a stiff one at that. Unfortunate, but the trend is positive. Quarters last year, semis this time. We will be back.”