This week’s biggest controversy

Exactly what is it? It can’t be Osborne’s cosmetic cuts in the welfare budget – everybody knows these have to do with politics, not economics. Cosmetics won’t improve an ugly face, George, which is the one our economy presents.

Nor is it the ruling of the US Supreme Court on same-sex marriage, which is now deemed to be in full accord with what the framers of the US Constitutions had in mind. Nothing controversial about that, unless you hoped American spivs were any different from ours.

It’s not even Boris Johnson yet again approving of homomarriage and also referring, in rather uninhibited language, to ways in which it can be consummated. There would be some controversy there if say the Pope said the same thing, but with Boris one just considers the source.

Well, I shouldn’t keep you guessing for much longer. This week’s biggest controversy has been caused by Serena Williams’s knickers. Or, to be more precise, their colour.

In common with most leading manufacturers of tennis clothes, Nike pushes a new style every year. That includes a new colour, and in this year’s Wimbledon it’s puce.

In keeping with their sponsorship deals all Nike players wear something puce, if only the logo which this year is that very colour.

Now the All England Tennis Club has a strict all-white policy throughout the year, not just during the grand slam tournament. Their charter says that the players’ clothes must be ‘predominantly white’, which I once found out the hard way by being denied access to a court there for wearing black shorts.

The conservative in me both approves of this bow towards tradition and deplores the discriminatory way in which the rule is enforced.

The reigning champion Roger Federer showed up for his first round wearing shoes with puce soles. Considering that the rest of his attire, other than the Nike logos, was snow-white, the ‘predominantly’ requirement was satisfied.

Not according to the members of the tournament committee though. They promptly expressed their outrage by demanding that Roger wear normal, predominantly white, shoes for his second round.

Federer, who pays inordinate attention to his grooming, was so upset that he promptly lost to a journeyman ranked 113 places below him. Of course other commentators came up with different reasons for his defeat, but you and I know better.

So far so good. Yet even as I write this, Serena Williams is on court, flashing her puce knickers underneath a very short white dress.

At the risk of sounding unchivalrous, the area covered by this garment is considerably larger than Federer’s shoe soles, and possibly his whole ensemble. Moreover, while Roger’s soles were only visible when he jumped, Serena’s knickers can be admired every second of the match (I did tell you her dress is very short).

Yet the tournament committee didn’t utter a single word of complaint. Discrimination or what?

I can’t for the life of me understand why women players deserve preferential treatment. Is it not enough that they get the same prize money as the men, even though they spend half the time playing their matches and, judging by their technique and conditioning, a third of the time training?

I mean, have you ever seen a fat man playing tennis professionally? I haven’t, and I watch a lot of tennis.

Yet here is Marion Bartoli of France, reproducing in her body the map shape of her native land. There’s something wrong when a professional athlete paid millions for her trade has a waist broader than her shoulders. And Marion isn’t the only one, believe me.

Now the tennis establishment has added sartorial discrimination to the fiscal kind. The egalitarian in me is aghast.

Let’s get Serena out of her knickers, I say. Let fairness rule.





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