If my diary has it right, I think I may have watched more of the 1985 Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships than I have of any tournament since – including the one that’s happening right now.
The reason? I was waiting.
The first year of my course in French and Scandinavian Studies had come to an end and I was about to head off for the Summer to work as a cleaner on a Gothenburg dockyard. While I waited anxiously for departure day and the trip to Harwich to catch the ferry, I sat mesmerised by the goings-on in SW19 and tried not to think about how little Swedish I could actually speak.
Somehow, that little patch of grass in London was like a haven of stability just as everything was about to change – reassurance that things would turn out for the best.
So, in honour of the hallowed turf that helped keep my nerves at bay, here are five Wimbledon men’s service-related facts of the kind that might have kept me occupied for at least a minute or two of my maiden voyage across the North Sea.
Meanwhile, I’m off to catch that ferry.
1. Height equals speed
As a top player, more centimetres in height generally equals more speed on your serve. In fact, the link is so strong that an analysis of Wimbledon statistics from 2009 showed that the height of a player in centimetres is almost exactly equal to his average first service speed in kilometres per hour!
2. Aces high
More aces are served in the men’s singles at Wimbledon than at any other slam tournament – the US Open comes next, then the Australian, then the French. Between 1990 and 2009, the number of Wimbledon aces shot up from about 1,900 to around 2,900. The number of aces per tournament has grown steadily at all the other slams too.
3. Speedy slams
In 1999, the average men’s first service speed at Wimbledon was about 15 mph faster than at the French Open. But by 2009, things had evened out, and the average first service speed at all four grand slam tournaments was almost the same at around 116mph. The record for the fastest serve ever at Wimbledon belongs to Taylor Dent and stands at 148mph.
4. Falling faults
Despite the general increase in service speeds – particularly at the Australian, French and US Opens – the number of double faults has fallen sharply in recent years. In 2001, the double fault count at Wimbledon was about 1,600. By 2007, it had halved to about 800.
5. Second try
The average men’s second service speed has been steadily increasing since 2000 in all Grand Slam tournaments except Wimbledon, where it has remained relatively steady at about 97 mph.
Just for the record, while I was waiting for my slow boat to Gothenburg back in 1985, Boris Becker beat Kevin Curren to win his first ever Grand Slam title, and in the Ladies’ final, Martina Navratilova beat Chris Evert-Lloyd.