The Tennis Handsomes

Watch Out, the World’s Behind You

Watch Out, the World’s Behind You
Credit: Darren Johnson

The eyes of the world—even Pippa’s!—were trained on Centre Court at Wimbledon yesterday for the epic final between then-six-time champion Roger Federer (he won, should you live under a rock) and no-time champion Andy Murray, the first Brit in 74 years to reach the final. This was the ultimate scene in eight decades of tennis narrative.

Even if we’re just interested in the top couple hundred tennis players in the world, it raises the question: Where were the other 198 players yesterday? Most of them were sharing rooms in dumpy hotels in the likes of Båstad, Stuttgart, Umag, Palermo, Stanford, and Newport, where this week’s tournaments take place. I bet very few were watching Wimbledon.

While Murray was trying his hardest to decapitate Federer with a forehand in London, 19-year-old American Jack Sock was in Newport preparing to play his first match in three months, after recovering from a groin injury in March. I’ve been to Association of Tennis Professionals events like the one in Rhode Island—there’s basically no one there. A few years back, a player once told me that the grass courts at Newport are so bad, “It’s like playing in your backyard.” It couldn’t be further from what happened at Centre Court yesterday.

But think about Jack Sock. He won the mixed doubles title at the U.S. Open last year, and has, as of now, almost unlimited potential. He’s probably not even old enough to know what pressure feels like, at least not the type that Murray and Federer were feeling yesterday. But he starts playing today in what he’s hoping is a long tune-up for a huge U.S. Open, and his progress alone is going to keep me watching during the long dry stretch between the Olympics and the U.S. Open.

While the rest of the world naps off their Wimbledon hangover today, I’m getting geared up for weeks of tennis no one else is watching. It’s lonely out here, but it’s also lonely on a grass court that plays like your backyard. I take pleasure in following matches that are barely on the map. They’re like my own little postage stamp of soil. Even if I always need to water.


Nic Brown is the author of the novel Doubles and the story collection Floodmarkers. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Harvard Review, and Epoch, among many other publications. He is currently the John and Renee Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. More by Nic Brown