Nice work Pippa, but you forgot to mention Wimbledon’s big four
It is a brave pundit who attempts to follow the doyenne. In her guide to Wimbledon, published in Vanity Fair magazine, Pippa Middleton barely hits a bum note.
What observation, what perspicacity, what insight the future Queen’s sister offers up in her insider’s guide to what to look out for at the All England Club.
Take a raincoat, she suggests. Don’t plan dinner afterwards because matches sometimes go on late into the evening and there is apparently nothing worse in the human condition than missing Rafa Nadal in action because you’ve booked for a routine pizza with friends.
Do join in the Mexican wave (it’s such fun). And for goodness sake don’t wear stilettos: the walk from the tube is almost twenty minutes. Remember that, lads.
Thanks Pippa. Not a lot left for anyone else to consider after that. Though, to be fair – perhaps out of deference to friends and family – she leaves it to others to point out that the Centre Court crowd invariably features the year’s biggest gathering of those who have enjoyed the services of a cosmetic surgeon.
The ladies who lunch there (or if they follow Pippa’s advice take a cream tea with strawberries – seriously strawberries at Wimbledon, who’d have thought it until Pippa suggested the idea?) appear to do so only after an appointment in a nearby wind tunnel.
Also missing from her list is any observation about the centre court “oof”, the collective groan of disapproval when a player misses a winnable shot. This is the most dispiriting sound in world sport, a grumbly ticking off that makes the New Den greeting the arrival of West Ham sound positively encouraging.
But then Pippa isn’t one for miserablism. She loves her Wimbledon. She has been going since she was a tomboy, her appearance there an annual event long before the paparazzi picked her out in the stands quite coincidentally wearing a see-through dress.
And when Pippa takes her place in the royal box this year (no queuing up for tickets for People’s Sunday liked she used to now she has contacts) she could well be in for a treat.
This has the potential of being the best Wimbledon in a generation, certainly the best she will have seen in her twenty-odd years of unbroken attendance.
Never before – in the men’s game at least – has there been such an array of talent on show. Never before has it been so difficult to predict a winner.
When Rafa Nadal – fresh from quite astonishing triumph in the French Open – is seeded number five there is a clue to the excellence that will be on display.
Actually the very fact Nadal is going to be at Wimbledon fit and firing is cause for celebration. Last year, as he was knocked out by Lukas Rosol, the Czech world number 100, he was clearly struggling with the accumulated wear and tear of playing the power game.
But, as he proved in Paris, the muscular Spaniard is now back on form, fishing his knickers out of his crack with something approaching his old aplomb.
Novak Djokovic, the number one seed, too is as imperious as ever, an indefatigable combination of skill and refusal to yield. And it would be a foolish punter who writes off Roger Federer, a man who takes enormous enjoyment from circumventing the debilitations of time.
Sure, at 31, the clock is ticking on the elegant champion’s continuing mastery of centre court. Sure at times this season he has looked forlorn in defeat. But he loves Wimbledon almost as much as Pippa does. And the evidence of his first tournament win of the season last week is that his grass game is showing little sign yet of giving way to chronology.
Then there is Andy Murray. In truth, while his supporters have long talked about the big four of the men’s game, Murray has only recently joined the quartet.
Until last year, it was really only a big three and a half, Murray’s achievements to that point meant he belonged in the elite solely in the mind of British tennis writers and his mum.
Last year, however, changed all that. The Wimbledon final, Olympic gold and a win at the US Open signalled his accession to the very top of the game.
After missing the French Open with injury, he was simply brilliant at Queen’s, combining solid ground strokes with a flourish of eye-catching winners that were at times breath-taking.
He looked fitter than ever, strong, resourceful and canny. As John McEnroe suggested, he looked ready to fulfil his destiny. There can be no doubting he is now the real thing.
What this represents is Wimbledon’s perfect storm of talent, the four of them arriving together, ready to provide the finest competitive hoedown in the competition’s history.
And, given the fleeting nature of sporting prowess, this first gathering of the quartet coinciding in absolutely top form, might be the last. Hang on to your flats, Pippa: this could be the year Wimbledon blows your socks off.