It was the end of an era on Sunday afternoon as the Duke of Kent presented his final trophy at Wimbledon before retiring as President of the All England Lawn Tennis Association, ending an association that the Kents have held with Wimbledon for decades.
For many of us, the Duke of Kent is just as synonymous with Wimbledon as the players themselves: we’ve watched him present the trophies year after year for decades—and, as a royal watcher from a young age, I have to confess that my parents thought it was hilarious to shout out every time the camera cut to the Duke or any other royals in attendance just to watch me whip my head up to catch a glimpse of him.
But now, with the news that the Duchess of Cambridge, who has served as the AELTC’s patron since 2016, will take over presenting the trophies from now on, assuming the role from the Duke, it must be said: Wimbledon is in safe hands with the tennis-loving duchess as the royal face of the sport.
Sure, Kate is one of the most photographed women on the planet, and there are people out there who will watch the matches she shows up for simply to see her on the television and buy whatever she’s wearing, but there’s no question that Kate loves the sport and has made it a cornerstone of her royal career.
Last year, when the world was locked down, and tennis clubs couldn’t meet, the Duchess of Cambridge surprised youngsters from Bond Primary School in south London with a video call with Andy Murray. Then, when he won the Men’s Singles Championship in 2013, she wrote him a letter congratulating him since her doctor wouldn’t clear her, as she was heavily pregnant with Prince George at the time, to watch the match in person (in a later interview, he praised her handwriting).
And then there’s Roger Federer who, at this point, is a Middleton family friend, having given a private lesson to Prince George, been called Carole’s heartthrob (a role Kate unabashedly revealed in a 2017 interview, saying, “I don’t think she’s going to mind me saying that. I think he probably knows that, too”), and attended Pippa Middleton Matthews’ 2017 wedding.
In a 2017 BBC special on Wimbledon, he spoke about Kate adding prestige to the tournament: “It adds even more prestige to the tournament seeing Princess Catherine there, Prince William, who knows maybe in the future we’ll see some of those people giving Wimbledon trophy as well, that would be beautiful I think.”
Kate would go on to present her first trophies in 2019 to reigning champion Novak Djokovic and Federer and will hand out the trophies from now on starting next summer.
Even Simona Halep, the Ladies Singles champion in 2019, is excited about Kate’s love of tennis. In a press conference ahead of the final match that year, she said that if she could play in front of anyone that weekend, she’d want the Duchess to be there because “I like her.” And when she won, and the interviewer pointed out Kate—and Meghan—in the royal box and reminded Halep that she’d get to meet them, her smile lit up her face.
A few minutes later, getting her face time in with Kate, the royal praised Halep: “It was so inspiring to watch. You played an incredible game. It was really, really impressive. So, congratulations and enjoy the celebrations.”
Legends are made on the courts at Wimbledon, as the organisers like to remind us. In his time, the Duke of Kent was there for the beginning of the Open Era. He saw greats like Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray play their way to becoming Wimbledon champs. He has seen historical matches, presided over necessary changes to the sport, and witnessed the evolution of tennis.
Now, with the Duchess of Cambridge at the helm, it’s her turn to watch as Wimbledon evolves. The tournament is in great hands.