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Sir Andy Murray And Serena Williams To Play Mixed Doubles At Wimbledon • Wow

By Alix Ramsay


It has been the only story on the British sports editors’ tennis schedule for days: will they? Won’t they? And on Tuesday evening, just as the British papers were hitting edition time, they said they would.


Serena Williams and Andy Murray will play mixed doubles at Wimbledon. At last we know. They will sign in on Wednesday morning before the 11am deadline and then it will be mayhem. Where to put them? When to schedule them?


A lot of the early rounds in mixed doubles are played on the outside courts at fairly anti-social hours. But purely on health and safety grounds, Muzz and Rene can’t be playing on Court 6 at half-past-dinnertime. The safety of the spectators has to be considered: if that is their scheduled slot, there will be who-knows-how-many ground pass holders swarming around Court 6. With only a sprinkling of seats and vantage points around that venue, the crush to grab one could be seriously dangerous.


Then there is the health of Andrew Jarrett, the Championships Referee to consider: you wouldn’t want to be him when Serena finds out that he is responsible for putting her on the late shift meaning that she will miss Olympia’s bath time. That wouldn’t be pretty. Not pretty at all.


The news was finally confirmed by Muzza’s management company in the late evening, but that was after Serena had already done her press conference following her 6-2, 7-5 win over Guilia Gatto-Monticone.


By way of an aside: Gatto-Monticone is 31 years old, she is ranked No.161 in the world and she had never got so much as a toehold in the main draw before. But this year, finally, she booked her place by coming through the qualifying competition. And then she was placed alongside Serena in the draw. Still, if this was to be her one and only Wimbledon experience, she did get to play on Centre Court and she did get to play one of the legends of the game. For most players of her ranking, such days are the stuff of dreams.


But back to the storyline. Rene was giving nothing away in her presser. She wouldn’t give us Brit hacks so much as a morsel. And you have no idea how hard my colleagues tried. The opening dubs question was about as straight forward as you could get: “We all want to know, are you going to be playing mixed doubles with Andy Murray? Have you made a decision yet?”


This elicited the straight bat response from the former champion. She was not going to have a swat at that.


“I’m just going to see how I feel today, then go from there,” she replied.


But this was the persistent and determined Rob Maul from the Sun, a good bloke, a good mate and a good journo. Ignoring the “one question only and raise your hand when you want to speak” rule in Wimbledon pressers, he ploughed on.


“When do you think you could make that decision? Next three hours? In the morning?” he asked.


“This is crazy. I don’t know. I’m still kind of in the singles mode, trying to figure that part out. We’ll see. I could use extra matches, though, so… Could be something.”


Rene was taking this well. She was in a playful mood. She knows us and our ways and she was playing her own little game with us.


Getting nowhere, the gang switched to “extreme measures”. When in doubt, flirt ever so slightly with you victim. George Bellshaw from Metro tried his own, unique and persuasive charms of the 23-time grand slam champion. He is game, is George.


“Could you give us a rough percentage of how likely you think it is you would play with Andy?” George began.


“I don’t know. If you guys really want it, then maybe I’ll do it,” she said with a smirk.


“We do really want it,” George continued – he doesn’t give in, our George.


“Yeah? All right, done, just for you guys. Don’t forget,” the legend said, now with a broad smile.


But George wanted clarification. Well, you do if you work in our business.


“That is a yes, you’re going to do it?” he asked, just to be sure.


“If you guys want it.”


“I really do.”


“Just for you then.”


By this point, even the All England Club moderator was giggling.


Now before the more serious-minded of you get all flustered and upset – “Disrespect for a champion!”, “No regard for Serena’s Wimbledon singles hopes!” “Typical media frippery!” – let me point out that this was one old pro (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) dealing with a roomful of other old pros (no need to be nice here – these are my esteemed colleagues, tarts to a man and woman if there is decent quote at the end of it) with both parties playing the media game. It’s what we do and it’s what Serena knows we do. That’s why the game works so well.


But on a more serious note, this partnership is one based on mutual admiration. Serena has always been quick to praise Andy for his outspoken views. He exists in a testosterone charged workplace and yet he hired a female coach – Amelie Mauresmo – in 2014. He defended her vociferously when some of his peers mocked his choice and he stood up, loud and proud, as a feminist. He did this not because he wanted to justify his decision to hire Mauresmo but to stand alongside her against that criticism aimed, aimed at her simply for being a woman.


When Kheredine Idessane from BBC Scotland, another one of the British Band of Brothers, asked Serena what she thought of Andy as a player and a person, she was off and running.


“We’re a lot alike on the court,” Serena said, laughing. Mmmm…. Utter perfectionist, can be grumpy on court, can get angry, does use industrial language in the heat of battle. You could see where she was going with this. “I’ve always liked that about him.


“Talking about work ethic – his work ethic is just honestly off the charts. That’s something I’ve always respected about him. His fitness, everything. To do what he’s done in an era where there’s so many other great male tennis players, so much competition, to rise above it, not many people have done it. He’s actually one of the few.


“There’s so many things to be admired. Above all, he really stands out, he really speaks up about women’s issues no matter what. You can tell he has a really strong woman in his life. I think, above all, that is just fantastic.”


As for Muzz, when the mixed doubles “Muzz-‘n’-Rene” hare was first set running on the Saturday before The Championships, he was as clear as clear could be.


“Obviously she’s arguably the best player ever,” he said. He didn’t mean the best female player. He meant player – male or female. And then he added in his deadpan way: “She would be a pretty solid partner.”


And now they have taken the plunge. The only question left to be asked – with all due respect to m’colleagues’ valiant efforts in Rene’s presser – is: who will call the shots when they finally get on court? Stand by your beds, peeps. This could be a belter.

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