The Tennis Space Miscellany: Tennis players and their obsession with towels.
Greg Rusedski is often credited – or blamed – for starting the modern habit of asking the ball boy to fetch the towel after almost every point. Are you proud of yourself, one tennis fan asked Rusedski this summer, to which he replied: “It was my ritual and I have to say it must have been annoying to watch and play against. But we all have our silly rituals.”
Some rituals/superstitions/diva behaviour involving towels:
– When Rafael Nadal towels himself down, he always follows the same routine. He begins with the left arm. Then the left cheek and behind the ear, then the right cheek and behind the ear, and he finishes by wiping the right arm.
– Arnaud Clement, according to one observer, “refused to take towels unless they were held wide open, the way stage flunkies offered James Brown his signature cape”.
– Andre Agassi demanded towels on both sides of the baseline.
– Jim Courier wanted a towel in each corner.
– Andy Murray’s technique – asking for a towel with a face-wiping motion – can cause confusion. On one occasion, a ball girl thought that Murray wanted her to wipe his face for him.
– Heather Watson disclosed at this year’s Wimbledon that she has a superstition involving a towel: “When I get my towel at the change of ends, I run up to pass my ball boy the towel.”
Players who hide under towels during the change of ends:
– Vera Zvonareva likes to spend that 90-second break with her head covered with a towel: “I’m the person who always when I’m on the court, I always hear everything. The bottle dropped, somebody said something, somebody passed by. Even if my eyes are open, I don’t see anything. It really helps to relax my eyes, and then I can really focus and really keep the concentration on the ball, and I think that avoids a lot of ups and downs in the games.”
– Robin Soderling, who is missing from the tour because of glandular fever, likes to ‘hide’ under a towel.
– Mario Ancic (now retired).
– The New York Times has reported that unnamed players have cheated at small tournaments (where there aren’t TV cameras or many spectators) by putting their heads under towels to read text messages from their coaches. “You can tell by how carefully they put the towel down,” Dick Norman told the newspaper.
When the match is over, players then want to pinch the towels. “Every player hopes to play on a big court so they can get a towel,” Ana Ivanovic once said at the Australian Open.
– Roger Federer is not above taking towels from a tournament, usually keeping a couple from every Wimbledon Championships (“I only keep about two a tournament and I give the rest away.”). This summer Wimbledon let it be known that they were more relaxed about players keeping the towels. Or as The Wall Street Journal put it: “Wimbledon has discarded another of its many traditions: the towel police are history.” A spokesman for the All England Club was quoted as saying: “We’d like to see as many of them returned as possible, but it’s not the end of the world if we don’t. There are bigger things to be worrying about.”
– Christy, the company which makes the towels for the Wimbledon Championships, used to make towels for Queen Victoria.
– Novak Djokovic has a stash of Wimbledon towels at home.
The Argentine player Gisela Dulko once used a towel – and a black marker pen – to send a message to her brother who had just become the father of twins. “The fact that I couldn’t be with my nephews in Buenos Aires, this was something very important to me. I wrote a message to them on the towel.”