Grapes: Gamaret, Garanoir
Producer: Cave de la Côte
Source: Alpine Wines
I decided that I hated Roger Federer in 2009. I can pinpoint the exact moment. It was this one:
My love of tennis developed gradually. I remember watching Sampras in the 90s and cheering on Tim Henman in the early 2000s. I particularly strongly remember my crushing disappointment that the rain delay in 2001 gave Goran Ivanisovic back his momentum to prevent Tim from getting to the Wimbledon final, but I wasn’t fully invested until 2008. That Wimbledon final, my God, that final. Rafa Nadal battling against the incumbent champion Roger Federer in what is still the greatest match I have ever seen. And I wanted Rafa to win; he was the underdog against Federer’s unbeatable record. I didn’t remember Roger’s rise, I don’t remember when he was the young gun, fighting against adversity to win against the odds. As soon as I was aware of him, he was already established; he was now the one that had to be beaten. And Rafa did just that. My hero.
So when 2009 came around and Federer was back in the Wimbledon final, of course I wanted Andy Roddick to win. He was another underdog and his record against Federer in grand slam finals was not good. Maybe this was the one, maybe this was the year!
But it wasn’t meant to be. Federer regained his title in a hard fought match…
…and as soon as he did, he pulled a monogrammed cardigan out of his bag with a logo to commemorate being a six time champion. What? He was so convinced he was going to win that he created merchandise? Unbelievable!
And then in his winner’s speech, he said this to Andy Roddick:
‘Don’t be sad, I went through some rough ones as well…I came back and won. I’d won five, but still.’
And that’s when I decided that I hated him. Smug bastard.
(I know this is a parody account but it is just too perfect!)
But by then I had completely fallen in love with tennis, and at a very good time! Federer, Nadal and Djokovic may have been dominating the championships but, wow, the quality of the tennis was fantastic and there, fighting up between them, was Andy Murray. What an absolute hero!
And my love of Andy Murray almost made me like Federer even less. His smooth charismatic charm was the complete opposite of Murray’s gruff public presence, and it was such an easy comparison to make to put Murray down. I cannot tell you how often I would bristle with anger at non-tennis fan’s statements that ‘he’s just rude though isn’t he?’ or ‘but he’s not actually that good at tennis’ or, worse, ‘he’ll never beat Federer though, will he?’ Argh!! I have less need to fight his corner now, thank goodness; as world number 1, he is indisputably the greatest British singles tennis player ever (Virginia Wade has a similar Grand Slam record, winning Australia, US and Wimbledon, but only reached number 2 in the singles ranking).
Whether it’s a sign of the strength of these early tennis memories or just a testament to the unique delights of the tournament, it’s still difficult to separate my love of tennis from my love of Wimbledon. While queuing last week, Chris and I tried to think of another annual sporting event that makes us so happy or excited, or that we would gladly attend every year, and I certainly couldn’t think of any other.
I realised that I have now been to eight Wimbledons, sometimes more than once per tournament. My first visit was in 2000 on a trip with Parkstone Grammar School. We left in a coach at 4am to join the queue, which at that point was still in the road! We waited for hours, scraping our knuckles playing spoons on the pavement, and ended up getting Court 2 tickets, although somehow our PE teacher managed to sneak us in to Centre Court at the end of the day, in a feat that I still don’t quite understand!
But it was after moving to London that Wimbledon became much more important, and it was only my disastrous rota in 2013 that has prevented me from going every year since 2011. I have seen Murray win and lose, I have seen Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, Serena, Heather Watson, Tsonga, and so many others. I have queued on the day for grounds passes, I have won Centre Court tickets in the ballot, I have four times camped overnight, with varying degrees of success, and fallen head-over-heels for the very British institution that is the Wimbledon Queue. It really is something that has to be experienced to be believed.
This year it seemed important to try and incorporate our challenge into the queue, and as I have other plans for a British wine that made it (even more) impractical to try and find something from Scotland, Switzerland seemed like an obvious choice. Thanks to the brilliantly helpful team at Alpine Wines who were incredibly enthusiastic about our challenge, we were able to obtain a delicious Swiss red to take with us. Can you think of a better evening than sitting outside in the sunshine, eating takeaway, drinking a great bottle of wine and getting ready to see some outstanding tennis the next day? I’m not sure that I can!
And, wow, the tennis was amazing! Thanks initially to Chantal’s wider appreciation of tennis outside Wimbledon, and later Chris’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the sport, I understand the nuances of the game in a way that I didn’t in previous years. By watching other tournaments than just the Grand Slams and listening to The Tennis Podcast to learn about the up and coming #nextgen players, I also feel like I know the players outside of the Big Four and can understand whether they are a credible threat to my heroes. It makes watching so much more enjoyable and, when watching Andy Murray, so tense!
