There is a moment after Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon: standing to the side during the ceremony for just a moment, he wrapped his arms around The President’s Trophy and grinned down at the gleaming surface, content and happy.
It lasted just a second or two and revealed the four year old boy inside the man. That kid wanted to win Wimbledon twenty years ago.
In early July, 1977, I saw my first tennis match at Wimbledon on television. We didn’t have cable back then, living in rural Ireland. The picture was a bit fuzzy, the court was surreally green but during the semifinal between Borg and Gerulaitis, my head exploded. It was my personal Big Bang. Playing at Wimbledon was all I wanted to do.
Every year, I watched, my nose inches from the screen. I watched the first round on BBC2, starting precisely at 2pm, and then the replay of the same match later that evening. Year after year, I’d mark the Wimbledon fortnight on my calendar and count down the days like a kid waiting for Christmas.
I wonder if there are others like me out there. Maybe it’s not Wimbledon for you, maybe it’s the Masters at Augusta, the Grand National, the Olympics, the FA Cup final or the start of baseball’s spring training. These events attached to you as a kid and became part of who you are. You feel more alive when it comes around every year, you feel a bit like that kid you were and probably still are somewhere underneath all the messiness of life.
The end of Wimbledon each year for me feels like the day after Christmas. The narrative builds and grows with each round. The players’ stories become bigger and louder as the finals get closer. And then, it’s over. Someone has won, the carpet is rolled up and put away and the energy drains away out of the gates until next year.
I’m in that post-Wimbledon funk; it’s a whole year until it starts again. But I’ll remember the winner this year hugging the trophy like a favorite teddy bear, connecting that four year old with today and smile.
That moment from Novak is why I watch and will always watch.