Loran Smith’s sports column: Wimbledon

Published 11:43 am Tuesday, July 2, 2024

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The fortnight that it takes to determine the various champions of

Wimbledon, one of the classiest sporting events, is likely on every sports

aficionado’s bucket list. Wimbledon is the equal of the Masters golf

tournament and the Kentucky Derby when it comes to class.


Not even John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase could sully the atmosphere

and traditions of Wimbledon.

While the competition is as good as it gets—and you are intently

smitten by the skill of the world’s best tennis players—you, nonetheless,

can’t get enough of the setting, the traditions and the environment. The

excitement and anticipation start building when you board the train at

Waterloo Station, which was named for the Battle of Waterloo which tweaks

your intellect. You can’t wait to search out the details of Napoleon’s military


You disembark at Wimbledon Village and weave your way through

Grand Slam tennis fans and locals who don’t seem to be bothered by the

heavy foot traffic that befalls them for two weeks.


All that is good for business and the economy, which obviously

makes everybody in Wimbledon happy. Many residents make room for

out-of-town guests, offering plentiful Bed & Breakfast options. On my first

trip to Wimbledon, Furman Bisher, the late sports columnist of the Atlanta

Journal-Constitution, introduced me to a lady whose address was 66

Church Road, just a short distance to Wimbledon stadium—officially All

England Lawn Tennis Club, Church Road, West Wimbledon, SW 19 5AE.

A writer who had covered Wimbledon found lodging with her first and

recommended Furman who did the same for me. Elizabeth Robins owned

a two-story house with a lovely garden, twin cats and a conservatory. She

was a widow with three daughters, one of whom we sat out back with a

bottle of vigorous white wine for pleasant conversation in the most

compatible of weather—to say nothing of the becoming environs.

Elizabeth had friends in Sarasota, Fla., and expressed fondness for

Americans. She was well read with concern, regarding South Africa and

the Middle East. I don’t know if she is living today, but if she is, more than

likely her concerns are more troubling than they were when I met her.


On my second night, I took her and her daughter, Charlotte, to dinner

in a delightful pub near Wimbledon Common for fish and chips along with

several pints of lager.

Sometimes when you travel, you meet the nicest people, most of

whom are usually hospitable, courteous, and delightfully engaging. To

enjoy the best in competition at the most celebrated of venues in sport and

pair it with local hospitality makes for the best possible experience.

In 1978, I was fortunate to begin an annual excursion to Great Britain

for the playing of the British Open the third week in July. COVID ended my

travel routine. Around the first of July, I begin to experience pangs of regret

that it came to an end.


Seeing the best golfers in the world playing the famous venues in

Scotland and England (and lately, Portrush, Ireland), and bringing about the

best in competitive drama is something that is never taken for granted.

There is so much more to experience. Europe in summer has a

sports calendar that simply overwhelms. Beginning with the French Tennis

Open at Roland Garros in Paris the first of June, there is a big event or

more each month through the end of July.


Following Roland Garros, there is the Henley Regatta, and

Wimbledon with the Tour de France lasting for three weeks, starting around

the first of July. The Open championship takes place the third week in July

and if you are up for it, you probably can squeeze in a day at the “Feast of

San Fermin” the first week in July, you know, running with the Bulls at



The third week in July, is for the playing of the world’s oldest golf

championship, the Open which, like Wimbledon, has the ultimate in

tradition and history.

If you have the good fortune to spend June and July at these exciting

venues, give priority to getting to know the people and bend an elbow with them. You won’t regret that you came their way.