Blogging Wimbledon.

Notes on tennis.
July 9 2007 6:25 PM

Blogging Wimbledon

The whiny, batty, beautiful finalists.

(Continued from Page 4)

Sunday, June 24

Roger Federer. Click image to expand.
Roger Federer 

Ladies, gentlemen, dear children, your majesty:


The Point will be a piece—a short-term blog, one dares say—about watching the Championships, Wimbledon on TV and on the Web. Play begins this morning at the All England Club and ends there on July 8.

Our colleague Clive James used to do this kind of thing during his distinguished service on the TV beat at the London Observer. (It was he who provided the most accurate transcription of John McEnroe's famed soliloquy of June 22, 1981: " 'Mwaargh nehg ahng ewarg,' he expostulated, 'Newn blarghing sarg!' . … Suddenly, catastrophically, McEnroe's voice snapped into focus. 'You can't be serious, man! You cannot be serious!' ") Wimbledon, James thought, is like alcohol in that it brings out the essential character. The Point, believing this, decided that the tournament would reward close study, and Mr. James unwittingly encouraged us in the endeavor by saying, at a party in his honor at the boss's place, "When I saw that Wimbledon was coming around, I knew I wouldn't have to worry about my column for two weeks."

Readers may want to know that, on court, the Point himself is a near-total hack. Some of them will say much the same about this prose, and up yours. While we're at it, you scamps who make a fetish of full disclosure should just go ahead and suppose that the Point has met, interviewed, worked for, been hosed from HUM 440 by, or otherwise known some of the writers, editors, and artists whose work we may happen to discuss in passing. The Point hasn't made the acquaintance of any of the top-ranked players on the current tour and doesn't especially aspire,  though we do concede that it might be fun, to hit the club with Serena Williams, a decision reached after the first of nine or 12 viewings of a clip (frequently banished from YouTube) that captures her executing a creditable booty dance while clad in hot-pink cool pants and a soft, soft hoodie.

Serena is the Las Vegas favorite to win the women's draw. After sitting out much of 2006 with a bum knee and weary brain, she stormed the Australian Open and whomped Maria Sharapova in a nasty, nasty final. They traded snarls all the while, both of them treating the occasion as if they were performance artists inspired by Suzanne Lenglen and indebted to Cassius Clay. At Roland Garros, Serena lost only to that tournament's eventual victor—agile, fragile Justine Henin, the No. 1 seed at Wimbledon. Rematch!

Meanwhile, the man to beat is of course Roger Federer, the four-time defending champion and the No. 1 player in the world. Despite his chronic inability to excel on clay—that is, to beat Iberian dreamboat Rafael Nadal at the French—Federer, almost obviously, is probably the greatest player in the history of the sport. His game has grace and wit, power and glory, maybe even truth and beauty. His game has a lot of personality. His game has so much personality that there doesn't seem to be any left for his personality. Just look, for starters, at the "Ask Roger" page of his Web site:

What would your favourite television show be?
"I travel too much to have just one favourite."
What's the most wonderful compliment you have received?
"I don't remember just one specific one. But I certainly appreciate all of them!"
What's your favourite song and group out there now?
"Nothing specific, really."

Christ. Here's another one, Rog: Are you running for something? Or is this just how it is for a boy from the outskirts of Basel? Switzerland figures in both the clockwork gorgeousness of Federer's serve and the base line blandness of his public self. It's enough to make us fix on the grand Orson Welles monologue from The Third Man, about peace and boredom and cuckoos. And also about a question asked, perhaps not rhetorically, by the fine old dance band Whale: "Is there a cure for being Swiss?"