© Ella Ling

Angelique Kerber

Wimbledon diary: looking at the lefties


A quick look down the list of champions at Wimbledon over the years will yield many thoughts but one that struck me is how many left-handed winners there have been. Rod Laver, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Goran Ivanisevic and Rafael Nadal on the men’s side and Ann Jones, Martina Navratilova (nine times) and Petra Kvitova on the women’s. Only one of the eight semi-finalists this year is left-handed – Angelique Kerber – but if you look back at the draws for the singles events, you will find 17 lefties in the men’s event and 15 in the women’s.

Now everyone knows that lefties have an advantage in the game, even if no one has really come up with a comprehensive argument as to just why. The fact that the overwhelming majority of players are right-handed, and that therefore left-handers are something different, is part of it; as is the fact that the left-handed serve that swings away to the right-hander’s backhand is targeting traditionally the weakest spot for a returner. The national average in Britain for left-handers is 13 percent in men and around 11 percent in men. A total of 17 in the men’s event equates to 13.28 percent, so bang on the average. The women’s total of 15 works out at 11.71 percent. Apparently the number of left-handers is on the rise at the moment because modern schools no longer force left-handers to switch. (And before anyone points it out, I know Rafael Nadal is actually naturally right-handed)

Roger Federer has been doing his bit for the youth of England, practising with some of the country’s juniors before each of his matches in the second week at Wimbledon. Federer really just goes through the motions in practice during grand slams – unlike Nadal, who generally goes flat out for an hour or so – but it’s great for the juniors he selects to experience what it’s like to be on court with the 16-times grand slam champion.

The lucky junior selected on Wednesday was Britain’s Kyle Edmund, one of the country’s finest prospects and he clearly enjoyed himself, chatting away in various interviews afterwards. Paul Annacone, now Federer’s coach but who used to work for the LTA, is the man who organised the hit and has done similar things at all of the grand slam events. Last year, another Briton, Evan Hoyt, warmed up Rafael Nadal before several of his matches and many top players practice with juniors, not least because they are always around in the second week of the slam. What a privilege.