London | Wimbledon Shorts… Day 9

More off-court stories from in and around Wimbledon…

I feel like I'm going to break some Aussies hearts here, but Wimbledon was the one that I've always wanted the most. I cried after Wimbledon, which I never thought I would cry on a tennis court, and I screamed at the Australian Open like I've never screamed before, so completely two different emotions… it's hard to separate, though. Ash Barty

A Royal Visit

The Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William were in the Royal Box on Tuesday, but also spent time on No 1 Court, watching Cameron Norrie’s thrilling win over David Goffin to reach the semi-final at Wimbledon for the first time.

Wearing a light blue and white polka dot belted dress by Alessandra Rich, the Duchess was complimented by her husband’s pale blue blazer.

Those in the know noted that the dress had had a previous outing at a Jubilee Big Lunch event just last month in a likely nod to the sustainable theme at the All England Club.

This year, Ralph Lauren redesigned the uniforms for chair umpires, line umpires and ball boys and girls in partnership with the Club to embrace more sustainable and innovative fabrics using recycled materials.

Kate accessorised her outfit with a few more recycled items from her royal closet, including her Finlay Henrietta sunglasses, recently worn on tour in the Bahamas, and her Mulberry Amberley bag in white, which she has used numerous times before.

The finishing touch was a green and purple bow tie pin, signifying her status as Patron of the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

The club’s official colours are dark green and purple, and only a few select people, including the Club’s President, the Committee of Management, Vice Presidents and four members of the executive staff are permitted to wear the bow.

Kate’s parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, were also in attendance on Tuesday, seated to the royal couple’s left, and the Duchess of Cambridge was spotted blowing them a kiss as she and Prince William took their seats while giving them a little wave and mouthing ‘Hi’.

Where is Peng Shuai

Activists wearing ‘Where is Peng Shuai’ T-shirts at Wimbledon claim they were ‘harassed’ by security staff

A group of men from the Free Tibet campaign, who changed into shirts shirts after entering the Wimbledon grounds, alleged security warned them against spreading a political message or speaking to fellow spectators at the All England Club.

There have been grave concerns for Peng since the Chinese player disappeared last year after making accusations of sexual assault against a top politician of the ruling Communist Party.

Peng later retracted the allegations and made stage-managed public appearances, giving interviews saying she was fine, but most believe she was being coerced and not able to act of her own free will.

As a result, the WTA suspended its tournaments in China until it receives proof the two-time doubles Grand Slam champion is free and well.

Wimbledon rules ban fans from wearing ‘any objects or clothing bearing political statements, objectionable or offensive statements or commercial identification intended for ‘ambush marketing’ ‘.

As reported by The Guardian, Will Hoyles, 39, said: “We came trying to raise a bit of awareness but Wimbledon have managed to make it worse for themselves by harassing us.

“They were asking loads of questions about what we were going to do, why we were here, you know, what we’d already done etc.

“And we told them we had just been wandering around and we had spoken to a few people and that is when they seemed to get quite suspicious.”

Jason Leith told the BBC: “We are banning Russian players and Belarusian players who have spoken out against the war [against Ukraine] but then there’s all these human rights abuses that the Chinese Communist Party have carried out but that’s absolutely fine — so it’s a double standard. It just doesn’t seem to make sense.

“It’s Wimbledon and she’s an ex-Wimbledon champion, and if there’s anywhere to go and talk about this, and to get that discussion brought back up again, it’s going to be here.”

Martina Navratilova, who has been outspoken previously about the need to raise awareness of Peng’s plight, responded on Twitter: “What? Not allowed to speak?!? WTH? This is what Russia and China would do, right? But UK? Hmm.

“Unreal — putting a muzzle on peaceful human rights activists … isn’t that what Russia does? Asking for a friend.”

MP Iain Duncan Smith also hit out, tweeting: “Dear Wimbledon, unlike in Xi’s China, we value free speech in this country. People wishing to raise their voices in support of #whereisPengShuai should be allowed to do so.”

A Wimbledon spokesperson said: “We can confirm that four guests were approached today by security whilst walking outside No 1 Court.

“These individuals are now enjoying their day with us and continue to be able to wear their T-shirts.

“Like much of the tennis community and people around the world more broadly, we remain very concerned for Peng Shuai and we continue to support the WTA’s efforts.”

