On the clearest moral issue in the sport, the Club’s chairman, Philip Brook, did confirm yesterday that the disgraced Romanian Fed Cup captain Ilie Nastase would not be appearing in the Royal Box this summer. No great surprise there: neither will Joey Barton.
But will Nastase be banned from the grounds?
“I think we have to say his actions were not very good,” Brook suggested, “and we condemn them.” Yet the Club’s chief executive, Richard Lewis, clarified that Nastase’s entitlement to a ticket was a matter for the International Tennis Federation to decide, rather than for Wimbledon itself.
“At the moment he is under temporary suspension from the ITF,” said Lewis. “We would certainly support that suspension and we will wait for the outcome of their investigation. If he is suspended and we noticed him, he would be stopped [at the gates].”
On the other hand, the Club’s carefully prepared positions will achieve the desired aim of maintaining Wimbledon’s frictionless and lofty neutrality. This is unquestionably the smoothest-run event in British sport, and its guardians are determined to keep it that way.
The same pattern resurfaced with regard to the topic of Maria Sharapova, which has dominated the tennis airwaves for much of 2017. Since the Court of Arbitration for Sport handed down its verdict in October, we have known that Sharapova might need wild cards to play in the summer’s two biggest tournaments, the French Open and Wimbledon. But as Andy Murray had accurately predicted on Tuesday, the Club is still waiting to see if she gains the 600-odd rankings points she needs by May 22 to achieve entry under her own steam. “That’s what Wimbledon would be hoping for,” Murray said, “so they’re not in a position to have to make that decision.”
Murray’s observation was supported yesterday by the smoke signals sent up by Lewis and Brook in the Club’s main interview room. One thing we did learn was the D-day on which the decision will have to be made: June 20, when the tennis sub-committee – a body chaired by Tim Henman – will announce its list of wild cards. But the rest remains guesswork, especially until the French Tennis Federation delivers its own decision on May 16.
“Obviously we are keeping an eye on what they’re doing,” said Brook.