I haven't watched any of Wimbledon this year. Neither has Betty. Yet we both used to be big tennis fans. What happened?
I'll tell you what happened, kids. Are you sitting comfortably?
The inch that changed tennis forever happened, that's what happened. I bang on about this every Wimbledon-time. Though it applies to any of the other just as important as Wimbledon tournaments around the world.
The article I've linked to seems to think it was a good thing. Well they would because they sell the monstrosity that is the modern tennis racquet. Let me take you back to a time much gentler than the current time.
There was a ten year old boy called Geoffrey. His dad's friend played social tennis. No, this was not a euphemism for swinging...
Geoffrey's dad's friend was a very nice man. And he offered to teach the boy how to play tennis. He leant him a racquet, very similar to his own. He showed him the basics.
After a few elementary lessons, Geoffrey was able to hit the ball against a wall. He practised and practised against the wall of the garage bordering the local field. He could hit the ball harder and more accurate. He was ready to play with other people.
Meanwhile, Geoffrey's friend had been taught a few elementary strokes. He had practised, too.
So they joined a club together. They joined the junior section of their local tennis club. There was no tuition there. The kids were left to get on with it.
So Geoffrey and his friend played against each other. Hour after hour, game after game, set after set. They developed well, with their own individual styles. As they got older, they were invited to play with the seniors. They could hold their own as they had the individual techniques to surprise their stronger opponents. They both specialised in a heavy topspin forehand, though they could vary their strokes using drop shots, lobs, slices, etc. They only went to the net when forced to. They hugged the baseline.
Then came the extra inch.
Suddenly, racquets became wider. There was more room for error. What used to be a balls up with the old racquet became a winning shot with the new. Slow, considered skill was out, POWER was in.
Everybody started buying the new bigger racquets. They became more confident, more powerful players overnight. More aces were being hit. Serve and volley was where it was at. POW! POW! Baseline players with old-fashioned smaller wooden racquets were getting blasted off court. Taller players were at an advantage. They could serve, volley and smash. The little guys couldn't use their guile any more. A game of chess became a game of real war.
I miss the days when you could measure the correct height of the net by laying one racquet horizontally on top of a vertical one. When the game was hypnotically beautiful, to play and to watch. The game lost me a long time ago. And it's not having me back.