Kyrgios charged

Wimbledon organisers gave Nick Kyrgios the all-clear to take to the court for Wednesday quarter-final match against Chilean Cristian Garin, despite revelations that the Australian faces a court summons over an assault allegation in Canberra.

Kyrgios went to ground on Wednesday after it emerged late on Tuesday that he had been summonsed to face ACT Magistrates Court on 2 August accused of assault reportedly relating to Kyrgios’ former girlfriend Chiara Passari.

Nine Network reported that the 27-year-old Australian, who usually practises ahead of matches in front of the cameras, hit the practice courts out of sight of the media following a tense confrontation with British media, who asked Kyrgios to comment on the allegations.

The World No 40 ignored the cameras, although he was reportedly overhead telling a member of his entourage that ‘I feel like I’m in The Last Dance’ , a reference to the Netflix series about Michael Jordan’s illustrious career at the Chicago Bulls.

Earlier, the All England Club released a statement saying Wimbledon was aware of the court summons, and that Kyrgios’ quarter-final would go ahead.

“We have been made aware of legal proceedings involving Nick Kyrgios in Australia, and as they are ongoing, we are not in a position to offer a comment,” the statement read.

“We are in touch with Nick’s team and he remains scheduled to play his quarter-final match tomorrow.”

The allegations relate to an assertion that Kyrgios grabbed Ms Passari, The Canberra Times reports.

Kyrgios’ barrister Jason Moffett said the Australian star was taking the allegation ‘very seriously’.

He told the paper an assault charge, which carries a maximum jail sentence of two years, would be ‘in the context of a domestic relationship’.

“The nature of the allegation is serious, and Mr Kyrgios takes the allegation very seriously,” Mr Moffett said.

“Given the matter is before the court … he doesn’t have a comment at this stage.”

The tennis star’s legal team later clarified in a statement that Kyrgios had not yet been officially charged.

“While Mr Kyrgios is committed to addressing any and all allegations once clear, taking the matter seriously does not warrant any misreading of the process Mr Kyrgios is required to follow,” the statement said.

Kyrgios and then-partner Passari were reportedly separated by police while in hotel quarantine in South Australia in October last year, who said at the time that the couple had been involved in a verbal argument.

The one-time World No 13 was fined $10,000 ($17,600) following his first-round win over British wild-card Paul Jubb and another $4,000 ($5,800) after a fractious 3rd-round victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Ash Barty took part in the ICON Series at Liberty National Golf Club, New Jersey last week

© Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Barty update

Kristy Williams, writing in the Daily Mail Australia, gives an update on Ash Barty after the retired World No 1 returned home following her participation in the Icons Golf Series in the US, where she produced an impressive singles win over former NFL star Andrew Whitworth.

Barty has played in a few charity golf tournaments, written some children’s books and enjoyed simply being at home since retiring in March this year after winning the French and Australian Opens, and Wimbledon.

She revealed she ‘may’ be getting married to fiancé Garry Kissick this year, and coyly answered ‘maybe’ when asked if she had bought her dress yet.

Asked on the Today show which Grand Slam victory was her favourite, the Australian Open or Wimbledon, Barty gave an answer that probably shocked her Aussie tennis fans.

“You can’t do that to me, it is like asking what is your favourite dog or child!” she laughed. “I feel like I’m going to break some Aussies hearts here, but Wimbledon was the one that I’ve always wanted the most.

“I cried after Wimbledon, which I never thought I would cry on a tennis court, and I screamed at the Australian Open like I’ve never screamed before, so completely two different emotions… it’s hard to separate, though.”

Her thrilling 3-set win in the 2021 Wimbledon final over Karolina Pliskova was one for the ages, repeating an act her idol, fellow proud Indigenous woman Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, had done 31 years prior.

No Australian will ever forget watching her win the Australian Open title earlier this year, though, and it goes down as one of the country’s proudest moments alongside Cathy Freeman’s win at the 2000 Olympics and taking out the America’s Cup in 1983.

‘I had never felt anything like it … there was a single point that I felt it shift in the second set,’ Barty said of her final against Danielle Collins in Melbourne. “Danielle broke, it was a moment she screamed, and she kind of let out her ‘come on’,  and I remember looking up to my box and was, like, ‘that’s the wrong thing to do’… She didn’t need to do it. She was all over me.

“I just said, ‘I need to get this crowd involved’. That was the moment that I thought ‘that’s it, I’m in this’, [though] I had no right to be in it,’ she added.

While none of the spectators in the stadium were aware, Barty knew it would be her last Australian Open.