I still don’t like Federer though, and this is an area where Chris and I have come to an uneasy agreement to disagree! Chris is a huge Federer fan and I am dreading the possibility of a future Federer/Murray final as I suspect that I won’t like where Chris’s loyalties will lie. It may make for difficult viewing…
Chris has been working quite hard to change my mind about Federer and I have begrudgingly conceded that there is no doubt that he is a staggeringly good sportsman. His list of achievements speaks for itself and the fact that he is in a Wimbledon final again at the age of 35 (and may even have won by the time you read this!) is frankly ridiculous. And his style of tennis is just beautiful, I could watch him play forever.
So I was almost swayed. Almost.
And then I spotted this on Twitter.
More boasting merchandise. Smug bastard…
From the Alpine Wines website:
Dry and smooth with very soft tannins and lovely texture in the body. Unique wine, unique grapes and a crowd pleaser.
Perfect with spicy food – one of the best reds in our whole range with a hot curry.
The smoothness and predominant fruit couple with the tannins to produce a wine that is excellent from the moment the cork is pulled. Not only good with curry but any foods that you might associate with Gamay, such as turkey or chicken.
By the time we opened this bottle, I think it’s safe to say that both we and it were all completely sun-baked! Luckily, this deep, smooth red was perfect for summer evening drinking. It was warm with a strong full flavour and was exceedingly drinkable. The smell hinted at lots and lots of red fruits, but there was only a faint fruitiness once it was drunk. It also had a slight roughness to the aftertaste that briefly conflicted with the smooth opening, but the overall effect was delicious!
8/10, a credit to Switzerland!
Before I get to the wine, a few thoughts on Federer…
Roger Federer and I are almost exactly the same age – he’ll be 36 on August 8th, 30 days after me. We’re the same height – 6’1″. He won the Boys Singles at Wimbledon in 1998, the first year I attended the Championships. I’ve had the immense privilege of watching his career unfold from beginning to (almost?) end, though I’ve only actually seen him play twice in person (2012 Olympics, 2015 Wimbledon – both on Centre Court). That career has coincided with a golden era in men’s tennis, for which Federer himself deserves much of the credit. In many ways, he gave birth to it when he beat Pete Sampras in the 2001 Wimbledon quarter-final – or perhaps two years later, when he surgically dismantled Mark Philippoussis’ brute-force game in the final.
Right from the start, watching Federer dance, swoop, and glide around the court was like nothing else I’d experienced – not in tennis, anyway, and perhaps not in sport full-stop. I grew up on Sampras, Ivanisevic and Krajicek; on boom-boom serving, short rallies, and the agonising hope that maybe, maybe this might be Tim Henman’s year. Federer was different. He just was. It’s 11 years old now, but this New York Times essay by the late, great David Foster Wallace explains that difference far better than I can here. From 2003-08, he dominated the game in a way that mere numbers both illustrate and somehow underplay. 13 Grand Slams – as many in half a decade as any man had previously won in a career. Five successive Wimbledon titles. In 2005 and 2006, he lost nine matches…in total! Even better, he did it in a way that was never, ever boring. It was ridiculous! Dominance is meant to be boring – almost inherently so. That was the Federer paradox: the better he played, the more successful he became, the more he seemed to lift the game up with him, rather than relegating it to a mere sideshow.
With Nadal’s game reaching full maturity, and the emergence of Djokovic and Murray, Federer’s career entered a new phase – one that’s now lasted a full eight years. There have been myriad disappointments along the way. Crushing lows to balance out the occasional, euphoric highs. Moments when it felt like the end was close, like the last of the magic had finally left Roger’s racquet.
And one day, it will. Whether it’s this year or next – or maybe even further down the road, with 40 just over the horizon – the end will come, and men’s tennis will be poorer for it. Till then though, I’ll enjoy this last, brilliant hurrah. This reminder that no-one has lit up the court like Roger Federer, and – better still – that the competitive fire still burns. At 35, the great man is old in tennis terms, but remains the sporting embodiment of Dylan Thomas’ famous plea:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Now…the wine! This soft, summery red was smoother than I’d expected, and a bit peppery. It reminded me a bit of good quality liqueur chocolates, with very little fruit, some dark initial flavours, and a rich seam of alcohol running through it. As the night drew in, I enjoyed it more and more – it somehow seemed very well matched to our surroundings, with a cool breeze cutting through the stifling warmth of the campsite, and darkness all around us. One I’d happily drink again.