I have four eyes, can hardly stand for sitting, am an emotional wreck and the Tanqueray bottle must have a leak! Wimbledon. Watching it at home is not good; at least, when we are there, we are engaging in life – well, today’s version, at least. Here, the small screen is dominant and all-encompassing, demanding of no dress code. In other words, I have morphed into a slob!
As I write, it is the build-up to the Women’s Final. The £1,700,000 prize cheque beckons, equal to that of the men. My thoughts on that are well-known – there can be no equality without equality. Even with my lack of affinity with numbers, three does not equal five … I am distracted by McEnroe, chatting to Sue Barker, in a glaring red shirt, open-necked, no tie and untucked. God help us! Is it only me who predicts the obvious? Could his attire not be construed as a lack of reverence? Never without a suit and tie, somehow I’m sure he will be dressed, accordingly, tomorrow for the Men’s Final … but why should I point out the obvious? In this hideous ‘woke’ climate, dominated by grievance and the claim of victim, am I, too, just programmed? Unlikely but I am certainly primed to observe.
Wimbledon. One of the last bastions of tradition, immune to ‘woke’? Well, largely, but not wholly. Of course, there is the pathetic towel concession but, thankfully, I had seen little else of note to awaken my hackles … until a minute ago. I have mentioned before how impressed I am at the writing of Sue Barker’s words of introduction and those which accompany the footage before the big matches as The Championships reach their climax. Beautifully constructed, the tone is very much traditional, historic; the words emotive, heartfelt. Very much evoking a patriotism of old. Today, the piece accompanying the montage of past Women’s Finals before the players appeared was voiced by Miriam Margolyes, the acclaimed British-Australian actress who just happens to be a lesbian – and inclined to being outrageous! Intelligent, educated, hilarious and nothing if not a character, I am a huge fan but, chosen as the voice for this piece today, words aside, the message was very clear: one of the fight for equality – a constant, paramount – and the power of women. Why does everything have to be so confrontational, so intense? This is a sporting event and the prize money, rightly or wrongly, has been equal for some time. Why does everything, still, have to be reduced to women’s rights? Change the tune. Why, too, does it appear that the continued power struggle, in tennis, is driven by lesbians? My thoughts draw parallels with issues of race and colour. As I have written before, Serena Williams is one of the greatest female tennis players in history who just happens to be black. The only person who draws attention to that seems to be herself. Same thing, here: enjoy the sport for what it is; appreciate the talent, the skill – the genius of some – borne of hard work, dedication and sacrifice. It is a game of the individual, regardless of gender; winners and losers, regardless of gender. Male? Female? We are different. Blame nature. Look up and move on …
I was glued, yesterday, to the Men’s Semi-Finals and, boy, talk about the full gamut of emotions! Wrong gender?! The first, Berrettini against Hurkacz, had me cheering for the affable Pole who, a relative unknown had defeated Federer to gain his place. However, suddenly he was two sets down and had lost the first three games of the third. A comeback seemed impossible as he struggled with the nerves and obvious embarrassment but, courageously, he didn’t give up, taking the third set from the Italian and pushing the match to a fourth. I was willing him with everything I had but Berrettini was in control, completely driven, and, in the end, the outcome was inevitable. Berrettini, in the zone, barely acknowledged his defeated opponent at the net and, as Hubie left the court, head held high, the crowd gave him the ovation he deserved. Berrettini? Seemingly too busy basking in his moment to join the crowd in showing his respect. Makes Sunday easier for me – Djokovic all the way!
Djokovic, the invincible. Somehow, never the crowd’s favourite, he is the ultimate athlete. Always immaculate, always polite, he is clearly intelligent and very much an individual. Completely driven, perhaps he keeps himself to himself but, yesterday, it was his sportsmanship which struck me. Twenty-two-year-old Denis Shapovalov, meanwhile, was like a young colt, supremely talented, inexhaustible but, at times, too impetuous. Anything but a pushover for Djokovic, his courage was there for all to see but, inevitably, experience won out. I was so sad for the charismatic Shapovalov – I just call him Denis, now, it’s easier – unable to hold back the tears but, courageous to the last, he put down his bags and thanked the crowd for doing their best to lift him, throughout. Like me, they had taken him to their hearts – isn’t it funny how some just have that special something? Tennis, though, has always been the sport of gentlemen and ladies and one in which manners abound – the young McEnroe aside! Denis is not short of those, nor Djokovic, but as the young, future champion left Centre Court defeated, the ‘old’ master, triumphant once more, stood and clapped him all the way out. Sportsmanship and courage; setting players apart. Wimbledon depicts human nature in all its glory, good and bad, as much a lesson in psychology as sport. In the end, though, that little pocket of SW19 is, more than ever, a reminder that old values never die.
‘I don’t think the scoreline says enough about the performance or the match. He (Shapovalov) was serving for the first set and was probably the better player. I would like to give him a big round of applause for everything he has done today and also this two weeks. We are going to see a lot of him in the future. He is a great player.’
Novak Djokovic, interviewed on court after his semi-final victory over Denis Shapovalov.
In light of those football fans, English and Scottish, who see fit to boo the opposition’s national anthem – or shine a lazer pen in the eye of the goalie at the crucial moment – thank God for tennis and Wimbledon …
This is Trish, signing off.