Tennis: Sacred lawns awash with the tide of progress: Survival of the fastest. John Roberts gives his verdict on Wimbledon '94 and considers what can be done to curb the power game

A WONDERFUL Wimbledon; pity about the men's final. A pity, also, that Pete Sampras, a superb champion, was again expected to tender an apology for being so far ahead of the field.

'You can write what you want, you can say want you want,' he told journalists seeking some form of arms control in the power game, 'but the fact is I have got two (championships) in a row, and that's something that's going to stay with me for as long as we're all living.'

The fact, also, is that Wimbledon got the men's final it deserved. Grass is the fastest surface, and the one which can be least relied upon to give a consistent bounce, even during the second week of a tournament blessed with sufficient sunshine to harden the courts.

That is not a revelation, it has been common knowledge for as long as tennis has been played. As with all sports, however, the competitors have become stronger, faster and more athletic, and their equipment has become more sophisticated - an awesome combination. The situation is not so acute on clay, concrete and indoor courts, which can be prepared to take some of the pace out of the shots, or, in the case of clay, made faster to accommodate the attacking player.

For Wimbledon, the solution is obvious and totally unexceptable. The All England Club's redevelopment plans for the next century do not include the sacrilege of replacing the lawns. The unique ambience of the world's most prestigious tournament transcends what is viewed from within, perhaps, as a passing phase of giants with bazookas.

As was mentioned a year ago, and three years ago - Andre Agassi's 1992 ground-stroke triumph against Goran Ivanisevic, the ace of servers, interposed the debate - experimentation ought to be made of less extreme methods of curbing the power.

Suggestions have included reducing the pressure of the balls, reverting to the former foot-fault rule, which obliges the server to keep one foot on the ground at the point of impact, and endeavouring to control racket technology.

Attempting to hold back the tide of progress is a non-starter unless manufacturers feel the pinch of falling sales to the extent of producing weapons which have a uniform, medium-sized head and the flexibility of wood without necessarily costing the life of trees.

The ATP Tour, which organises men's tennis outside the four Grand Slam championships and the Davis Cup, has tended to veer towards hyping up the atmosphere for spectators, though recent suggestions concerning the actual play are worth further examination.

Restricting players to only three second serves per game, one of which they would lose for time- wasting between points, seems interesting, as does the notion of abolishing the advantage point and allowing the receiver to determine which side of the court from which the server delivers on deuce.

Whether or not these ideas are implemented, efforts should be seen to be made to try to improve the situation. Otherwise, in the current climate, accusations of complacency could be more damaging than the the most blistering of serves.

Though Sunday's attendance, 22,086, was up by 2,030 on last year, the aggregate for the Championships, 377,973, was down by 14,787 on 1993 (the record for 13 days was 400,288 in 1989). Rail strikes on the two Wednesdays did not help, but the All England Club intends to study the figures before passing comment.

It should be explained that the grounds are restricted to 28,000 at any given time, which means that people have to leave before others can be allowed in. It was noted that some of the men's matches were so long that the knock-on effect was to reduce the customary ebb and flow through the gates.

The television ratings will also be interesting, particularly in view of the knocking to which the sport was subjected during the months before the Championships.

Criticisms, some of which had featured in these columns as well as those of other publications, were gathered into a huge condemnation of the game in the American magazine, Sports Illustrated, for a cover article headlined: 'Is Tennis Dying?'

The piece was valid, if heavily slanted towards the American scene, but it did not merit the gospel treatment of follow-up features which appeared elsewhere. Sports Illustrated, one recalls, did a cover job on Ivan Lendl when the ultimate professional was in his prime: 'The Champion Nobody Wants.' Count your blessings, Pete.

Now for the good news. The sun remained faithful and the Championships were a delight from the opening Monday through to close of play on the second Saturday, and even on the final day for those who could appreciate the brilliance of Sampras's performance in undermining the challenge of Ivanisevic. It is not by chance that the 22-year- old American has won four of the last five Grand Slam titles, starting with his victory against his compatriot, Jim Courier, at the All England Club a year ago.

The men's event provided upsets (Michael Stich falling to Bryan Selton, a qualifier, in the first round; Stefan Edberg's second round defeat by the Dane, Kenneth Carlsen), epics (Sergi Bruguera against Patrick Rafter; Todd Martin versus almost everybody - he even took a set off the champ), showmanship (Andre Agassi, while the show lasted), controversy (the Boris Becker gamesmanship saga) and what is becoming a customary Brit through to the fourth round (Jeremy Bates, as in 1992, unable to pass Guy Forget).

Moreover, the women's tournament was an unexpected treat. Disappointment at Mary Pierce's withdrawal 48 hours before the event, at the very thought of her father's shadow, was replaced by joy for the unseeded Lori McNeil, whose first-round defeat of Steffi Graf, the top seed and defending champion, opened the gate for a new champion, or an old one.

Conchita Martinez rose splendidly to the challenge, becoming the first Spaniard to win the title. The final against Martina Navratilova, who was retiring but far from shy, was magnificent. The nine-times champion eventually walked off into the sunset, cheered every step. Thanks for the memory.

(Photograph omitted)

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn