Back when I were a lad I used to really enjoy Wimbledon. The matches were exciting and the often the slanging matches between the players and the umpires made better TV than the actual gameplay.
My first five set final was between Bjorn Borg and American Roscoe Tanner. Tanner had a mighty serve and aced the Swede many times. I remember the commentators remarking, “That was his 14th Ace!” I wondered at the time how they knew this. Well I suppose they probably had a note pad and a pen and were keeping track as they huddled in their commentary box.
Now 30 years later the technology does it all for them. Almost as soon as the ball has blasted past the receiving player before he has even had a chance to move his racket the fact that the serve was an ace will have popped up on the screen for all to see.
It makes me wonder – has technology taken the fun out of Wimbledon?
Before technology the commentators had to guess at the speed of the ball. “That latest serve of Tanner’s must have been over 100 miles per hour!” “No I disagree Dan it looked a whole lot faster to me.” Of course now we know immediately how fast the ball was going because it flashes up on a monitor to three decimal places.
And what about disputes over line calls. Now we have a sophisticated bit of kit that replays the angle and touch point of the ball, the crowd slow clap, and the computer reveals whether it was in or not. Then the player shrugs his shoulder and gets on with the game because the rules say he has to abide by the decision of the machine. Gone, then are the days of “YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS”, racket abuse and demands that the referee be summoned forthwith. I do find myself getting all nostalgic for the verbal volleying of the past.
But what wasn’t funny in the past was that rain would always stop play. How annoying was it to get to a nail biting point in a game only for the covers to be pulled across the court and the players bussled into the changing rooms and then back to their hotels because play is abandoned. Now technology has given us the roof on centre court which means now games can continue in the rain and also well into the night.
Technology may have taken some of the fun out of Wimbledon but it has ensured that we can now look forward to uninterrupted battles of epic length proportions such as the recent awesome match between Andy Murray and Stan Warinka. It might not be as much fun but as edge of the seat entertainment it cannot be bettered.