ONCE you reach the stage of having watched 10 or more Wimbledons on the telly – this is my 35th – you realise some are more memorable than others.

There are obvious stand-outs, of course: Andy Murray’s wins in 2013 and 2016 will always be the most special of all. How fortuitous (and unlikely) that we were around to see a Scot triumph – twice! – at the All-England Club. Then there are the epic battles of Wimbledon folklore; the extraordinary 4hr 48 minute final in 2008 between Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal springs to mind, as does wild card Goran Ivanisevic’s miraculous win over Pat Rafter on People’s Monday in 2001. Before the tournament began I put a pound on Big Goran to win – it’s the only bet I’ve ever made at a bookies and won me £150. You never forget your first Wimbledon, either. Mine was 1985, when 17-year-old Boris Becker (still the only Boris worth thinking about) stunned the world.

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It’s notable that all these big moments happened in finals. It’s also interesting that they all feature men, perhaps reflecting the dominant position of male players, matches and personalities over the years.

Wimbledon 2019 has a refreshingly different feel, however. Indeed, we’ve not even reached the business end of the tournament and already it is shaping up to be one of the best ever, awash with memorable and historic moments. It’s all the more heartening that they mark progress in gender and racial equality, too.

First there is the phenomenon that is Coco Gauff. The 15-year-old has been the undoubted star of the show, creating the biggest stir at SW19 in years, in her first major tournament, sweeping away the competition – maybe even the old guard – with three extraordinary displays of skill, endurance and composure worthy of a player twice her age.

Her rollercoaster match against Polona Hercog on Friday night had it all, as the oohs, ahs and roars of the unusually animated centre court crowd highlighted. We all knew we were watching something special and remarkable: not only was this the breakthrough moment of a new, raw talent on the biggest tennis stage of them all, but it was the legacy of the young African American player’s idols, Venus and Serena Williams, made real and writ large.

The key moment of Wimbledon 2019, still a bastion of tradition in a sport that has struggled to embrace gender and racial equality, will be embodied by a 15-year-old black girl. I can’t have been the only one who felt goosebumps. Gauff aims to win more majors than Serena Williams, and who would bet against her? Indeed, I can feel a second trip to the bookies coming on.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one Wimbledon, just 24 hours later came a moment of pure, unadulterated joy as Williams joined forces with Murray for surely the most eagerly anticipated mixed doubles match in the history of the sport. Even the idea of this pairing was enough to make your heart sing at a time when there is so little in the world to be cheerful about.

So, when SerAndy, as the partnership has been dubbed, walked out beaming in the evening sun to the play their first match together, it was as if the tennis gods were smiling too. There was much going on here before a single ball was even hit. This was healthy, happy more wistful Murray back on centre court after two years of hip pain hell, recovered following what looks (fingers crossed) to be career-saving surgery, relishing every moment in front of an adoring home crowd.

In the run up to a teaming that had largely come about through wishful thinking in the media, Serena made it clear she is a fan of Murray the man as well as the competitor: “Above all, he always speaks out on women’s issues and you can tell he has really strong women in his life,” was how she put the respect she feels. This pairing, appropriately cheered from the royal box by former champ and equality campaigner Billie Jean King, was as much about symbolism as it was two injured players getting some matches in.

As the match unfolded, you could see that it was about fun, too. Murray seemed simultaneously awed and inspired (who wouldn’t be?) to be partnering one of the greatest ever players of the game, winner of 23 grand slams and counting – the endearingly audible apologies he made whenever one of his shots missed the target said it all. But there were also laughs and fist-bumps galore as the chemistry in this dream team blossomed and the opposition withered. It was tennis heaven, pure and simple.

Like millions of others, I can’t wait to see what happens over the next week at the All-England club, not least the next chapters in the Coco Gauff and SerAndy stories.

I also think it’s rather wonderful that despite being the most traditional and staid sporting tournament in the world, Wimbledon still has the power to surprise. Let’s raise a glass of Pimms to that.