Gianni Clerici and the Ode to Wimbledon


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Gianni Clerici and the Ode to Wimbledon

Gianni Clerici is an Italian journalist with a refined and pungent pen. But before that, he was a tennis player, a great connoisseur of the game and its history. He made first round at Wimbledon and at the French Open, but his knowledge of tennis was clear to everyone when he started to tell tennis, through match reports, interviews, essays and books.

After the cancellation of Wimbledon due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Clerici wrote a personal Ode to the Championships, published on the Italian magazine Repubblica: "I received the email from the All England Club announcing the cancellation of the tournament: it is 5 pm, and my thoughts go back to when the gardeners were unemployed because of the two Wars.

I lived in Wimbledon for several years, three times, there, I lost a tennis match. And I met the secretary at the end of the war, Norah Gordon Cleather. Of the book of Norah, Wimbledon story, I can remember a few pages by heart and two photos: one with the two little pigs kept by the tail by the soldiers who they had requisitioned the club, the other with Center Court metal nets torn by a Luftwaffe bomb.

"The first interruption occurred from 1915 to 1918. Queen Mary and King George V were very frequent spectators of the Center Court, as it did not with Elizabeth, who only showed up on the day of Virginia Wade's triumph.

In the opening days of the tournament in 1877, the club stood on Worple Road and stayed there until 1921. Then it moved to Church Road, the road at which ends at the church of St. Mary, where the organizers bought five hectares of land.

"From 1922 the challenge-round was also abolished, the formula that allowed the outgoing champion to enter the final directly. During the II World War, the club hosted the British Home Guard volunteers, and the German bomb dropped in 1940 almost completely destroyed the Centre Court.

At the resumption of the game, in 1946, the Frenchman Ivon Petra won. The verses of Kipling's poem, 'If' on the front door of the Centre Court, survived those moments of forced parking: 'If you can deal with Triumph and Ruin and treat these two impostors in the same way."