Brilliance in backwards hats: Trio tries for Wimbledon history

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LONDON — Sure, Novak Djokovic is pursuing history, but what about his fellow fourth-round Wimbledon competitors Matteo Berrettini, Christopher Eubanks and Holger Rune? Each member of that trio is four wins from a uniquely heady accomplishment in the annals of the 146-year-old Championships.

All three are wearing backwards caps on court — a fashion statement no man or woman has made while capturing a singles title at the All England Club.

“I think it’s a cool style,” said Rune, a 20-year-old Dane, who wasn’t a fan until he first tried it two years ago in Chile, in his second ATP tournament.

“Now it’s just a part of how I look on the court — I don’t really think about it anymore. I tried to play without, but then I sweat a lot, so it gets in my eyes and stuff like this.”

Berrettini, an Italian, 27, who was a 2021 finalist against Djokovic, said that when he was coming back from an injury in 2016 he picked up the habit — one his father also had — and it helps to keep sweat off his face. “I just liked it, then I figured when I was taking it off, I was sweating.”

Eubanks, a 27-year-old American, said he experimented with caps in both directions when he was in college at Georgia Tech.

“Seeing the bill of the hat on my serve started to get a little bit annoying, so then I just consistently started to go backwards from then on,” said Eubanks, who isn’t sold on the bill of a front-facing cap effectively blocking the sun.

Neither the unseeded Eubanks nor No. 6 Rune has ever advanced past Wimbledon’s fourth round. Eubanks faces No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas on Monday; Rune goes up against No. 21 Grigor Dimitrov and the unseeded Berrettini’s opponent is top-seeded Carlos Alcaraz.

Many consider 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt the player who popularized the backwards cap in tennis, but he didn’t wear one when he won Wimbledon. The Aussie did have one on the year before, however, when he captured the US Open title.

The 2023 edition of Wimbledon’s annual compendium, a 556-page bound reference book, includes a list of the headgear worn by singles champions.

The wearing of caps of any kind began in 1887 with Lottie Dod’s white cap. A total of 46 champions have worn some form of headgear, dating back to the straw hat Maud Watson wore as she beat her older sister, Lilian, in 1884.

The headwear would be anything but headline material if Berrettini, Eubanks or Rune were to earn the gentlemen’s singles trophy next Sunday, but it wouldn’t just be a footnote, either. It would be entrance into the record book, with wearers of bandanas, headbands, visors and even a beret.

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