Jane and I went to the tennis yesterday. Semi-finals day is often the best day to go, but yesterday was just the administration of a couple of sound beatings and the prelude to what might be a classic final.
I grew up in Wimbledon and I’ve been to the tennis virtually every year since I was a small boy. I’ve seen many great champions, but it’s not often you get two great champions playing at their peak at the same time. Becker and Edberg scrapped it out in the late 80s, Sampras and Agassi had amazing hard court duels but Sampras was the man on grass. For me though it is Borg and McEnroe that I look back to.
Borg was the ice man – cool and unflappable on court, incredibly fit and the consummate professional. He won from 1976 to 1979, getting better each year. McEnroe was the fiery genius – awesome power and control and a true sight to behold. McEnroe was knocking at the door, but in 1980 Borg wasn’t going to let him in. It was one of the great finals, Borg winning in an epic 5 sets for his 5th consecutive final.
A year later the younger McEnroe would not be denied, and he won in 4. It was a natural succession – Borg had peaked and was probably a little on the slide whereas McEnroe was still improving. They’d been incredibly close the year before and everything suggested McEnroe would be the better man this time, but somehow Borg felt immortal at Wimbledon and a lot of people thought he’d do it again.
I see a lot of similarities between that era and the current one. Federer, the consummate pro, has looked immortal at Wimbledon, but last year Nadal took him right to the edge. Nadal is clearly improving and Federer is not – he should win this year. Is there any more to it than this? I don’t think there is – don’t let the wood get in the way of the trees here. As in Borg’s era there will be plenty who believe in Federer’s immortality, which is why he is still favourite.
In the women’s I think psychology is a bigger factor than form. I think the sisters have a subconscious sense of “whose turn it is” and my sense is that it is Serena’s turn – Venus has won plenty at Wimbledon.
On to the racing;
The big news today may be the rain at Haydock – it’s expected to be fairly heavy this morning and I suspect the going will change. I live only a short distance from Sandown and there has been a little rain this morning, but I doubt we’ll get much.
The Eclipse looks unusually weak this year. In the absence of anything better I’ll go for Stotsfold for a place – I’m hearing that the Swinburn stable are looking for a big run from him. Later in the day I like St Jean Cap Ferrat who was entered in the Derby and has ability – he may be delivering closer to his true potential now and can go on and score again.
In the Old Newton’s at Haydock I’ll side with Greek Envoy, who’ll like the rain and goes well on a galloping track. Later in the sprint handicap I’ll have a very small interest in Jonny Ebeneezer.
Nap of the day though is Allied Powers in the first at Haydock. Everything is right here – he’s getting his beloved rain, the form of his last three victories has worked out, his stable continues in great form and he’s had a nice break.