Perhaps it will grow on me? Perhaps I shall recognise, in time, some semblance of the person it is meant to be? I mean, good grief, it has taken long enough and William and Harry have, apparently, been very much a part of the process so how could it go so wrong? The statue of Princess Diana. Remembered for her striking beauty, her caring and her sense of fun, this bronze sculpture may just as well be a man in a skirt! Correction, an all-in wrestler in a skirt! The face is hard and vacuous, devoid of warmth or feeling while the shoulders resemble those of an American footballer – padded up! The unbuttoned blouse … and then that belt! Seriously? It does remind me of the WWF belt which, as a little boy, Manny was thrilled to see – and wear – in New York in April 2001. In short, ridiculous! Commissioned to sculpt the statue of a style icon and one dresses her like that? Am I missing something?
I was dying to see the finished article. Almost twenty-four years since her death, the love for this woman who grasped the fairy tale only for it to shatter in her hands, has never waned. Most certainly deserving of a statue in her memory, I was so pleased when I learned that her sons had the matter in hand. However, seeing it for the first time, my jaw dropped in disbelief. This was it? No sending it back, no melting it down for another go, I repeat, this was it. Speechless at the reality and its permanence, I found myself laughing. William and Harry? How awful for them! They must laugh to stem the tears, surely? Not so. If they shared my thoughts, there was no evidence of it. Seemingly relaxed and smiling, all eyes were on them – and they carried it off. They were prepared. Both boys had seen it in situ the previous day. Disappointment was nowhere to be seen.
I’m glad for them. There could be nothing worse than commissioning a statue of one’s beloved mother – and hating it! I am willing to believe it may be better in person and I shall reserve final judgement until then, hopefully this summer. Meanwhile, one can but hope that seeing the huge bronze in situ, on the day that would have marked her sixtieth birthday, they felt their mother’s presence and her sadness at their rift. Surely the occasion, very much one of reflection, brought home, once again, the brevity of life and that which is truly important? The ties that bind. Of course, it did but it would seem Harry has moved on for, apparently, he went from Kensington Palace straight to the airport en route home to ‘comfort’ poor Meghan. Poor Meghan? Well, her Uncle Mike – brother of the father she dumped – who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, has died aged 82. Perfect timing, Uncle Mike, for the niece who, too, cut you off despite the help you gave her in securing her an internship as a junior press officer at the American Embassy in Argentina when she was 20. The niece to whose wedding you were not invited, whom you never saw or heard from and whose prince you never met. Meghan’s ‘proud’ uncle? Really? In disowning her entire family, with the exception of her mother, a callous social climbing niece merits no pride. Uncle Mike, though, even in his death has helped his niece. As Harry returns to heel, able to enjoy less than 24 hours of freedom in his country of birth having spent five days in quarantine, he has been afforded no time with his brother and sister-in-law; no time to catch up with the nephews and niece he loves so much and whom he has not seen for two years; no time to spend with his beloved 95-year-old grieving Granny – and his father? Well, quite frankly, it seems he has buggered off to Scotland in disgust while Harry returns, immediately, to his ‘grieving’ wife – and who could argue with that? Rest in peace Uncle Mike. Perhaps your estranged niece will make it to the funeral …
It is very late as I write following another day of tennis. Despite the concession to the ‘woke’ brigade in the allocation of towels to the players – gender must no longer be acknowledged with each, now, being given both – Wimbledon is so much bigger than that. Pivotal as it is – not – it deserves no further footage. So, I sat with my lap top on my knee witnessing the inevitable changing of the guard. I have paid little attention to the women’s draw since it was deserving – the days of Chrissie Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf. Then, each had a different game; they were individuals, entertaining to watch, and the nod to fashion was subtle and appropriate. They played the best of three sets and the prize money reflected that. In 2007, however, under pressure to align with other Grand Slams, Wimbledon conceded and the women’s prize money was raised to equal that of the men. Forgive me, but I have never understood the logic. Of course, it is in the name of equality but there is none! The women, more often than not, play only two sets; the minimum for the men – who are infinitely more entertaining – is three. Is that equal? I defy anyone – other than the mother of the winning player – to glean the same enjoyment or adrenalin from watching the likes of Serena Williams, annihilating her opponent from the base line in two sets, as that generated watching Andy Murray fight back to win in five! Am I just biased? I don’t think so. Over the years, I have been lucky enough to watch so many nail-biting five-setters; the fight to the end. The men – there can be no fitter athletes – earn every penny.
