Tennis: Fancy Pants, toilet breaks and the great strawberry debate: Martin Johnson on the question and answer sessions that went unreported

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THERE is widespread belief that the major talking points of these Championships have been Martina's farewell, seeding upsets, big serving, and what Boris gets up to during his toilet breaks. Some of us, on the other hand, know better. The really big issues of this Wimbledon have been, of course, strawberries, women's knickers, and the O J Simpson case.

The press information department here issues so much paper that it must be responsible for the loss of half the Amazonian rain forest, and not only is there an interview room, but a kind of cinema from which you can watch the same interview. You half expect an usherette with a torch, and girls carrying Kia-Ora and popcorn. Finally, these interviews are committed verbatim - however banal - to paper.

The players, not unreasonably, expect most of the questions to be about tennis, but are occasionally startled by inquiries which have at best a peripheral relevance to the game they have just played. Hence the strawberries. During the past week, one journalist has pursued this topic with such fervour that one can only assume Wimbledon are issuing press passes to The Grocer as well as Tennis Weekly

The questions, in fact, are usually dafter than the answers. Some years ago, a male player well known for his uncomplimentary view on press conferences was asked: 'I know you think we ask stupid questions, but if you could ask yourself one question, what would it be?' He replied (not unreasonably it seems to me): 'That's the most stupid question I've ever heard.'.

Here then, strawberries, knickers, and assorted gobbledegook, are some of the quotes you may not have read about during Wimbledon.

Sergi Bruguera:

Q. What do you like about strawberries? Why do you think there is a tradition here. What is the association? Here it is a tradition. It's a symbol.

A. Very good.

Lori McNeil:

Q. What do you think about the traditional strawberries here?

A. What do I think of them? I love them. I eat them.

Q. Why do you think that the

strawberries are a symbol of Wimbledon?

A. I don't know, that's a good question.

Pete Sampras:

Q. What do you think . . . (etc)?

A. I haven't had any strawberries.

Q. Why do you think they are a symbol?

A. Because they sell them here? I don't know.

Q. What is your association with strawberries?

A. I don't like strawberries.

Q. But you like Wimbledon?

A. Yes.

Lindsay Davenport:

Usual question.

A. My sister was here, and that's all she was talking about, strawberries and cream.

Q. Why is the strawberry the symbol of Wimbledon?

A. I don't know. I think the strawberries just grew here at London.

Andre Agassi:

A. Strawberries? We're professionals in this room. You realise that, right?

Goran Ivanisevic:

Q. I wouldn't like to let this opportunity to go by without asking you - do you like strawberries?

A. Strawberries? Why?

A. Because some girl has been asking everyone who's come into this interview room.

A. Oh yeah, I love strawberries.

Katrina Adams:

Q. Your underwear. Can you tell us about that?

A. They're called Fancy Pants.

A. Can you tell us what colour they are today? I'm sorry to have to ask you this.

A. To be honest, I don't remember. I know I had some pink and green in it . . .

A. If it's any consolation, I thought that they were very attractive.

Q. You saw my bottom a lot today, huh? It was only due to the wind.

A. Of course.

Q. No peeping Toms or anything?

Q. Can I ask you your age?

A. 25.

Q. Single?

A. Yes.

Martina Navratilova:

Q. What do you think of Becker, that he went to a toilet break . . . ?

A. I don't know. I didn't go with him.

Q. Should children who are gay have counselling?

A. I didn't know I was gay until I was 18.

Q. What are your thoughts on the O J case?

A. We have to keep the husband and human being totally apart from the sports, from the athlete, from the superstar that he was. Just because you're a superstar or run a rental agency doesn't mean you're a wonderful human being. Whether he did it or not, the fact is he used to beat his wife up . . . So now we have a whole new issue to get excited about, domestic violence - oh gee, that's a new one. AIDS will sort of go to the left . . . so I think the press is to blame, not to blame for what happened, but in protecting a lot of male athletes . . . I shouldn't say the press is to blame, but it seems they do protect the male athletes. I don't know that one reporter asks a male reporter 'are you gay?' I don't know one. Do you?

Bryan Shelton:

Q. We would like to see you in Newhaven. It's important for athletes such as yourself, all black Americans, to come to the cities?

A. Is that a question?

A. No.

Zina Garrison Jackson:

Q. Did your emotion have anything to do - this has been a tough round for you at this tournament.

A. Thank you.

Todd Martin:

Q. Would you like to see Agassi mania to be replaced by some Todd mania?

A. Sorry?

Goran Ivanisevic:

Q. Who would you like to play in the next round?

A. Bates.

Q. You've got a mixed record against Brits, haven't you?

A. I don't like to play Brits much.

Q. Why do you want Bates then?

A. I don't know.

Pete Sampras:

Q. Do you go sight-seeing?

A. I drive past Big Ben every trip home.

Lindsay Davenport:

Q. Do you have a great fear of being normal?

A. I am normal.

Boris Becker:

Q. At one point you said you couldn't hit the easiest ball.

A. I didn't say that.

Q. I thought you did.

A. That was not the fact.

Q. How would you have felt if your opponent had gone to the toilet and received treatment from his personal trainer?

A. Is he serious, or is he joking?


Q. Your doubles partner, Lori McNeil . . . you should have a good doubles match to look forward to.

A. Actually we're not playing together.

Q. You're not? I'm sorry.


Q. You beat an obviously pro-Andre crowd as well.

A. No, I won a match that two years ago I wouldn't have won.

Q. Why a couple of years ago would you not have won it?

A. I have no idea.


Q. What part of Wimbledon do you enjoy?

A. Not one.

Q. Not one?

A. No.