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Heart's ease - an infusion was said to help mend a broken heart

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

In praise of... Wimbledon

Ah, Wimbledon... sublimely manicured lawns... players crisply attired in white.. Pimms, overpriced strawberries... tension, drama... power, delicacy and peaches of shots, the cheers, groans and gasps of millions, and If above the players' entrance... A bastion of traditions masquerading as a tennis tournament: traditions which are in fact rules, whose origins lie in bygone eras but whose existence is somehow as reassuring as a Werther's Original toffee.

What other tournament would dare to dictate precisely how players must dress, down to underwear, scope of non-white trimmings and size of logos? And indeed, what other tournament would get away with any sort of rule arising solely from leisured Victorian norms? Yes, players do chafe under the rule and point out its absurdities, but Wimbledon's prestige means they all comply - to many spectators' appreciation. In other tournaments, with their bright colours and bold patterns, the men in particular look as though they've turned up in their practice kit, or for some kind of "dress down Friday" event, whereas at Wimbledon they've all clearly dressed for the occasion. Somehow, tennis played on vibrant green lawns by people in fresh, crisp white just seems so very, very right.

If Wimbledon were a woman she'd be a Maggie Smith dowager: imperious, wily and willing only to adapt and change in (at times surprising) ways that suit her. She would, of course, be utterly acerbic about grunting, and regard it as disdainfully as she would a turquoise patterned shirt on Centre Court. As a man, Wimbledon would be a John Gielgud don, gazing down on the quad, sherry glass in hand, pondering the changing world and noisily exuberant fans in slow, mellifluous tones, simultaneously bemused and yet utterly in command.

And it is that sense of stability in a changing, crazy world, with all its violence and division, which lies at the heart of the reassurance we get from Wimbledon. The world - certainly this country - may feel as though it is spinning out of kilter, but for these two weeks there is a corner of south west London exuding tradition, stability, benign calm and just the right amount and type of noise and craziness.

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