The folks who’ve stood by tennis as its stature diminished over the years are over the moon today. Not in the last 20 years have they had so much to celebrate, certainly nothing as riveting as Rafael Nadal’s absurdly dramatic victory over Roger Federer in Sunday’s Wimbledon men’s final. And 24 hours earlier there was the uniquely American success story of the Williams sisters, citizens of the world now but from and of Compton, Calif., playing out a reality that 25 years ago only their father dared dream.
The sports world doesn’t stop for tennis the way it used to 30 years ago when the game enjoyed its Golden Age. Once upon a time the big stars in tennis, their voices and hairstyles and idiosyncrasies, were as familiar to us as anything belonging to baseball and basketball superstars. We knew all about McEnroe’s tirades, Borg’s reluctance, Nastase’s crudeness, Ashe’s scholarly gentility, Navratilova’s sexuality. Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs filled the Astrodome, for crying out loud. Chris Evert, for a generation of drooling adolescent boys, was Jennifer Aniston 20 years before “Friends.”