“It’s those feelings that are the memories that you keep forever.

“It’s the trough, the accolades mean nothing, it is the moments, the memories, the emotions that you create through that opportunity is the most exciting,” she said.

There’s been a lot of speculation that Barty will move to golf now that she’s retired from the court.

“I’ve got other things that I would love to do,” she said, quashing the notion despite playing off the impressive handicap of four. “Much to everyone’s disappointment, I will never be playing professional golf.

“I will never be playing another professional sport. I love it as a hobby, but it’s not for me,’ she added.

She became engaged to her long-time partner Garry Kissick in November 2021, and said she was ‘very happy’ since giving up her jet-setting life to settle back home in Brisbane.

“It’s been nice to be home with the dogs, and settle into our routine,” Barty said. “Just actually being in my kitchen, and being in my house, cleaning. I love cooking. I love just being home.”

She was coy when asked about her wedding, only saying ‘maybe’ when asked if it will take place this year, and the potential of having kids down the track.

“We will wait and see. We’ll see,” she said when asked whether she would read her new range of Little Ash books to her kids.

Ostapenko booed by crowd

Jelena Ostapenko lost in 3 sets to mother-of-two, 34-year old Tatjana Maria, and was booed off No 1 Court after throwing a water bottle at her chair, which fell over as she stormed away following her 5-7 7-5 7-5 loss in which she had wasted 2 match points.

“I thought it was my match, I had to win it, and she got just so lucky in some moments so she could come back,” she said. “I felt I was the player who had to win this match today.

“Of course I’m really disappointed because, if I lost against an amazing player, who just beat me in a great match… but I just lost my match.

“I just made mistakes. She just collected all my mistakes, unforced errors, and that’s how she won today.”

The crowd was unimpressed by Ostapenko’s bad-tempered exit, and made their feelings clear about bad losers.

“Of course I had emotion. I’m a human, and it’s normal. I’m not going to let it go and say, ‘it’s fine, I lost, and it’s fine’.

“No, it’s not fine. Obviously I’m an emotional player. I hate losing, as I said before, because I’m such a competitive person.”

It must further sting that Maria has now won another match, and reached the semi-finals.

LTA launches ‘Inspire By’

The LTA has announced launched of a bespoke new show for LTA Advantage members – Inspired By.

LTA Advantage members is an LTA subscription service that gives members exclusive benefits and extra content.

This new content series is a first for the Advantage platform, an exclusive series running the course of the 6-week grass court window, giving the audience exclusive access to top analyst and coaching talent to look at the world of the professional game, and translate it into tactical advice and tips, to enable players to try these out and better their own game.

The first three full episodes are live on Advantage now, with the second half of the series to come throughout the Wimbledon fortnight and into the British Open.

In each weekly episode over the grass court season, the show’s presenter Kate Mason will be joined by tennis experts from the LTA Performance team to break down the pros’ performances and give you tips and tricks to improve amateur players’ own game.

Cameron Norrie admits a moped crash 6 years ago set him on the path to a Wimbledon semi-final

© Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Norrie’s life-changer

Cameron Norrie claims that crashing his moped 6 years ago put him on the road to the Wimbledon semi-finals and, possibly, the final.

The incident occurred during his sophomore partying days at Texas Christian University, which put him on the right path to professional tennis.

At the end of an otherwise normal evening out at the local bars, Norrie decided to ride to his then girlfriend’s place, but he barely made it 20 metres before falling off and smashing his chin on the moped handlebars.

Medics gave him 6 stitches and he also failed a concussion protocol to play at that weekend’s Dallas Challenger.

It was then the TCU coaches, who argued that he could have died in the crash, gave him an ultimatum: “Carry on partying and you’re off the team.”

Now 26, Norrie said: “That was a realisation I was not doing things the way I should, and making not the best decisions.

“I was like, OK, I want to play tennis and commit to that. It was more the reaction with the coaches and team. I just didn’t want to let anyone down.

“It was more just a turning point — it was more about letting everyone down. In the end it was a positive thing, and it definitely kicked me into gear.

“I did tell my parents what happened. I was honest with everything, and it was all right. I have told them worse things before — so it wasn’t too bad.”

Murray to play Hall of Fame Open

Two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray has decided to extend his grass-court season in an attempt to secure a seeding at the US Open.

