With one week to go till The Championships proper, the All England Club is very much hustle and bustle, as Wimbledon.com describes...
Wimbledon is and always will be known as the most pristine of the four majors in tennis: the grass, the dresscode, the tradition. A week away from The Championships 2013 proves that at the All England Club, there really is no detail unattended to. Groundstaff strolled from one court to the next, caring carefully for the historic turf as technicians taped wires throughout the Broadcast Centre and attendants wiped down hand rails and fence posts for dust. That's right: there is no dust at Wimbledon. Except, that is, if you could that which forms on the baseline of Centre Court late in week two.
Grand Slam sites are sights of hurried preparation the week before the best in tennis descend on them. Monday was no different at Wimbledon, with players like Juan Martin del Potro, Janko Tipsarevic, Kei Nishikori and British hope Anne Keothavong taking to the practice courts. Even Pat Cash and his never-failing headband was having a hit with Barry Cowan, perhaps feeling out the playing conditions that defending champs Serena Williams and Roger Federer will face starting a week from today.
I haven't been here at SW19 since 2009, when I queued for full days of tennis under a sun that can bless this place with admirably warm days. As I made my way through the outer courts to get the lay of the land again Monday, I came upon an unexpected happening: ball boys and girls training for The Championships on Courts 9, 10 and 11. The teens, aged 14 to 18, hone their final skills over the three days of the week prior to Wimbledon, with All England Club members and guests serving as their practice "pros."
"This is their first chance to truly work a match on grass," says Pete Dando, the Deputy Manager for ball boys and girls. "We have around 250 kids. They go through robust training leading up to this week."
But what's one thing that you just can't prepare for, even at Wimbledon?
"It's the speed of serve that these kids face once play starts," Dando says, smiling. "There is nothing that can quite prepare them. When that first ball whizzes by at 130 miles per hour, it wakes them up."
And slowly, over the next week, Wimbledon is waking up, too.