Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wimbledon: Some traditions are better than others

Image courtesy of About.com Walking Guide

The tournament at Wimbledon is often considered "the best" of the four majors. For me, it pales next to the French Open, for I prefer to watch clay court tennis over grass court tennis any day (and I certainly prefer Paris over London). Wimbledon is built on mythology about tradition, some of which is pleasant. I enjoy seeing the players in their tennis whites once a year, and I also enjoy seeing the sometimes unusual and more formal fashions of the linespeople.

However, "tradition" is also used--and not just during Wimbledon--as a way to cling to less-than-progressive values. "Tradition" kept the All England Club from giving women equal prize money for decades (and Wimbledon officials wouldn't hear of women playing five sets). "Tradition" is why the umpires refuse to acknowledge (and consequently make several errors) the more equality-based U.S. honorifics . And "tradition" still permits the British press to write garbage that is so sexist, it actually makes the U.S. press look good.

Still, as someone of British heritage, I have a certain appreciation of Wimbledon. It was on English television, during Wimbledon, that I first saw Evonne Goolagong, and at that moment, I became a tennis fan. I also have a strong appreciation of Katharine, Duchess of Kent; she was, I suppose, my favorite Wimbledon tradition, and the tournament just isn't the same without her. She genuinely cared about the players, and she is the person I wish had inducted Jana Novotna into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Another thing I like about Wimbledon is the presence of Virginia Wade. For the last two years, Wade has served as a commentator for Wimbledon Live, but now that Wimbledon Live is no longer available in the U.S., I will have to be content with listening to her on Radio Wimbledon.

I don't know if it's still being done, but my favorite new Wimbledon tradition was the donation of used Wimbledon tennis balls to The Wildlife Trust so that harvest mice could have nests.


Anonymous said...

Love, love,love Wimbledon. The only tradition I wish they would bring back are the curtsy and bow as they enter and leave the court. For me it's Wimbledon, US Open, French Open and last but not least the Austrialian Open. Can't wait until next week. Strawberries and creme anyone.

Anonymous said...

Hi Diane,

I also enjoyed the Duchess. If you watch older Wimbledon matches, the Duchess never looks "dated" it's fascinating.


Diane said...

She has had an interesting life, including "not fitting in" with the royals, and suffering from depression. She was teaching school last I heard.

You'll recall that she was very hurt when she was told she could not bring underprivileged children into the royal box at Wimbledon. There was a "no children" (other than children of royals) rule that she tried to get around. Some say that's why she didn't return to Wimbledon, but she said she was just ready to do other things.

I know many of us miss her. When Novotna was ready to retire, Katharine, Duchess of Kent was the first person she told.