In the joyous moments after Ash Barty’s Wimbledon win she was photographed in front of the honours board with her name already on it as the 2021 champion.
I scanned the board looking for 1980 – the year Evonne Goolagong-Cawley won her second title. Until Barty, she was the last Aussie woman to do so.
But I got a surprise. The name inscribed next to 1980 was ‘Mrs R. Cawley’. Momentarily puzzled, I suddenly realised that the ‘R’ must stand for the name of Goolagong-Cawley’s husband. And indeed it does: his name is Roger Cawley.
It is the same story for 1981, where the winner is listed as ‘Mrs J.M. Lloyd’. Who? It took me a second and then I realised this was actually Chris Evert. At the time, she was married to John Lloyd so ‘Mrs C.M. Evert-Lloyd’ would have been fair enough but ‘Mrs J.M. Lloyd’ is just bizarre.
I was aware of this convention – of labelling married women with not only the last names of their husbands but their initials too: at Christmas some elderly relatives send us cards addressed to ‘Mr and Mrs P Dennett’ as though my wife doesn’t have an identity. But surely Wimbledon must do away with such outdated and insulting styling.
Change is possible. Wimbledon now has a roof on centre court and court one, it uses Hawkeye technology, the players no longer have to bow and curtsy to the royal box and they are even allowed a tiny hint of colour in their white clothing.
It is time to rewrite the honours board. Remove all the anachronistic instances of ‘Miss’ and ‘Mrs’ and get rid of the initials of female players’ husbands. ‘Miss. R. Cawley’ should be ‘Evonne Goolagong-Cawley’ and ‘Miss. J.M. Lloyd’ should be ‘Chris Evert’.
By all means display the old honours board somewhere to preserve the history, but bring in a properly written modern board into the position of prominence. It is what the champion athletes deserve.