ANOTHER OPENING DAY AT THE BIG W, WHO’LL THROW OUT THE FIRST BALL?

Petunia plantings 2009

Petunia plantings 2009

WIMBLEDON –    I keep hoping that someone someday – perhaps the Queen or Prince Charles – will throw out the first ball from the Royal Box, and declare: “Wimbledon, aged 132, is hereby open.  May the best woman and man win.  Play tennis!”

Won’t happen, of course.  Just the wandering of a misguided American mind.     Queen Elizabeth II, a horse racing junkie, cares not for tennis although her grandparents were wild about it (in a decorous way, naturally), as regular attendants at the Big W.   Her father, King George VI (then the Duke of York), actually played Wimbledon, badly, in doubles, 1926.  No royal was tempted after that, leaving the king business to such as Laver, Borg and Federer.    

Feeling that papa George had been unnecessarily embarrassed, his family pretty much shunned the game. But George did present the 1947 trophy to Jack Kramer, and Elizabeth II did show in 1977 (I think she cleverly slept behind her dark glasses) to celebrate Wimbledon’s centenary. And to congratulate the last of her subjects to make the winner’s circle: Virginia Wade.

But on we go with the regal Federer to strike some of the first balls against Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei.  This is Roger’s sixth straight unveiling  of the tournament on the celebrated greensward of Centre Court, the honor reserved for the defending champion.  He takes the place of Rafa Nadal whose knees said, “Please give me the ease of time off.”

Instead of re-drawing the tournament when Nadal pulled out, as I believe the hierarchy should have done, a few bodies were shuffled and 5th seeded Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro was moved to the top, replacing Nadal.  At least there’s still a Spanish speaking contender to shout “Ole!” at in that spot.

Philadelphia friends, Sibby and Bob Brasler with Bud

Philadelphia friends, Sibby and Bob Brasler with Bud

Novak Djokovic, a definite title threat, will be on Centre, too, against Julien Benneteau.  Can it be 5 years since Maria Sharapova won the title?  She’s back after almost a year’s convalescense (shoulder) and cherishes the grass.  Viktoriya Kutuzova will try to mow her.

Brits are excited about their prodigy, 15-year-old Laura Robson, who has a shot at a name: Daniela Hantuchova.  Robin Soderling, who made such an impression in removing Nadal from the French and traveling to the final, will have to be careful with the snaky left-handed serve of Gilles Muller.

But there shouldn’t be much trouble for the elite.  Undoubtedly there’ll be a crowd at Court 17 in the boonies to listen to the annoying teen-ager from Portugal, Michelle Larcher de Brito, who makes too much noise as she plays, thus reaping considerable publicity. Will her foe, Klara Zakapalova, complain, and ask for relief from the umpire as others have?

Keep your ear to the ground.  You may be able to hear her wherever you are.

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