Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray energize the restored Wimbledon crowd | Wimbledon 2022

Welcome, then, to the great British summer picnic, a tournament where it is somehow always a sweltering mid-afternoon and there are still, it seems, strawberries for tea.

The All England Club was a cold, cool and windy place as it opened its doors wide for the first time since 2019. There were dumps of cold summer rain. You could see the legendary lineup basking in the sun before the game started, with that familiar feeling of something performative, theatrically static, British for the British, before the British. Other nations have parades, fiestas, parties. We have the strawberry plastic tray, the cargo shorts, a scenic politeness.

And overall it was kind of a regular opening day, decked out with British success but with a slight sense of half-speed around the boulevards and driveways. The hill was beautifully lush and green between the rain.

Wimbledon is a place to laze around, to suck in the summer sweetness, to feel lush and flushed and dizzy and full. Restaurants crowded, kiosks buzzed. In the shop under No 1 Court they sell oversized tennis rackets for £600. Are we really there?

There has been an eagerness to cling to those pegs of the pre-pandemic summer: Glastonbury, Wimbledon, endlessly lining up for a cheap plane seat. And it was a memorable day for the All England Club in other ways, with first-round appearances for the only two British players to win a Grand Slam singles title in the last 45 years, Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu.

Raducanu was the star of the day, winning his first match on center court. She looked brisk and fit and genuinely thrilled at the end, as all 19 year olds should do, let alone a teenager who grew up a short walk from the tram just past the plains of Croydon, and for which all of this must still feel like a fever. dream.

Murray drew the loudest roars later in the evening. But then he’s basically the father of Wimbledon these days, with something pleasantly beaten and tender about that weary, pigeon-footed walk; such a daddy-ish figure. You half expect to look down to see him playing in shirt sleeves and a vest, a briefcase dangling from his other hand.

No one has ever owned this place like Murray does now, which is odd given the way things were, before the lanky youngster gave way to the lanky man, fears that the Wimbledon crowd would never hugs him quite to her bosom. Fast forward a decade and a half and we basically have Mr. Darcy there in the field, swoon-worthy, contemptuous, majestic.

Emma Raducanu in her straight-set triumph over Alison Van Uytvanck
Emma Raducanu impressed in her straight-set triumph over Alison Van Uytvanck. Photography: Frey/TPN/Getty Images

There was a different energy to seeing Raducanu win here, a straight-sets win over the experienced Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck which could have been a lot more awkward. It was Raducanu’s first appearance in front of that cooing, gurgling, gushing grand gallery on center court, and the relationship between the crowd and the players here matters, in a way it probably shouldn’t.

There were roars and whistles and scattered shouts as Raducanu strode out into blue skies and wayward. There were gasps and coos as she rolled out a nice curled backhand, then sighs and whispers as she scored a forehand. With 17 minutes gone, Raducanu finally held serve to make it a game in all, to the roars of the plastic seats.

Really none of this should be taken for granted. Raducanu is still a newbie, still trying to find a way to interact with this industry. For anyone with a sense of scale, the story at this point isn’t one of disappointment or distracting flavor offerings (it really could have had a lot more). It’s more of a golden race where all the cards fell, a feat that may well remain unique for her and for anyone else. She is not tall or particularly powerful. She doesn’t have those easy bonus weapons, the vast wingspan, the jailbreak service. She can snoop and hunt. She can fight and make her opponent work. New York has disappeared. What she now faces are the most standard tests of trying to become an elite tennis player.

There were beaks and breaks in the first set. The standard went down for a while. But Raducanu raced through the second set, to close it 6-4, 6-4. Victory is a real accomplishment, one that was greeted with joy. “I won my first round at every slam. It hasn’t been… terrible,” she said afterward, and spoke for a while about being 19 at a hack room. middle age.

There was still time for Murray to turn on those familiar old gears as the shadows lit up. It’s almost indecently relaxed there these days. He looks good too, loose and lithe and comfortable in his movements, with a bit of that old bounce, the little jerky steps, the slice, the trailing dashes towards the net.

Of course, Murray also looked tired at the end, but he looks tired by the time he steps out onto the pitch. Yet as James Duckworth took him deep into the evening, you still had the feeling that Murray would hold on as long as his body kept functioning. There is a muscle memory here, shapes, traces, a reel of Murray things, Murray noises, Murray shapes that will haunt this patch of green long after this hunched figure has walked away for the last time. The victory made it a perfect, if slightly hesitant, start to Wimbledon’s sold-out return.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *