WHEN tennis-loving Dorothy Ford thought about ‘treating herself’ for her 80th birthday, which she will celebrate later this year, she plumped for a visit to the Wimbledon Championships.
A member of the Bessacarr-based Doncaster Lawn Tennis Club for more than 50 years, Dorothy successfully applied for a pair of Centre Court tickets for the middle Saturday of the Championships despite the club’s allocation being down on previous years.
Dorothy is looking forward to the visit to London SW 19 - especially as she admits that it could be her last.
“I’m not getting any younger,” she quipped when we spoke at the 12-court Doncaster club this week.
Dorothy, who will be joined by her Aldershot-based younger sister, first visited Wimbledon back in 1961.
“It was the Championship’s 75th anniversary and Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent, was in the Royal Box,” she recalled. “It was just like it was on the television and it had a special atmosphere.”
Dorothy still has the programme and among the games she remembers watching on Centre Court on the middle Saturday, was holder Neil Frazer’s defeat by Brit Bobby Wilson in the quarter-final of the Men’s singles.
Also in action on Centre Court was the legendary Rod Laver, whilst Billie-Jean Moffitt, later to become Billy-Jean King, and Christine Truman, a member of the successful British Wightman Cup team which had beaten America the year before, were on opposite sides in the Mixed doubles.
Tickets for club members were relatively easy to come by in those days but there was more of a demand by the time Dorothy next visited Wimbledon in 1976 where she saw Bjorn Borg beat Ilie Nastase in the men’s singles final.
Dorothy has been back on several other occasions since then and, given Wimbledon’s reputation for rain over the years, has been remarkably lucky with the weather.
Rain interruptions, which not only frustrate the spectators and players, but which play havoc with the scheduling of matches, eventually led to a sliding roof being erected on the most famous court in tennis several years ago.
That has meant that spectators with Centre Court tickets are now not only spared listening to tennis fan Sir Cliff Richard singing a medley of his hits, as he has done on a couple of occasions in the recent past when it has rained, but are also guaranteed a full day’s play.
“I wouldn’t have gone otherwise because it’s a long way to go and a lot of money (£71) to pay out if you not going to see much tennis,” said Dorothy.
Although she won’t know who will be in action before she visits the Championships, Dorothy would not be disappointed to miss out on the likes of recently-crowned French Open ladies’ singles champion, Maria Sharapova
The Russian pin-up might be popular with the majority of the Wimbledon faithful, but Dorothy, doesn’t want her tennis viewing spoilt by her on-court noises.
“There is no need for it; they never used to do it,” she said.
Dorothy also feels that the men’s game has changed over the years.
“They all hit the ball hard and I don’t think that there is the variety in the game that there used to be,” she said. “You don’t see hardly any serve and volley players these days. Most of the players play from the back of the court and you don’t see them getting to the net like they used to.”
Dorothy might not get the chance to see British No 1 Andy Murray, but she remembers him playing in the Doncaster Junior Open a decade or so ago.
“I used to help out with the catering during the event at the time and I remember his mum Judy saying she liked my rhubarb pie,” she said.
Dorothy still regularly plays social tennis on club night’s twice a week - despite having had two hip replacement operations in recent years - though she readily admits that she lacks the mobility of her youth.
It would be hardly surprising were Doncaster Rovers chairman John Ryan to get greater satisfaction from victory over newly-promoted Crawley Town, when they check in at the Keepmoat Stadium in late August, than virtually any other side next season.
The Sussex side are managed by former boss Sean O’Driscoll, who some supporters clearly feel should still be in charge at the Keepmoat and who partly blame his departure for Rovers’ relegation.
I get the impression that Ryan is fed up of people who still hold a torch for O’Driscoll having a dig at his successor, Dean Saunders. Ryan praised what O’Driscoll had done during his time in charge at a public meeting on Monday but made it clear that he stuck by the decision to axe him and that he was pleased with the job that Saunders was doing.
Rovers unveiled their new home and away kits this week. I I preferred last season’s home kit with its black trim - though it isn’t that much different - but welcome the fact there is a plain square on the back for the number. That will help the media identify the players better and should mean less chance of identifying a player wrongly than was the case last season when the hoops extended to the back of the shirt and the number printed on top. The away kit was voted for by the fans from several similar styles.