Roger Federer deserves 7th career Wimbledon win. But…

8 07 2012

Wimbledon has come and gone for another year. The men’s final today, one way or another, was going to be history-making. This year, the final was between Roger Federer (a victory would tie him with Pete Sampras for the most titles, with 7) and Scotland’s Andy Murray. Murray’s appearance marks the first time since 1938 that a Briton has reached the men’s final at Wimbledon. If Murray were to win, it would be the first time since 1936 that the Wimbledon men’s champ would hail from the British Isles.

Murray seemed to throw down the gauntlet right off the bat in the final, breaking Federer’s serve in the opening game of the match. Federer had broken back a short time later, but Murray broke Federer again and came away winning the first set, 6-4.

The second set was won by Federer 7-5. One set apiece.

In the third set, both players held their serves, going to 1-1. At that time, the skies opened up and it started raining, causing the players to leave the court, while the tarp was put on the court and the Centre Court roof was closed. But not only do they close the roof when threatening weather begins, work also gets under way to get the temperature and humidity under control. The whole process, before play could resume, took nearly 40 minutes.

Eventually, play resumed. At 3-3 of the third set, Murray, unfortunately, on three occasions, apparently found damp places in the grass, causing him to slip. Those slips proved to be costly, as his serve ended up being broken, and Federer didn’t look back, winning the third set 6-3, and the fourth set 6-4, to earn the Wimbledon title.

Now, I’m of the mind that Wimbledon’s handling of the roof – not just today, but the entire tournament – was not good. On a number of occasions, in the middle of a match, the rain came, and play had to be halted in order to close the roof and get the interior conditions under control. Each time, there was a loss of about 40 minutes of playing time. Now, in any other sports event where there is a retractable roof, such as Major League Baseball games at the Rogers Centre in Toronto (the home of MLB’s Blue Jays), if there was a significant chance of serious weather coming that could delay action, the roof would be closed before the event started, so it could be played without interruption. Apparently, this thinking doesn’t occur in Wimbledon. They apparently prefer to keep the roof open as long as possible, not closing it until it is absolutely necessary. If there wasn’t as much of a delay in resuming play, that idea would make sense. However, a wait of 35-40 minutes waiting for the roof and the stadium to get to playing condition is unforgivable. The roof has been in place at Centre Court since 2009. The folks at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club need to be more proactive on this. If it means a few more matches are to be played indoors, so be it. I believe that a retractable roof is there to be closed before play begins when weather threatens to delay a match; to avoid a significant period of delay in play.

Such a delay took place today in the match between Federer and Murray. The delay, while waiting for the roof to close and Centre Court to be ready for game play again, was nearly 40 minutes again. It is my strong belief that during the delay, though he’d been fighting tooth and nail against his opponent until then, Murray lost something – call it “the edge” or “the will”, or whatever – and the slips that occurred when he was serving at 3-3 in the 3rd set certainly did not help (If the roof had been closed before the start of the match – assuming organizers knew the storm was coming – the wet patches Murray had slipped on would not have been there, and the rain and the delay would not have been a factor). I believe that if Wimbledon had been more proactive regarding the roof, to make sure that the final could play in its entirety uninterrupted (which, to me, should be the reason for spending millions on the roof in the first place), we may have seen a different result to the final. Today’s result seems a little tainted to me, for that reason.

Of course, I’m not taking away from Federer’s work on the final. The handling of the roof was done according to the Wimbledon rules. Like any champion, he saw a weakness in how Murray was playing and took advantage of it. Roger Federer is one of the best tennis players the world has ever seen. One does not become a 17-time Grand Slam event champion without being able to take advantage if his opponent falters in some way.

Meanwhile, by even making it to the final, Murray became the first British player to make it that far since 1938. He played very well, and represented Britain very well, under the circumstances. But when you’re playing against someone of the calibre of Roger Federer, you pretty much have to play perfectly the whole match. You cannot allow even the slightest opening to your game, for whatever reason, or Federer will take advantage of it.

Congratulations to Roger Federer – seven-time Wimbledon men’s champion! No question – you’ve earned this title, and you have, even more, cemented your place in tennis history with today’s win.


Technological changes: are they always necessary?

26 04 2010

I know…in this economy, it is necessary to save money however you can, especially if you’re dealing with business or even as a city. And I know that technological advances have come from everywhere in past years, and that these changes in technology have in turn led to significant savings. And though I largely understand and agree with the reasons for them, sometimes I do wish that these changes could be held off.

An example of a change to save money is the replacement of the old incandescent traffic signals, that have been around for decades, with LED signals. This has happened with pretty much all of the traffic signals I’ve seen here in Brantford.

Another is less noticeable, unless you’re a train buff like I am (more on that another time): mechanical boards to indicate upcoming departing trains at train stations are slowly being replaced with LED displays. A LED board is now what is in use at Union Station in Toronto, replacing the flip-dot board that has been there for about as long as I can remember, and I just found out that the “split-flap” boards made by Solari di Udine in Europe, which have been used in train stations (and in some airports) in US cities for a long time, are on the way out in favour of an LED display.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I understand the reasons for these changes. There are significant cost savings to be had. The LED systems for traffic signals and train station displays will be pretty much maintenance free, reducing the costs associated with using them to a fraction of what was needed for the older systems. And steps have been taken or are being considered to make the new systems look and/or sound as close as possible to their predecessors. Even so, they’re not the same.

I’ve seen the progression of LED traffic signals progress in recent years to the point where, at first glance, the light from the main signals is almost indistinguishable from the incandescent bulbs. But there is a difference to my eyes – two of them, actually. The green in the green signals have a slight bit more of a blue tinge to them than what was there before. And the transition between the signals (green to amber, for example) is pretty much immediate, with no fade in/fade out effect that the incandescents had. Yes, I’m very much a details person, I admit it, and I’m nit-picking, but after some 40 years, I’ve gotten accustomed to the fade effect of traffic lights, and find that the new ones have a more “electronic” feel to them than I prefer.

And when it comes to the display boards in places like train stations, I’m an old-school fellow. Mechanical things like this have interested me for all my life. When I was living in Toronto, I could spend hours looking at the departure board at Union Station, fascinated at how it would update every few minutes to show the latest train departure info. The flip-dot board has this neat “click” sound when each dot is flipped over from black to green or vice-versa. The same was true for years when the Toronto Transit Commission buses used flip-dot displays for their destination signs (which have also now been replaced by LEDs). The sound of the mechanics of these signs was part of what interested me.

The “split-flap” boards are equally neat for me. If such a board were nearby, you could be certain that I’d be there often, watching how it changed to show the latest information. I’ve seen some cool videos of these signs on Youtube, and like the flip-dot signs, there is a distinctive sound that would be part of the ambiance of a train station with such a board in place. These train stations will now have that aspect missing when the boards are replaced with LED displays.

More and more of these old mechanical marvels are being replaced all the time. An other example is at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon. For decades, the scoreboards used at Wimbledon’s major courts used the same flip-dot technology I described above. Not long ago, they were replaced with the latest LED technology, which also enabled them to be used for the challenges that have been seen at major tennis tournaments in recent years. Advances are good, but I miss seeing those old boards, which to me were part of watching the Wimbledon tournament.

I do understand and accept that new technologies come along all the time, to help improve many aspects of life, and to make those things more economical to maintain. Having said that, I do wish at times that technology would slow down a little bit…that sometimes, the old methods still work just as well and don’t need to be replaced…at least, not just yet.

Flip-dot technology:

Split-flap technology: