Tennis: Spitting images are not a pretty sight

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The Independent Online
TWO years ago, Goran Ivanisevic delivered the most aces in a Wimbledon final (37) and in the championships (206), writes John Roberts. He has now been credited with a record the sport could do without - 27 spits in a match.

He emerges as the world No 1 in a two-minute video of non-stop spitting to be shown to male competitors at the All England Club tomorrow in an attempt to curb the habit this year.

Andre Agassi, who defeated Ivanisevic in the 1992 final, is rated No 2. Boris Becker, Andrei Medvedev, Cedric Pioline and Thomas Muster also feature prominently in the spitting image.

After last year's championships the club received 150 letters of complaint about spitting. 'We feel pretty strongly about it,' Chris Gorringe, Wimbledon's chief executive, said.

Sportsmen, amateurs as well as professionals, who find it impossible to compete without regularly clearing their throat will sympathise with the tennis players. But how is that their female counterparts are able to play without covering the court with spittle?

The subject prompted a friendly exchange yesterday between Jo Durie, who has been playing at Wimbledon since 1977, and her coach, Alan Jones.

Durie: ''The women never do it.'

Jones: 'When I play football or just run around, I do get catarrh in my throat. So what am I meant to do, swallow it, or spit it out?'

Durie: 'But why do men spit after every point?'

Jones: 'Do you get spittle in your throat?'

Durie: 'Little bits, yes, every now and again, and I get rid of it behind my hand, or go right to the very corner of the court. But I do not spit after every point.

'They could curb it, of course they could. It's just a habit. And I think it looks awful, I really do. I really think they could make an effort to make it look a bit better, a bit more discreet.'

The ball would appear to be in Ivanisevic's court.