Players bemoan passing of Centre Court curtsey
It's enough to make traditionalists choke on their strawberries and cream ? players will no longer have to curtsey to the royal box on Wimbledon's Centre Court.Updated: Jun 23, 2003 15:44 IST
It's enough to make traditionalists choke on their strawberries and cream -- players will no longer have to curtsey to the royal box on Wimbledon's Centre Court.
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, often mocked as the stuffiest venue in British sport, has abandoned the 80-year-old tradition in the name of modernity.
But many players loved the etiquette and are sad the genteel gesture was abandoned in an age of egalitarianism.
Among those sorry to see the curtsey bowing out are top women players Serena and Venus Williams.
The display of deference to the Duke of Kent, the club's president, never worried Serena.
"I was a little disappointed because when I was younger I always looked forward to having a chance to curtsey. When I first did it, I was just so excited and I'm glad I had my chance," she said after the decision was announced in April.
Venus agreed: "I am disappointed. I think the best part about Wimbledon is the history and the tradition. That's so nice the curtsey. I actually taught a few players to curtsey on the way up to the court, the centre court."
There will be two exceptions -- players will have to bow and curtsey if Queen Elizabeth or her son and heir, Prince Charles, attend.
The monarch last came to Wimbledon in her Silver Jubilee year of 1977 to present the women's trophy to Briton Virginia Wade.
The tradition was spontaneously created in 1922 when King George and Queen Mary attended the championship opening day.
When Leslie Godfree and Algie Kingscote walked onto the centre court to open the tournament, they instinctively bowed to the royal box.
Wimbledon great Martina Navratilova confessed: "One of the most difficult things I ever had to learn was that little bob."
She once forgot to curtsey. "I'd never been through something like that before. Usually at tournaments, they give you a cheque, you thank everybody and leave."
The decision provoked much reflection on how Britain has consigned the age of deference to history.
"It is already advantage republicanism," thundered Daily Mail sketchwriter Quentin Letts who bemoaned its passing.
"Everyone did it from the most unruly Australian umpire-baiter to the burliest, most heavily moustachioed members of the Balkan ladies circuit," he said.
But the decision did find support from the butler to the late Princess Diana.
"Like tennis balls, traditions can clearly be changed when they become worn out," said Paul Burrell.
"Those members of the Royal Family who sit in the royal box nowadays don't pay for their centre court tickets -- unlike the thousands of fans who queue all night for the privilege of watching a match," he said.
First Published: Jun 23, 2003 15:44 IST