Tennis

Postcards from Wimbledon, No. 4:
A royal way to celebrate a half century

ESPN tennis analyst Pam Shriver (blue dress) and Wimbledon host Hannah Storm pose for ESPN.com columnist
LZ Granderson (Credit: Dave Nagle)

LONDON — Many people dread the coming of a “big” birthday, but at Wimbledon, Pam Shriver made the most of turning 50 on July 4.

To help her celebrate, the All England Lawn Tennis Club (where she won five her 21 Women’s Doubles titles in Grand Slam events) invited her to sit in the Royal Box. To take advantage of the honor, she was excused from much of her regular ESPN duties — working as an analyst, on the sidelines, calling matches or roaming the grounds in search of a story.

And who should choose that day to drive across town and catch a little tennis? None other than the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Katherine who sat nearby.

There was also tennis royalty in the house. Mr. and Mrs. Andre Agassi (you will remember her as Steffi Graf) — owners of eight Wimbledon titles between them (Steffi – 7, Andre –1) — were celebrating the 20th anniversary of his victory at SW19.

Also, Rod Laver was in the Royal Box, befitting the man whom considered by many the finest tennis player in the pre-Open era (if not all time). He was invited to commemorate the 50th anniversary of winning Wimbledon en route to a calendar year Grand Slam. He repeated the feat in 1969, and no man has duplicated it since.

From there, she had — as she described it on ESPN — “the biggest downgrade in Wimbledon history.”

She went to work.

In her blue birthday dress (but changing from heels to something more comfortable), she took an RF mike and ventured out to familiar territory for her, Henman Hill. (Her tweet about the transition included “#overdressed.”)

It’s where the locals sit to watch matches from Centre Court or Court 1 on a big screen while sipping on their beverage of choice. And when the action includes a Brit — be it Tim Henman of a few years ago or Andy Murray of Scotland as it was this day — the crowds are bigger, the cheering louder, and the beverages go down faster.

How does Pam sum up the day?

“I’ve had more than half my birthdays at Wimbledon, but this one was special.”

Postcard design by Crystal Cote.

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