The former World No 1 has accepted a wild-card into the Hall of Fame Open in Newport, Rhode Island, next week, after narrowly missing out on being seeded at Wimbledon this year, which meant he ran into No 20 seed John Isner in the 2nd-round, and was beaten in 4 sets.

He has not played in Newport since 2005, and the plan is then to remain in the US for the rest of the summer and do a training block with coach Ivan Lendl, before playing tournaments in Atlanta at the end of July, and Washington at the beginning of August, both on his radar as part of the build-up to the US Open.

“I really want to try and improve my ranking to a level where I’m getting seeded in slams,” said Murray after defeat to Isner. “That was a goal of mine sort of post Miami.

“I’ve spoken to my team a lot about that, and that’s something that I want to try and put myself in a position hopefully come the US Open.

“If not the US Open, then going into the Australian Open next year where I’m seeded again.

“That means obviously I’ll need to be out there competing and winning matches because it does make, like I said, things trickier.”

Kyle Edmund has US Open in his sights

Kyle Edmund leaves Wimbledon ready to begin his comeback for real in the United States later this month and believing that he can get back to the top of the game.

The former British No 1 and Australian Open semi-finalist made his long-awaited return in the mixed doubles at Wimbledon after 3 knee operations and 20 months on the sidelines.

Edmund has targeted a second-tier Challenger event in 3 weeks for his first singles tournament back, and hopes to play at the US Open at the end of August using his protected ranking reserved for those who have been out for significant periods.

“I’ve just got to get that mindset playing again, the tennis fitness,” The 27-year-old said. “I’m training two to three hours anyway, so I just need to continue to do that, in terms of having the slam in mind at the end of that swing.

“That means I have to be ready for five sets and I’ve not played a match like that in a long time, so that is the aim.”

Edmund had struggled with knee pain since the end of 2018, the season in which he brilliantly made the Last 4 in Melbourne and peaked at 14 in the rankings.

By late 2020, he was forced to take the surgical route and, after two small operations and one major one, he is finally pain free again, something he admitted he began to doubt would ever happen.

Marie Bouzkova's 'Bouzie Bottle' appears at every sit-down

© Sebastien Bozon/AFP via Getty Images

‘Bouzie Bottle’ makes its Wimbledon quarter-final bow

Marie Bouzkova failed to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals on Tuesday, despite maintaining all her pre-match superstitions, and a decade-long devotion to an eye-catching, giant water bottle.

The 23-year-old US-based Czech was the underdog when she faced World No 2 Ons Jabeur, and she certainly caught the eye with her ready smile and her outsized, jet-black water bottle that comes out at every changeover and needs both her hands to lift.

The ‘Bouzie Bottle’ boasts a giant sticker with the words ‘From Prague to Florida… to a court near you’.

“We bought it from a girl in Florida,” explained Bouzkova, who has been using a giant bottle for a decade. “I used the original one for three years and now I always just look at Amazon and buy a new one.

“In fact, I can’t even imagine playing without one now.”

Celebrating her progress over the fortnight, she and her team have been enjoying traditional strawberries and cream.

“It’s one of our 100 routines at Wimbledon,” said Bouzkova, who is superstitious enough to rarely stray from her pre-match habits.

In a recent interview with the DNES daily, she said she and her father, Milan, always play the board game of Sequence before going on court, accompanied by tea with cups placed on the left.

She always uses the first shower stall on her left, and then always consumes two bananas.

Those empty seats…

This is the first time since 2019 that Wimbledon has been able to stage matches in front of capacity crowds but, unfortunately for the world’s best tennis players, they have often been greeted by rows and rows of empty seats.

Millions of desperate local fans usually compete with those living in far-flung places such as the United States, Australia and India to get their hands on Wimbledon tickets, which are considered as gold dust.

In 2019, the last championships held before the COVID-19 pandemic, a total of 500,397 spectators attended the then 13-day tournament, the second highest in Wimbledon history.

On the opening day of this year’s competition, however, even the presence of Emma Raducanu, Britain’s first women’s Grand Slam champion in 45 years, failed to attract a full house on Centre Court.

With 42,000 spectators allowed into the grounds at any one time, not including ticket re-sales, 256,808 fans attended the championships over the first six days in 2019, but only 237,927 spectators filed in through the gates over the corresponding days of this year’s event.

Many of the empty seats have been visible around the Royal Box, which is usually reserved for corporate guests or members of the All England Club and the LTA.

