Serving up sleep deprivation: The return of Wimbledon

BY VICTOR HENSLEY, News + Record Staff
Posted 6/30/21

I’ve always despised waking up early.

Actually, let me rephrase that — I think waking up at the crack of dawn is neat, but my body is disgusted by the idea.

I’ve never been one to wake up …

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Serving up sleep deprivation: The return of Wimbledon

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"File:Centre Court Wimbledon 1.jpg" by Spiralz from England
Posted

I’ve always despised waking up early.

Actually, let me rephrase that — I think waking up at the crack of dawn is neat, but my body is disgusted by the idea.

I’ve never been one to wake up before sunrise, pour a cup of piping hot coffee and start my day before the rest of the people in my house even consider getting out of bed.

However, there’s one notable exception.

Wimbledon.

The Championships, Wimbledon, is — objectively — one of the best sporting events on earth. Ask anyone, they’ll tell you the same thing. (And if they disagree, they’re wrong.)

Held in early summer at London’s All England Club (five hours ahead of us here on the East Coast), Wimbledon is the most iconic of pro tennis’s four majors.

It’s a grass-court tournament rooted in tradition, with players being required to dress in all-white, fans consuming a shockingly high amount of strawberries & cream — more than 2 million strawberries and 1,820 gallons of cream in 2005, according to a 2006 article from The New York Times — and championship trophies that look straight out of the royal family’s most valuable dining set.

The All England Club is so traditional that it doesn’t even have lights on most of its courts, meaning matches are routinely suspended due to “darkness.” And it’s the reason for such early start times (typically 11 a.m. in London).

Essentially, take everything you’ve ever thought about British culture and put it into a three-week-long sporting event. That’s Wimbledon.

And it’s awesome.

I’m typically not one for high-class events. My off-the-job attire is made up almost exclusively of 10-year-old t-shirts and basketball shorts. But when it comes to Wimbledon, where the uniforms look just a tad bit cleaner and the players’ grunts sound just a little more sophisticated, I can’t get enough of it.

When I was 12 or 13 years old, I developed an affinity for the grassy major. I knew almost nothing about tennis at the time. I could only name three players at most — that’s being generous — and had little to no knowledge about the game’s rules.

But once I found out about Wimbledon, I was hooked.

One summer, I strove to wake up early each morning to catch the day’s matches. I would set my alarm, groggily smack the please-stop-screaming-at-me button and drag myself into our living room to grab the remote and begin another day of tennis perfection.

By waking up early, hearing the soft-spoken voices of the commentators and watching a sport that isn’t super popular in the United States as the sun’s rays began to creep through our living room blinds, I felt like I was a part of some cool secret club. In my mind, I had to be one of the only ones doing it.

Most of the time, I’d watch the first 15 minutes of the match before dozing off on my couch for another hour or two, but the simple fact that I successfully got out of bed before the laziest roosters? On my summer break? Just to “watch” a tennis tournament? That made me one of the cool kids.

However, as the years flew by and I grew older, those early-morning Wimbledon trips to the living room became more and more infrequent. Why wake up at 5:30 when you could wake up at 10 a.m. and still catch some of the action? Yeah, I’d miss a few important matches here and there, but at least I was able to get a few more hours of shut-eye.

But last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the sports world, Wimbledon was canceled for the first time since World War II.

As tough as it was to see the 2020 Summer Olympics postponed, getting the Twitter notification that Wimbledon wasn’t happening left me in an even darker place.

As June and July passed, I found myself yearning for that reason to wake up early. I missed the British accents of the commentators, the quickness of the ball kids and the aura of Wimbledon that’s simply like no other.

Hence why, on Monday, I chose to set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. — a whopping two hours earlier than usual — so I could wake up, turn on my TV and catch the first slate of matches at Wimbledon in 715 days.

But as the light began emanating from my screen and the logo for the Championships popped up, the ESPN host hit us with a disappointing staple of sports in London: rain delays.

Matches didn’t start until 8 a.m. thanks to the weather, meaning I woke up before the sun for nothing, but as I watched no. 1 seed Novak Djokovic lose the first set to English wild card Jack Draper — getting the world’s hopes up for an upset that would never come as Djokovic won the next three sets to take the match — I didn’t care about lost sleep or bad weather. I felt like a kid again, back in that secret club.

Tell all of your early-rising friends. Wimbledon is back.

Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at vhensley@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.

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