Last Sunday was the culmination of a week of tennis-watching for me–it was the Wimbledon gentlemen’s singles finals. Yes, they have the gentlemen’s singles finals at Wimbledon while other grand slams merely have men’s singles 🙂 One of those little things that make Wimbledon so special, no doubt. Some passing thoughts:
— Whatever happened to the Duchess of Kent? Presentation ceremonies are just not the same without her. She used to present trophies at Wimbledon with such panache, taking her time, chatting pleasantly and casually with everyone, including the ball-girls lined up in the middle of centre-court (the ball-boys, poor things, received only a stiff handshake from the glum looking Duke who accompanied the Dutchess). I particularly liked how she used to perk up the crestfallen runner-up–she even famously gave Jana Novotna, 1993 ladies singles runner up who choked in the third set after being only five games away from a win, a royal shoulder to cry on!
Novotna’s crying attracted some frowns and reams of newspaper articles on bad attitude, but the consoling act won the Duchess quite a few fans.
It is said that the Duchess has been cutting down on her public duties and appearances–one of these being the presentation of prizes at Wimbledon–presumably due to ill-health and other personal reasons. 2001 was the last year where she made an appearance at Wimbledon’s presentation ceremony. Which is a pity, because the dour Duke of Kent who gives away the prizes now is no match for her superb inter-personal skills and excellent rapport with players and officials alike.
—One change that I personally find heartening is that show of emotion has now come to be considered more and more acceptable. Earlier only female players were occasionally seen shedding a few tears–and those were always tears of joy after a win in the finals, for crying after losing was a no-no even for them–while the men strove to live up to the Kipling-esque ideal of treating triumph and disaster just the same. Occasional tantrums from the likes of John McEnroe were indulgently condoned but tears were not.
It is Andre Agassi who must be credited with having been a trend-setter as far as unabashed display of emotion went. I remember how he cried like a baby after his first Wimbledon win in 1992 against Goran Ivanisevic. The flood-gates, though, were literally opened with the arrival of the Roger Federer on the scene–Federer has been known to cry after every grand-slam win, and even after the occasional loss, yet none of it affected his popularity or his reputation as the impeccable gentleman. The king could do no wrong and Federer was the king of tennis, as it were.
So it came to pass that this year’s runner-up Andy Murray, a Briton himself, did not feel the need to keep the upper lip from quivering in the face of a crushing loss in front of a home crowd. The winner Federer was , of course, expected to cry anyway and he did not disappoint. Viewers, therefore, saw some spectacular water-works at display after the gentlemen’s singles final.
Not that the ladies were far behind. Only a couple of days earlier the ladies singles champion Serena Williams and runner-up Radwanska cried very openly on the court after the match.
I think it is a healthy sign that crying after a loss is no longer taboo–not even at Wimbledon– given the stakes involved and the sheer amount of preparation that goes in. Perhaps people now are more open to acknowledging that losing at that level cannot be easy, and the pressure of having to smile stoically despite the loss is bound to make it all the more difficult for the runner-up.
—And now for what hasn’t changed at Wimbledon. Players are still required to wear white, and isn’t that a blessing–it definitely is soothing to the eye. It is another matter that some of the more flamboyant ladies find ingenious ways to get around it. Serena Williams, for instance, chose to wear bright purple hotpants under her very short white dress this year!