In previous years, punters waited anxiously to discover if they had managed to get their hands on a ticket after throwing their names into the mix in a public ballot, but there was no ballot this year as those who had secured tickets for the cancelled 2020 championships were offered seats for the same day and court this year.

How many of those fans snapped up tickets for this year’s tournament has not been made public, but it has meant that tickets for 2022 have been hard to come by.

Organisers were also frustrated on the first two days of the tournament when technical issues impacted re-sales when the original Centre Court ticket holders decided to leave the grounds.

The glitch led to long queues at the re-sale hubs, and empty seats inside the arena.

Ken Skupski calls time

British tennis fans will have had a keen eye on events on Court 12 early on Monday where Ken Skupski was playing a 3rd-round men’s doubles match with fellow Brit Jonny O’Mara.

Their 7-6(6) 6-4 6-4 defeat to German team Kevin Krawietz & Andreas Mies marked the end of Ken’s playing career after the 39-year-old announced in June that Wimbledon would be his final event.

Skupski reached a career-high ranking of No 44, represented Great Britain in Davis Cup and won 7 ATP doubles trophies, 3 of which were with his younger brother, Neal.

“My wonderful wife Hayley and three amazing boys have had to deal with me heading off for years,” wrote the former LSU graduate when announcing his decision. “It’s been a hard road at times but we can finally spend the best years seeing the boys grow up. I’ll try not to miss any more birthdays!”

Maria Sharapova won The Championships in 2004, beating Serena Williams in the final

© Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Sharapova not snubbed

Wimbledon chiefs deny that Russian Maria Sharapova, a notable absentee from Sunday’s Parade of Champions, which included 26 former winners, 12 of whom had just one Wimbledon title to their name, was snubbed from the celebrations due to her nationality.

While the Club would not confirm if the 2004 champion was invited, they claimed they only asked one-time winners who they knew would already be at the tournament or did not have far to travel.

Also, Sharapova is heavily pregnant and would have been unlikely to attend in any event.

Curiously, no footage of her iconic win as a 17-year-old in the 2004 final against Serena Williams was included in the montages of great Centre Court moments that were shown during the 40-minute ceremony.

The Club again denied Sharapova’s omission from the films had anything to do with her nationality, claiming the montages were not long enough to include every past champion.

Players from Russia and Belarus were banned from this year’s tournament because of their war with Ukraine, but that ruling did not extend to people who may have had other roles at the Championships.

Ball shortage

Tennis clubs have been hit by a major ball shortage as they ready themselves for a flush of new members inspired by Wimbledon.

The ball shortage is believed to be down to supply chain issues, caused by lengthy factory closures across East Asia during the Covid-19 pandemic, which halted production.

The global shipping container shortage, and massively inflated freight costs that have accompanied the reopening of economies worldwide, have compounded the problem.

Clubs are struggling to get balls, while other tennis essentials, including rackets and sports clothes, have also been affected.

Adam Galloway, the deputy head coach at Bromley Lawn Tennis Club in south-east London, has a sponsorship deal with the sports brand Head, and is not permitted to wear any other brands or use non-Head tennis balls.

He said he typically receives balls, rackets, shoes and clothing from the brand shortly after renewing his contract each year but after signing his agreement in April, the new gear has still not arrived.

“[The shipment] keeps getting pushed back. My rep has zero Head balls,” he said. “It’s not just Head, there’s a mass shortage of all the brands.

“We have a club championship coming up in a couple of weeks and we’re worried we haven’t got enough tennis balls.”

Louise Price, who runs tennis ball manufacturer Price of Bath, the only company that manufactures balls in the UK, and sells to major sporting goods distributors that supply tennis clubs with equipment, has also witnessed evidence of the shortage.

In recent years, the firm has lost a substantial amount of business to competitors that manufacture their goods in East Asia and can offer customers cheaper prices as a result but, in the past six months, Ms Price has seen tennis balls sales increase by about a third as former customers, unable to secure supplies through their normal channels, have returned.

“There certainly are [shortages]”, Ms Price said. “A number of brands…have started coming back to us or coming back for a stop-gap order because their deliveries are delayed.”

A spokesman for sporting goods retailer Decathlon said ’all brands around the world are facing similar issues’ but attributes the problem to increased demand rather than a shortage of stock.

“2021 was a record year for our tennis ball sales, and we’re already tracking at 10 per cent more than this time last year,” he said. “The situation isn’t that suppliers are producing fewer balls…. customers are just buying more.”



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