Thank you all for coming, and a special welcome to Philip’s family: Jane, Anna & Eva.
A few years ago, when my Mum was ill, Philip sent her a print of one of his photographs. He knew that she, like him, had been a professional photographer, and hoped she might derive some pleasure from the image. Within the dark, night-time surround was a captivating portrait of one of London’s ‘other workers’, a Muslim cleaning lady, seen through the doors of the Royal Bank of Scotland. The angle of her vacuum cleaner mirrored her aching back, the giant illuminated glass brought to mind the dome shape of a mosque.
“This is exciting” I said to Mum, “We are obviously witnesses to a minimum wage worker, labouring within a temple to the God of money”
“Well, maybe” said Mum, looking down her nose at her second-born cretin of a son, “But what Philip has really achieved here, is to show grace and beauty in an instance where you wouldn’t usually notice it - and he only had a millisecond to capture it - that is his talent. His appreciation that beauty takes many forms, and that the lowliest people possess grace and dignity”
Thus chastened, I began to see our friend, Philip, in a different light - not just as a social or political commentator, but as an artist. Now I would be lying if I said that his tennis contained either grace or beauty, but every finalist here today will have played a set with or against him, and all of us will have been passed down the line by his forehand, or beaten by his backhand volley. He still holds the record for the most double-faults in one game, yet, astonishingly, winning that game.
But I don’t think any of us will remember Philip for his shot making, or his over-generous line calling: everyone who spoke to me after his death used the words Gentleman, Kind, Decent, Charming and, yes, Handsome. Especially touching were the tearful tributes from our young coaching team - every one of them had played a set or two and had a cup of tea with this generous man when they were growing up. Perhaps the most perfect illustration of the effect Philip had on even the toughest people was summarised yesterday: I bumped into Janna in the car park, in the pouring rain, and asked her if, despite the dismal forecast, she would come along to say goodbye to our old friend.
“Matt” she said, “I don’t fall in love with many men, but I really loved Philip. I will be there, even in a storm.”
Hurtful, Janna, to the rest of us losers, but a touching tribute nevertheless.
And so, we have planted this memorial olive tree in memory of Philip - it is rough and gnarled, but also a thing of grace and beauty. His daughter, Eva has made the planter, so current and future tennis tea-drinkers can sit and mourn their losses under its branches.
[Our Over 65s Final today was also played in honour of Philip, so I’d like Jane, Philip’s wife, to come up and present the trophy to the winners, Charlie & Naomi. Last year, Charlie had a hip replacement, and this year Naomi is looking for a husband replacement. (watering can trophy) ]