What is it about Wimbledon which evokes such a sense of wonder in the people who play in and cover the most famous tennis tournament in the world?
On the surface, the answers are obvious: the history, the tradition, the enduring embrace of grass tennis in a sport which has largely migrated to hardcourts.
Wimbledon has changed a lot over the years, but the All-England Club’s lawns and its lack of overt, in-your-face corporate markings — the backdrop at every match is plain, dark green — create an uncluttered simplicity which sends a message: The tennis is what matters most.
The cathedral of tennis might seem like an overplayed label, but Wimbledon makes a real effort to uphold that earned identity.
BBC broadcaster Andrew Castle grasps that point, and it shines through in his appreciation not only for Wimbledon itself, but for his own career in broadcasting.
“It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes Wimbledon so special,” he said. “I could say that the tennis and the atmosphere is what brings it to life, but it still gets you even when it’s dormant and sleeping.
“I have goosebumps when I arrive and nobody’s around. It’s just one of the great privileges to call it my place of work.”
“My first commentary was a Rafael Nadal match out on court 12, and I remember him standing out.
“It grew from there. Now I get to sit in the Centre Court commentary box with these legends watching guys like Nadal and Roger Federer. How lucky is that?”
Castle has had a prime spot in the Centre Court booth, watching history unfold in this Golden Era of men’s tennis. Federer and Nadal formed the cornerstone, especially with their classic 2008 Wimbledon final. It has led men’s tennis to newer heights which Novak Djokovic now owns 13 years later.
Castle traced this larger trajectory from the 2008 Fedal final to Djokovic’s present-day ownership of the sport.
“That match changed the game,” Castle said about Federer-Nadal 2008. “The gold standard of tennis improved in one match. They pushed each other to mad limits.
“I remember it was Tim Henman’s first Wimbledon final as a commentator. We both sat there in the commentary box in shock and awe.
“Of course, since then there have been more, mainly featuring Djokovic. He has just quietly won five Wimbledons – I remember the 2018 semi-final against Nadal, particularly. Another mind-boggling match.
“Nadal with his determination and muscularity is genius, but I have to say I think I’ve seen the best tennis come from Novak’s racquet. He came to the party slightly after the other two, but I think he might have been the most remarkable.”
There is a sense of awe in Andrew Castle’s voice. He knows he is blessed to be a witness to history at Wimbledon, and also to be the man who brings these moments to life for his BBC audience.
Wimbledon was sorely missed in 2020, and maybe that year without The Championships has made Andrew Castle — and all of us — even more appreciative of an event which is always worth savoring.