I don’t know about you, but I was astonished at the ferocity and velocity of the serves thundering down during Wimbledon week.
They made it hard to believe that tennis is a sport, not a fight to the death. Of course, there is so much money at stake, both in prizes and endorsements for the winners of Grand Slam tournaments, that it’s not surprising that top players put their all into perfecting their primary assault weapon.
The fastest recorded serve in the men’s game was for 81 years held by Bill Tilden, considered the “Federer of the flapper era” and the first American to win at Wimbledon in 1920. In 1931 his rocket serve was timed at 262.8km/h but later set aside because of questionable technological accuracy.
Tilden had an arsenal that included every shot in the instruction book as well as a few more he invented on the court. He was also the first player to reach 10 finals at a single Grand Slam event, an achievement that stood until last year when Federer reached his 10th at Wimbledon.
In May 2012 Australian Sam Groth eclipsed Tilden’s record with a serve of 263.4km/h at an ATP Challenger event in Busan, South Korea. For some reason that I could not fathom, technically John Isner, the tall American who was knocked out of Wimbledon on Sunday July 4 by France’s popular Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, still holds the official record for the fastest serve of 253km/h at this year’s Davis Cup.
I gave up on Isner’s recent Wimbledon battle when the score was 9-9 in the decider. Didn’t have the stamina to sit through a repeat of the impossible marathon of the Isner-Nicolas Mahut match six years ago at Wimbledon when they recorded the longest match in tennis history. Over three days and 11 hours and five minutes the pair slugged it out for 183 games with each player serving 84 times until Isner finally won the last set by 70-68.
Mahut, like Tsonga, was always doing catch-up but this year when the score was 17-17 Tsonga finally broke Isner’s service game and went on to 19 – 17 in a set lasting two hours.
No prizes for guessing who the fastest women are? We’re talking serving here. The Williams’ sisters. Venus at 207.6km/h recorded at the US Open in 2007 with Serena at 207.0km/h in the Australian Open in 2013.
Hobbes and the hermit
If you are a fan of Bill Watterson’s daily cartoon strip Calvin and Hobbes you’ll know that Hobbes recently went AWOL. He was dropped, picked up by a dog and then found by the wretched Susie who was holding a tea party for Hobbes and a stuffed rabbit in her garden when a joyful Calvin spotted him.
I confess feeling quite shocked at seeing Hobbes shown over several days, rather than just the odd moment, as a passive stuffed tiger and not the wise, lively and sometimes fiercely wild tiger as imagined by his friend Calvin. Such is the skill of Watterson in his portrayal of Hobbes that I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks of Hobbes as real.
July 5 marked the 58th birthday of the American cartoonist who has become a recluse since December 1995 when he decided that Calvin and Hobbes would go exploring for the last time.
Leaving a successful strip at the peak of its popularity is something virtually unheard of in the newspaper business – the standard practice is to keep it going for decades even after the original creator dies. Think of Blondie and Dennis the Menace.
Watterson was in his mid-20s when the strip started and in mid-30s when he walked away but in a rare interview recently he admitted that if he were to return to his art desk he would be battling arthritis and back pain. After his near-monastic commitment to turning out cartoons daily, he’s now a man of leisure but hopefully has left enough stock to keep us going for ages.
Smile for 67 minutes
If you’ve left it this late to think what to do for Mandela Day on July 18, you can always check out the website for inspiration and read what other people are planning.
Even if spending 67 minutes doing something for others is not possible that day you could consider making a donation to some of the on-going worthy schemes to help improve the life of children.
One such initiative is The Smile Foundation.
It was started in 2000 after Mandela made a personal appeal for people to help Thando Manyathi secure surgery to correct a medical condition which had caused facial nerve paralysis known as Moebius Syndrome. She needed to go overseas for the highly specialised procedure known as Facial Reanimation.
However, looking at the bigger picture it was decided that instead of raising money to send one child abroad it would be wiser to bring surgeons Dr Ron Zucker and Dr Craig van der Kolk to South Africa to train others in this special facial technique. This led George Psaras, then Head of Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Witwatersrand, to become the first surgeon in the country to learn and practice the skill of creating smiles.
With support from\[chantel.erfort\]The Independent Newspapers, the Smile Foundation was born and over the past 13 years has changed the lives of 1 000 children.
It doesn’t make much sense for some shops to have signs at the door reading “Guide Dogs Only” when dogs can’t read and their owners can’t see.