Fiona Meets Claire


A young woman sat down with us. Her hair was so blond it was almost silver; she kept it brushed back and held in place with a simple barrette. Her face was lovely, with large, pale blue eyes, and an impish grin. Her elegant white tennis dress had a matchbox skirt, with narrow, light blue ruffles on the seams. On the hem was embroidered in tiny blue script, ‘Teddy Tinling.’

She wore a thin, plain gold wedding band but no other jewellery, not even earrings, and, unusual for that time, no makeup. Well, perhaps there was a trace of cream on her cheeks to ward off the sun. But nothing else.

She wasn’t a large woman, but when she made even a simple movement—reaching for the pepper shaker, for example—it was impossible to miss the muscular power behind her limbs. Still, she was quite feminine.

The way she chatted with the referee was so friendly and outgoing that she might have been mistaken for an American, except that her upper class English accent gave her away. This, it dawned on me, was Claire Kershaw, and the idea that I was sitting at the same table with someone who had won Wimbledon—twice—was just incredible to me.

The referee turned to me. “Well, here’s your opponent this afternoon!” Kershaw stood up and reached out her hand. “I’m Claire.”

I shook her hand. “I’m Fiona Hodgkin.”

Claire burst into a smile. “I thought it might be you when I saw you just now! Fiona, I’ve heard so much about you!”

How could a Wimbledon champion possibly have heard of me? I was bewildered. But then a group of ladies descended on Claire for autographs and photographs, and I didn’t have the chance to talk to her again before our match. In those days, tennis outfits for ladies in the States (and Bermuda, for that matter) were usually shapeless dresses, or blouses with pleated skirts that, unfortunately, tended to emphasize the hips. Claire’s carefully tailored dress with its blue ruffles was a sensation at Longwood that afternoon.

From The Tennis Player from Bermuda

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