There was only one place I could start my Material blog week – Wimbledon!
Along with Spence (a relative Wimbledon regular these days :)), we were invited to attend by our friends at strategic partner IMG. The global sports and entertainment firm have a big interest in Wimbledon – with a client roster boasting reigning Wimbledon Champions Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova amongst others including Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Nick Kyrgios they have vested interests all around the All England club.
There had been some debate whether IMG’s historic commitment and investment in the sport might falter following their acquisition by William Morris Endeavour (WME) in 2014. WME is a big player in talent representation looking after some of Hollywood’s leading talent, including actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. However, before the IMG purchase, its lone active role in tennis was the representation of Serena Williams – so, would the new uber-company continue to invest in a sport that’s landscape was changing and margins reducing? Well, the answer appears to be yes and in a big way too, signing up a raft of young talent to complement their stars at the top of the bill. The NY Times published an interesting piece on IMG’s role in tennis and the general changes sweeping the landscape of talent management in the sport – well worth a read for those interested in talent management at the very top of the sporting ether – http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/29/sports/tennis/at-wimbledon-img-gambles-to-reassert-itself-with-william-morris.html?smid=tw-share&_r=3
Back to Wimbledon itself and the scale of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club is quite something. From the towering stands of Centre Court and Court 1 to the vast array of hospitality options, you wonder what the place feels like for the remaining 50 weeks of the year. After some delicious food (including the customary strawberries) and light refreshments, we made our way over to Centre Court to catch the end of 7-time Wimbledon Champion Roger Federer’s 1st round match against Bosnian Damir Dzumhur. The Swiss won in straight sets and didn’t half make the game of tennis look incredibly easy, such was his grace around the court.
Some more light refreshments before moving onto the day’s main event – a certain Andrew Barron Murray taking centre stage as he got his latest Wimbledon campaign underway against Mikhail Kukushkin, the 58th ranked player from Kazakhstan. By the time the players took to the Centre Court turf, the on court temperature was a heady 40 degrees. With the relative relief of the shade from the roof, it was pleasant viewing from our seating just up from the Royal Box, but what it was like to play in that kind of heat for over 2 hours is anyone’s guess. Murray did look somewhat laboured at times and certainly didn’t carry the air of nonchalance that Federer had displayed earlier in the day – but a very capable opponent coupled with the searing heat played a huge part in making things a little tougher than perhaps the Scot would have liked. Safely through in straight sets however and the 2013 Champion can now look forward to a second round tie with Dutchman Robin Hasse today.
A gentle stroll around some of the outside courts, where narrow walkways and park benches form the spectator galleries, allowed a real sense of the pace, work rate and sheer endeavour that goes into a game of tennis at this level. A great experience and one I’d certainly like to enjoy again in the years to come. A quick souvenir stop and it was off to Heathrow for the return flight home.
One thing Wimbledon is perhaps increasingly well-placed to do is leave a legacy for British tennis to develop and prosper, not something it’s always managed to achieve with much notoriety. With Andy Murray and Heather Watson leading the charge and new stars like Liam Broady, James Ward, Laura Robson and Johanna Konta grabbing the headlines it seems British tennis may well be in safer hands than it’s been for some time. And you never know, there may just be another future Champion in the making….