| A file picture of Steffi Graf with the Duchess of Kent
Tennis’ prince of propriety forgot to do it. The sibling queens skipped it, too.
Pete Sampras and the Williams sisters may have aced everything else, but the bow to the royal box at Wimbledon’s Centre Court is one thing they could be foot-faulted on.
But now, the customary bow or curtsy to the blue blood on the gracious greens is being done away with. Royalty having lost hallowed ground across England, it was time for some of the pomp and splendour of the tennis circuit’s most regal event to be mowed.
Tournament chairman Tim Phillips announced the decision in London today, prompted by “a request” from the All England Club president, the Duke of Kent.
“Players are always very agreeable and they have no problem with it,” clarified Phillips. “But the Duke of Kent feels that during his lifetime and that of most of the royal family, the tradition of bowing and curtsying is pretty much on the way out… To do it very publicly on the Centre Court at Wimbledon doesn’t seem right, therefore,” he added.
But players will “be excused from the gesture” only if the Queen and Prince Charles are not present. The last time the Queen dropped by to catch a match was in 1977, when she handed the women’s singles trophy to Britain’s Virginia Wade.
There has, however, always been a member from the royal family present.
Since World War II, royalty has presented every men’s singles championship trophy, except in 1986. That year, Boris Becker was given the cup by Jean Borotra, the French Davis Cup legend.
So players still have to keep an eye on the box between their serves and volleys. Serena Williams, in particular, should watch out, as she has repeatedly breached the curtsy code.
After the 2000 semifinal, which Serena lost to Venus, the two sisters left the court without acknowledging the viewers in the royal box.
Then again, last year, Venus saved family face. After losing in the finals, she had to whisper a reminder in her kid sister’s ear. Even the ever-decent Sampras forgot the bow after his 1994 victory.
Wimbledon, first held in 1877 before 200 spectators at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, has been known for its very British stiff upper lip.
It’s been famous for the 24 tons of Kent strawberries ordered specifically for the annual championships (the cream hasn’t been weighed), pristine Wimbledon whites sported by all and the strict dictates of decorum.
There has been periodic trouble about the dress code, even minus colour. Jimmy Connors reportedly said once: “New Yorkers love it when you spill your guts out there. Spill your guts at Wimbledon and they make you stop and clean it up.”
Soon, that might be the only reason to stoop on the elegant greens of the All England Club.
Written by Madhumita Bhattacharyya with Reuters report