‘Lost and found’ has been the theme of this extraordinary 126th Championships at Wimbledon.
Most overwhelmingly, thanks to Andy Murray and Jonny Marray, Britain as a nation rediscovered a pride in its Wimbledon achievements that has long lain dormant. The 2012 fortnight will never be forgotten for the way a heroic Murray became the first Briton to reach the singles final in 74 years ago while Marray became the first Briton to win a men's doubles title here since 1936, having entered as a wild card with his Danish partner Freddie Nielsen.
The lost-and-found emotional dynamic was set in motion by Rufus the Harris Hawk. Four days into his annual celeb-turn as the official pigeon-scarer with his fan club, security pass and twitter account, this high-flying raptor was snatched in the small hours from a car parked in a driveway on a nearby street. Cue, mass distress… and then mass relief, when a few days later, Rufus was discovered on Wimbledon Common by a member of the public. Owner Imogen Davis, said: “We can't believe it. We are so excited. Rufus says thank you so much.”
Back on court, Brian Baker – the brilliant American junior who seven years ago seemed lost forever to tennis through injury – put on a stirring seven-match run through qualifying and the main draw. His momentum was halted by No.27 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber in the fourth round, but he left The Championships with a world ranking around the No.77 mark – not bad for a player who was out of action for almost six years. As one of the world’s top juniors, Baker looked to have a glittering future, but between November 2005 and July 2011 he underwent operations for his left hip (twice), a hernia, right hip and right elbow. He returned unranked in July 2011. So Wimbledon 2012 witnessed a happy renewal of status. “It’s been an unbelievable run,” Baker said.
Ditto, in a different realm, Serena Williams with her Venus-equalling Wimbledon singles triumph. Two years ago a foot injury and a pulmonary embolism almost put paid to her career. “This title is super-special because it’s a huge comeback for me. Oh my gosh… I have definitely had some lows,” she said. “There was one time when I was lying on my couch, and I didn’t leave it for two whole days. I couldn’t take any more. I had endured enough. I had a tube, a drain, in my stomach. Right before that I had the blood clot, and lung problems, and two foot surgeries. It was the lowest of the lows. But I didn’t just stay there. I got up, and I got started. That’s what you have to do sometimes.”
Over in the Wimbledon Museum, Honor Godfrey - curator and keeper of the Championship flame for future generations - also revelled in great ‘finds’. Two ‘elusive’ tennis fashion examples, no less. First, a Fred Perry Skirt c. 1959. “It is an off-white pleated skirt, with adjustable waistband, made of a Terylene and wool mix. It is appliquéd by hand with a Fred Perry laurel wreath logo on each pleat,” she explained. “I had seen these skirts in advertisements and being worn by Billie Jean King and Margaret Court. Last week, one was given to the Museum. It had been bought and worn in this country, then taken to New Zealand by its owner, where it had been carefully stored for 50 years before being sent home to roost.
“Second was a Ted Tinling Petticoat from the 1960s, made of silk organza, trimmed with rows of lace and ribbon bows. Tinling introduced petticoats as skirts got shorter. He saw them as a ‘delightful additional adornment; the difference between decorum and décor’. The petticoats were short lived. Their fitted waists were a hazard. The Mexican player Melita Ramirez and Britain’s Shirley Bloomer both split their petticoats during play and neatly stepped out of them on court. We were helped in the pursuit of this petticoat by Judy Dalton who tracked one down in Australia.”