It is that time of the year again when the tennis fans put on their hats and sit with a bowl of strawberry & cream to watch some of the finest tennis players in action. Yes, you guessed it right. It is Wimbledon time. For over a century now, Wimbledon has been one of the most prestigious tournaments in tennis. It has produced some great rivalries and epic matches.
But it is not just about tennis here. The tradition & culture here has given a different aura to Wimbledon which is difficult to associate with any other sporting tournament. Three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker once famously called Wimbledon as his second home.
Talking about traditions, one very interesting incident happened with Becker’s arch-rival Andre Agassi. It was the gentlemen’s final of the 1992 Wimbledon between Agassi and Goran Ivanisevic. But the incident that we are referring here had nothing to do with tennis.
A tuxedo on the eve of the final
This was a period when Agassi had started to develop an interest in another great champion - Steffi Graf. During those days, Wimbledon had a tradition of having a championship ball dance in which the gentleman and ladies winner had to dance together. Given his interest in Steffi, Agassi was excited at this prospect. “Now, I can’t wait to twirl her across a dance floor, never mind that I don’t know how to dance”, said Agassi about that moment in his autobiography Open.
So, on the eve of the final, Agassi went to Harrods (an upmarket departmental store located on Brompton Road in London) with one of his friends to buy a tuxedo in case he wins the tournament. His friend who was aware of his fascination about Graf, joked with the salesgirl that the only reason Agassi wanted to win was so that he could dance with Steffi.
Agassi wins but there’s no dance
Next day, in a hard fought match, 12th seed Agassi emerged victorious in 5 sets, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4. But the rest was not history. Agassi put on the tuxedo that he had purchased the day before and walked smartly into the ball. He then said to an older woman that he was quite excited about the traditional dance with the women’s champion.
And the lady’s reply broke Agassi’s heart. She said that the dance wasn’t happening that year. The reason for the cancellation was that the players did not embrace it enthusiastically.
So, all of Agassi’s effort went in vain. Well, not all, a formal introduction took place where the winners shook hands and Agassi told Steffi how he had tried to reach out to her in the last years’ French Open. Agassi retired from professional tennis in 2006, but this was the first and last time he became a Wimbledon champion, a victory he thoroughly cherished.
And although the dance did not happen, 9 years since that Wimbledon; Agassi and Steffi got married in 2001. It won’t be a bad idea for the tournament organisers to gift a ball dance at Wimbledon to two of their all-time greats.
Interestingly, the Wimbledon ball dance was not taking place since decades until 2015. The 2015 gentlemen champion, Novak Djokovic suggested to the ladies champion Serena Williams and the chairman of the All England Club to bring the dancing back. They agreed and Djokovic and Serena hit the dance floor last year.
Now, we don’t know when the next Wimbledon ball dance will happen or if it will ever light a spark of love between the gentleman and ladies winner. But it is yet another piece of historical tradition which makes Wimbledon the tournament that it is.