Wimbledon, a long tradition, opens with a series of changes

Wimbledon, England. This year is about tradition at Wimbledon celebrating the 100th anniversary of Center Court, but when reigning men’s singles champion Novak Djokovic returned to the grass on Monday to open this year’s tournament, it was also about change.

There are plenty of them at the All England Club in 2022: big and small; obvious and subtle.

Big deal: Russian and Belarusian players (and journalists) are not allowed due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The tournament has been extended from 13 days of play, with no matches scheduled on the first Sunday, to a full 14 days that will leave no respite for the grass and green surroundings.

Minor: The benches and tables in the press area in Center Court have been replaced with soft chairs. All Club of England members with round purple badges are no longer press conference moderators. Now the stars are sitting alone in the stands, as they are almost everywhere in the tennis world.

As if to underline the theme, Djokovic and his first-round opponent Kwon Sung-Woo arrived at the most famous tennis court in a new style.

The players had long since left the clubhouse and turned sharply to the left, passing behind a screen with a member of the club in front, before turning sharply to the right and stepping onto the grass.

Starting this year, they go straight and unaccompanied from the clubhouse to the court through the new green doors, which quickly close behind them.

It seemed unceremoniously harsh to those who were used to the old and loved the murmur of the crowd, which usually escalated into applause as the players moved down the corridor before being fully presented to the audience.

But the pixie dust was still there, as Djokovic confirmed after his 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win that seemed even closer than the score.

“Childhood dreams came true here in 2011,” Djokovic said of the first of his six Wimbledon singles titles. “I will never forget this. He will always hold a special place in my heart. Of course, every time I go out on the court, I get goosebumps, butterflies in my stomach.

This happens for the first time as well, as Emma Raducano later confirmed. In a rush last year, she became a global star and superstar in the UK by winning the US Open at the age of 18, becoming the first player to win a Grand Slam singles title in qualifying. Winning has become a lot harder since then, but she already had great memories of Wimbledon after reaching the fourth round in her first main draw appearance last year.

Monday, however, was her first match on Center Court and although she hasn’t played much on grass this season due to injury, she managed to win momentum and a tricky opponent in Alison Van Uytwank to win 6-4, 6-4 .

Radukan may not be ready to take on women’s tennis. No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who had just turned 21, occupied this air and space. But Radukan obviously knows how to be on top.

“From the moment I stepped through that gate, I really felt energized and supported and everyone was behind me from the moment I said go,” she said. “I just tried really hard to cherish every point there, played every point like it could be one of my last on that court.”

It was really creative thinking considering Radukanou, the first British women’s singles Grand Slam champion since Virginia Wade in the 1970s, is poised to play Center Court for a decade or more if she can stay healthy.

Andy Murray knows a lot. He, too, became a regular at Center Court as a teenager and eventually lived up to expectations by ending a 77-year drought for British men’s singles by winning Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016.

Playing with an artificial hip at the age of 35, Murray proved his love for his craft without a doubt. Although he will never close the achievement gap that separates him from the big three of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, who each have 20 or more major singles titles, Murray remains a threat on grass any day.

He demonstrated this with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory over James Duckworth, who ended the game on Center Court on opening day, almost exactly eight hours after it began and almost exactly 100 years after the first . opening day on Center Court.

It was June 26, 1922, after the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club had moved out of its cozier, original home on Worple Road after purchasing land on Church Road to house a new, larger stadium. The main courtyard on Worple Road was called the Center Court because it was effectively in the center of the grounds. The club retained the name, although the new main court was no longer as central.

The new Wimbledon started damp with rain and more rain, bringing the 1922 tournament to a close on Wednesday, but it was still a hit with deserving singles champions: the stylish and long undefeated Frenchwoman Suzanne Lenglen and the star of the Australian Men’s tournament. Gerald Patterson, two-time Wimbledon champion, nicknamed “The Human Catapult” because of his big serve (he could also volley).

Both Lenglen and Patterson would have been in for a few surprises if they watched the match on Monday. The center court is now protected from the rain thanks to the accordion-style retractable roof, which was put to good use during the duel between Djokovic and Kwon.

The electronic scoreboard and touch screen controlled by the tower umpire would also have caught their attention, as would the fact that the once unthinkable fact that the umpire in Monday’s first men’s match was a woman: Maria Cicak.