June 13, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

News from Wimbledon – Coloured Shorties!!!

It’s November, with nearly eight months to go before the 2023 edition. But Wimbledon has issued a press release full of little tidbits of news.

The slightly awkward one is that the All-England Club executives – EGAD!! – have relaxed the all-white rule.

Slightly.

And only for women.

“We are committed to supporting the players and listening to their feedback as to how they can perform at their best. I’m pleased to confirm that, following consultation with players and representatives of several stakeholder groups, the Committee of Management has taken the decision to update the white clothing rule at Wimbledon. This means that from next year, women and girls competing at The Championships will have the option of wearing coloured undershorts if they choose. It is our hope that this rule adjustment will help players focus purely on their performance by relieving a potential source of anxiety.”

Now, we don’t need to explain to you what the reason for that is – needless to say, the male players do not have the same “potential source of anxiety”. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

The statement, of course, carefully avoids any reference to … MENSTRUATION!!!!

Just imagine the awkwardness of the conversations in the AELTC’s executive suite on that one.

You can already see people taking “attendance” on undershort colours, and for that to actually have an effect on tennis betting. Seriously. That’s where we are as a society.

It is, however, somewhat bizarre that the club had to consult with “representatives of several stakeholder groups” to arrive at this decision. Apparently those include the WTA, clothing manufacturers and … medical teams. But that’s how they roll.

The undershorts can be “mid/dark-coloured”.

It is absolutely nuts that it took until 2023 for this to come up.

There was actually a protest outside Centre Court before the women’s (oops, ladies’) final this year. So, more than four months ago.

And the news leaked out in the British media 10 days ago.

Robson, Delgado get Plum Jobs

The club also announced that former British players Laura Robson and Jamie Delgado have been added to the AELTC’s “professional tennis team”.

It is not a bad accident of birth to be a British player, whether you reached the top of the game or not. There are plenty of post-career gigs to go around.

According to the press release, “their roles will be focused on international player relations, with a remit that includes travelling to tournaments around the world to foster collaboration and engagement with the tennis community.”

It goes without saying that this is a sweet, low-responsability, high-fun gig.

Robson at Wimbledon in 2017.

Robson, still just 28, won junior Wimbledon half her lifetime ago at age 14. She reached a career high of No. 27 on the WTA Tour, but her career was shattered by injuries. Recently, she has been doing television commentary and, we’re told, is extremely popular with her broadcast peers.

She also has been working with the British federation the last 18 months on the management side at several UK-based events, including as the tournament director for a $25,000 ITF earlier this year. But she gets a huge promotion in 2023: she will become tournament director at the WTA 250 event in Nottingham and at another combined ITF event in April.

It certainly follows a trend in tennis, where former players with very little experience off the court become tournament directors – notably, Tommy Haas at Indian Wells, Feliciano Lopez in Madrid and James Blake in Miami – although those are at the ATP Masters 1000 level.

Delgado with Shapovalov at the 2022 Australian Open. Their collaboration lasted only a few months.

As for Delgado, his experience has been on the coaching side. After a stint with his lifelong friend Andy Murray, he most recently worked with Canadian Denis Shapovalov at the start of 2022.

“The player community is one of our most important stakeholder groups and I am looking forward to the positive impact Laura and Jamie will have on enhancing our year-round relationship with them,” said Jamie Baker, another former British player who is “Head of Professional Tennis and Tournament Director”.

Well, we’re certainly glad the players are “one of” their most important stakeholder groups. They certainly didn’t listen to them about banning the players of certain countries from competing in 2022.

Perhaps they feel the diplomatic skills of Robson and Delgado can help smooth that over before next summer.

That said, this is WIMBLEDON. There’s not a huge need to enhance the relationship; it’s the favorite stop of the year for most of the players.

Prices (mostly) the Same for 2023

The club also announced that it posted its second-highest “distributable surplus” ever, beaten only by the 2019 tournament. It stands at £47.141 million (over $55 million US, over $74 million CAD). And 90 per cent of that goes to the LTA to develop the sport in the UK.

It also announced a record number of entries into the Public Ballot for next year’s event.

There hadn’t been a public ballot in three years, because of the pandemic. So good luck to everyone who entered.

It also announced that “more than 80 per cent of the tickets available through the Ballot and the Queue have been held at 2022 prices.” Those tickets, it should be noted, are by far the most reasonably-priced ones at any top-level event on the planet. Assuming you can get your hands on one.

Finally, the No. 1 Court schedule on the final weekend will start at 11 a.m. rather than 1 p.m. beginning next year. It appears the purpose of that is to add additional wheelchair matches on the second-biggest court.

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