players (who come from all over the world) and the game they play (which is
international) there is a flavor distinctively British in the tennis
championships held each year at this time by the All-England Lawn Tennis and
Croquet Club in Wimbledon, just outside London. Last year as the tournament,
founded in 1877 and once known as the world championships, got under way for
the 75th time, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED invited Satirist Andr� Fran�ois, a French
artist with a sharply pointed style and uninhibited palette, to cross the
Channel and have a look at it through sympathetic but alien eyes. He responded
to the challenge with the paintings on the following pages and a notebook full
of sly comment to go with them.
landscape," notes Andr� Fran�ois, "consists of trees, meadows, houses
buried in the trees, and hills and hills of cars. The newspaper vendors look
very fierce. In certain sections distinguished people under distinguished
umbrellas are being served distinguished tea. In other areas undistinguished
people serve themselves tea cakes and ice cream—and look. The only real
extraverts in England are the aristocracy watchers. They don't even pretend not
to look. They look and look. They get on their toes and look. There goes the
most distinguished person of all. The sunset and the Wimbledon flag are
reflected in the bonnet of his Rolls-Royce."
Wimbledon is green," adds Artist Fran�ois, "but the grass tennis
courts. Green ivy, green canopies, green chairs, green doors, green
balconies—blue-green, black-green, green-green. But the tennis courts are
yellowish, like the green velvet of a Victorian armchair which has faded away.
In the midst of it sits the umpire wearing a straw hat and, definitely, a
carnation. He is a little smug and seems to have been sitting there since the
19th century. All of a sudden the sky gets dark and it begins to rain. The lawn
is covered up, and in the unsheltered parts of the grounds there is a
blossoming of umbrellas. People are used to rain in England."
You have to call
them hats," notes Wimbledon's visiting Frenchman, "because ladies wear
them on their heads. If you had not been to Wimbledon you would not believe it.
This is London's open-air flower and vegetable market. Women walk about with
pink cabbages, turquoise roses, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and game birds
caught in Portuguese fishnets all on the top of their heads. You see very few
men here. All you see are hats. The best show of all is that of the ball boys.
Pointers and retrievers combined, they communicate with each other in silent
telegraphy. They scoop up a ball, duck and become suddenly immobile like church
The rewards for
the players," concludes Fran�ois, "seem an anticlimax after the
magnificence of the hats, the splendor of the pas de deux on the courts and the
ballets of the ball boys. Two canvas rugs are placed on the lawn. A small table
is covered with a Union Jack, and a small silvery bucket is placed on top of
it. Amid breathless silence a tiny old lady walks out over the rugs to the
bucket. One day she may be a little old duchess; another day she may be a duke.
As she presents the bucket, the winners will bow deeply, the photographers will
snap their shutters and the reporters, ball boys and television men will watch