London: Novak Djokovic may have been the first man to break the $100 million prize money barrier, but those staggering riches have not cured his habit of spiriting away coveted Wimbledon towels.
And the world’s best player is not the only one happily stashing away the towels which can be bought from the All England Club shop for $35 apiece.
“I try to sneak in an extra towel here and there during the match, using the excuse that it’s too warm and I’m sweating,” said the Wimbledon champion in 2011, 2014 and 2015.
“I’m sure the All England Club Committee will forgive me for that extra towel per match.”
He added: “It makes a lot of people happy back in my country, the ones that are close to me. It’s great memorabilia.”
German star Dustin Brown, who famously knocked out Rafael Nadal last year but earns a relatively modest living mostly on the second-tier Challenger circuit, said the temptation was too great.
“Well, I mean, you have a lot of friends. Either you pay £40 for it or take them off the court and give them to your friends. That’s the answer to that,” said Brown after making the second round on Tuesday.
The company which produces the towels, Christy, once supplied Queen Victoria. Now most of their production is carried out in Gujarat in India.
Back in 2013, they supplied 99,000 towels to the championships. Many left over at the end of the fortnight were often gifted to the army of employees and volunteers who work at the tournament.
“(They) are much revered by the players and fans alike,” the company, founded in 1850, admitted on its website.
Players admit that friends and families often deluge them with requests to bring home a towel, although they often have to resist the pleas of fans who wait patiently courtside for a towel to be thrown their way.
“The first round is for me, the second round is for these people. Always, when I go out of the court, the fans ask for the towels. I say, Sorry, it’s booked already,” said popular French player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
His compatriot Richard Gasquet, however, is often spotted during the changeovers using a dull old white towel rather than one of the two green (for men) towels provided to each player.
“It’s because I’m sweating a lot. With the white towel, it’s more dry. It may be stupid, but I do it,” said Gasquet, a former semi-finalist.
“But I have two Wimbledon towels, I take them in the bag to give to my family. Every player is doing the same. It’s an incredible towel. When I stop tennis, I will be very happy to have these towels.”
America’s Madison Keys said requests can be maddening for the pink (for women) towels.
“I’m like, I can’t pack 75 towels and take them home. It’s not gonna happen. You can pick one tournament. I’ll bring you one towel.”
Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic has a different dilemma and is unable to say how many she has collected from her 12 visits to the All England Club.
But she has a good reason.
“Well, since I don’t really have a home, I don’t know.”