I’m no Coco Gauff.
At 29 years old, I’m almost twice the tennis phenom’s age with, generously, one-gazillionth of her skill. That gap became abundantly clear when I tried my forehand at virtual reality tennis at Wimbledon.
It was a not-so-grand slam.
The fun game, called the Champion’s Rally, is located in the free American Express Fan Experience area and uses an Oculus-like headset that allows you to see 360 degrees of Centre Court, the most famous tennis venue in the world. Glancing around from the Royal Box, to the delicately mowed grass to the sky was the coolest bit, the calm before the storm.
Then comes the beatdown. You’re greeted by a mustachioed Andy Murray, former world no. 1 and two-time Wimbledon champ, who guides you through the procedures and provides gentle encouragement even when you’re garbage.
That’s when the balls start flying. Rather than playing a normal match, it’s more like hitting against a rogue ball machine that sometimes shoots off three or four yellow projectiles at once — the goal being to hit one of five targets.
I played a lot of tennis as a kid, but it’s been — gulp — many years since I’ve held a racket, even an electronic one. And it looked and felt less like I was playing tennis than high-intensity croquet. With the grace of a trout on a hook, I managed to score a measly 750, which got me a “wildcard.”
Still, if you don’t mind being embarrassed in front of children, Champion’s Rally is a good time. A similar attraction at the US Open is played against a screen, without a VR headset, and has Venus Williams as guide. New York’s premier tennis event would be smart to change to the more immersive game.
If you’re athletic as Jabba the Hutt, at least you can admire the scenery.
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