Still on the subject of the women’s game, I would hate to be either a presenter or commentator tasked with pronouncing the names. I have no clue, recognising none of them, but I can only assume most are from the Eastern bloc. A changing world. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is Serena Williams. Struggling to maintain her fading crown, the sight of her entrance to Centre Court this year, complete with bustle and train, was just … perfect! At once, fittingly narcissistic and ridiculous, I am ever grateful for the joy it brought me reminding me what it is to laugh.
I caught the end of the Djokovic match against the 28-year-old American, Denis Kudla. He did win in three sets but he had to work hard and, interviewed afterwards, he acknowledged the threat of the younger players coming through. The changing of the guard. So it was, that we lived through every point as Andy Murray was forced to concede defeat at the hands of the young Canadian, Denis Shapovalov, playing magnificently and most definitely deserving of victory. As ever, Andy gave it his all and there were strokes of magic but, ultimately, he has hardly played for the best part of four years, he has a metal hip and he had already expended so much in his four-set match on Monday followed by his five-set battle against the German, Oscar Otte, finishing late on Wednesday night. Denis Shapolov played like Tigger on speed and Andy could dig no deeper in the end. He let it go in the last set accepting inevitable defeat at the hands of the talented 22-year-old who, respectfully, credited the Scottish trojan with being his inspiration as a child. The changing of the guard.
Gosh, it is quite poignant to recognise and to watch, reminding one of the passing of time. As Andy Murray left Centre Court, one felt for him as he, too, comes to terms with the inevitable. Will he return? I hope so but, whatever, he achieved it all in one of the most competitive eras and has ensured his place in the history books. Nice guy, too – as is Denis Shapovalov. Type his name into the search bar at the top of my blog page and you will find that I spotted him several years ago! Borg-like in his look, then, he just had that something – and I have been proved right. Definitely one to watch. Actually, why is it that tennis abounds with so many young adonises, most looking as though they have just stepped off a surf board? Aside from Denis Shapovalov, there is Sebastian Korda, a mere 20-years-old, again, tall, blonde, good-looking; and, then, what of Matteo Berrettini, the tall, dark handsome Italian? Note the absence of any Brits. Sadly, a given. Why is that? Damn Brexit for yet another reason!
I stayed seated as Andy exited Wimbledon – for this year at least – as immediately after followed the 2017 film, Borg v McEnroe. The film (courtesy of Borg, I think) whose pinnacle is the 1980 Mens’ Final – marking Borg’s fifth and final Wimbledon win – gives an insight into his path from a young boy hitting a ball against the garage door up until this point; McEnroe, too, to a lesser extent. Both so different, Borg’s state of mind and drive is exaggerated by the comparison to the young, volatile American, undisciplined in every sense. Complete with old footage, the suspense of that 1980 final is magically recreated, forty-one years on! Help! Amazing how old I feel and, equally amazing how old feelings come flooding back. The film wrenched at my heart throughout but particularly at the end as the two adversaries acknowledged one another at the airport, the exchange ending in a hug before going their separate ways. They became great friends from that point on, Borg acting as best man at McEnroe’s wedding. Old stills followed, a reminder of why Borg adorned my bedroom wall, the film an insight as to why he retired at 26. A poignant reminder, too, that dreams can turn to dust. By Borg’s side, in 1980, was his fiancé, Mariana Simionescu. Devoted, she lived it all with him and they married on the 24th July that year. She wrote a book about her life with Borg, Love Match, which I remember finding in a charity shop in London. Full of love, full of hope, full of optimism, they were to divorce four years later. Somehow the book, like the dream, vanished …
One of my most cherished possessions is a silver bangle which I bought at Wimbledon in 2016. A limited edition, it is inscribed with the famous Kipling quote which adorns the doorway through which the players walk out onto Centre Court to meet their fate:
‘If one can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same …’.
Tennis is so much more than a game.
This is Trish, signing off.