Halcyon days: when strawberries were twopence a punnet instead of £2 and Britain had two women (yes two) in a Wimbledon final, filthy lucre was not an issue. As the bandwagon of equal pay for women trundles on, with everyone from Tessa Jowell, the Minister for Culture and Sport, to Roger Draper, the chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association, clambering aboard, it is refreshing to find the debate put into perspective by a former golden girl of Centre Court.
When Christine Janes (née Truman) contested the women's final in 1961 against Angela Mortimer, the prize for the champion was a £20 voucher, and it was the same for the men. Forty-five years on and Christine, now 65, is not an advocate of parity. "The women's champion will receive £625,000, which is slightly less than the winner of the men's, but I can't see what the issue is. For many it has become a matter of principle, but to my mind it's a false cause. I'm glad the girls make such a good living, but the amounts involved are so huge the mind boggles."
Quite. As the IoS revealed last week, it would take somebody on the minimum wage 60 years to earn in the region of £600,000. As the beaten finalist in 1961, Christine (her daughter Amanda Keen was playing doubles here this year) received a £15 voucher, which she put towards the purchase of a Harrods picnic hamper. "I've still got it," she said. She certainly has.
The All England Club seem set for a bumpy ride with Draper, who criticised Wimbledon for "rewarding mediocrity" by giving too many wild cards to British players. That was looking a bit premature after Melanie South, 305 in the world, put out the No 11 seed, Francesca Schiavone. If our outclassed minority can't be indulged here they may never gain big-match experience.
APART AT THE SEAMS
There is no escaping the grim draper. On a fashion note, the catwalk has been dominated by Roger Federer's cream sports jacket, complete with a crest incorporating his Leo star sign, an F, the Swiss cross, a tuft of grass and three rackets. If he came on court bearing a cigarette holder you'd half expect Noel Coward to cry: "New balls please."
Federer is having to compete with Polo Ralph Lauren, who have equipped the on-court staff from head to toe in outfits that look like something from that strange TV series The Prisoner. Unfortunately a hole has developed in the Polo range and the trousers, worn by both men and women, have been splitting with such regularity a tailor has been summoned.
NO REST FOR THE WEARY
Asked to explain his philosophy, Tim Henman replied: "We are here for a good time not a long time." He got neither as Federer tucked him away in his top pocket like a silk handkerchief. However, it took John McEnroe to protest that Henman, after a five-setter against Robin Soderling, should have been given a day off rather than be thrown stiff-limbed into Federer's fire. No favouritism there. At least it would have given the folks who live on Henman Hill an extra 24 hours to justify their address.
THE CREEPING INVASION
The Americanisation of Wimbledon continues to creep up on one, in the manner of the Boston ivy that decorates the outer walls of Centre Court. New additions on the catering front are milk and cookies and "Pimm's to go". What's that all about? The only place a Pimm's should go is down a well-parched throat. What next? A statue of the late Mark McCormack, the marketing genius who turned Wimbledon into a dollar cash cow, or mom's apple pie?
When Andrew Murray said he would not exactly consider throwing himself off the Forth Road Bridge if England took their leave of the World Cup he had no idea he was tapping into sacks of hate mail. No sooner did the last Brit standing at Wimbledon launch a new website than it was engulfed by poison-pen emails. This is a sample of the more restrained attacks: "Please grow up and be a man even if you are only a Scot"; "Fingers crossed you get knocked out very soon, come on England".
The "bitter, blue-nosed Scot" was not completely friendless. "If you can make it to the final, England will be out of the World Cup and you'll be British again."Reuse content