Wimbledon serves up help for tennis journalists

By Barry Newcombe, SJA Chairman

Wimbledon, like the football World Cup, had an all-European finale with Switzerland beating Spain for the men’s title, Roger Federer over Rafael Nadal, and France beating Belgium for the women’s title, Amelie Mauresmo over Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Federer won for the fourth time running , Mauresmo for the first time and was the first winner from France since 1925 when Suzanne Lenglen was champion.

The United States suffered, especially in the men’s singles where their last survivors, Andy Roddick, the second seed, James Blake, the eighth seed, and Andre Agassi, playing his last Championships at the age of 36, all departed in the third round. There were no American players in the second week.

In the women’s singles there was one survivor in the last 16, none after that.

The Americans have often taken over Wimbledon, with 33 men’s titles out of 120, 50 women’s titles in a more staggering dominance. But the last American to win the men’s title was Pete Sampras in 2000, with Venus Williams in the women ‘s last year. And there is nobody significant on the horizon.

Maybe the drip feed of a slower game at Wimbledon with the courts and balls playing more slowly has something to do with it. And it will encourage the slow court players that one of their own, Nadal, could reach the final in his first serious attempt at Wimbledon and that both Mauresmo, who won for the first time, and Henin-Hardenne have slow court backgrounds.

The next serious contender in the men’s singles could be from Croatia in the shape of Mario Ancic, who will be 23 at next year’s Championships. In the women’s field, China claimed their first title in the doubles through Na Li and Jie Zheng, a result that may flag up more success to come in the Beijing Olympic Games.

Interest in tennis in Britain is certainly on the rise thanks to the arrival in the top 50 of the Scot Andy Murray who distinguished himself by beating Roddick in the third round and then ran into the fury of the Cypriot, Marcos Baghdatis.

Tim Henman lost to Federer in the second round but says he will carry on playing while Greg Rusedski was beaten in the first round and was next seeking attention for a back injury. Britain’s women players made little impact.

Wimbledon’s press operation continued impressively, serving 900 journalists and photographers from 40 countries over 13 playing days. In the run-in Wimbledon produced a succession of contenders for interviews and Federer and Venus Williams, as defending champions, gave plenty of help before and during the event.

Wimbledon’s press officer, Sarah Clarke, has an experienced team around her as well as an enthusiastic and caring group of younger helpers, and the Wimbledon media sub-committee is in constant touch with both writers and photographers.

Of course, the World Cup was being played at the same time as the Championships but in the working areas matches were shown without commentary and not shown at all in the grounds. And Europe was the winner.

This is an edited version of an article to be published in the latest issue of the SJA Newsletter, which is being distributed to members this week. If you want to ensure that you receive all SJA publications, and you are a professional sports journalist, then click here and follow the instructions to apply for membership.

And read about the beginnings of a transatlantic tennis writing feud here

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