Only the most extraordinary of events has seen the traditionalists at the All England Club cancel Wimbledon. Since the first edition in 1877, only 10 editions haven’t taken place, and each time it was a World War to blame. When the tournament that has obsessively resisted change decides to pull the plug, you know the COVID-19 outbreak has triggered war-like panic in the UK.
Shedding tears over the scrapping of a tennis tournament, however popular, in this time of pandemic, would be insensitive. Yet, the fans are entitled to feel disappointed, as they wonder if they will ever see two ageing legends of the game on the celebrated centre court again. Both Roger Federer and Serena Williams will be a year short of 40 next year. Their reactions on 2020 becoming a “grassless” year suggested that they are not sure about their plans for 2021. Federer tweeted he was “devastated” and Serena Williams was “shooked”. With advancing years, athletes don’t have the luxury of long-term plans.
Federer, father of two sets of twins, and Serena, mother of a two-year-old daughter, while locked at home, would have got an idea of their post-retirement days. For years, their bodies would have ached for a break and now they are getting one. Looking ahead, will Federer and Serena retain the hunger, and the drive, to pick themselves up, hit the road again? They might be old by tennis standards, but aren’t have-beens yet. Both were finalists last year and Federer lost a final that went on for nearly five hours — the longest Wimbledon has seen. All through their careers, Federer and Serena have defied odds, stayed in contention and packed away younger challengers. Their bodies might not be willing but the whiff of freshly cut Wimbledon grass might be too strong to resist for these evergreen stars.