I find myself conflicted by Wimbledon.
There’s so much about it that makes my Northern working-class gut retch acrid bile. Yesterday the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (and if you’re a true blue-blood when you get a title the lackeys just say ‘pick a town, any town’) got front-row seats because... because, I dunno, his Mum loved the tennis, didn’t she? Cue, moist eyes and me missus grabbing for the Kleenex.
Murray gave them a bow – it must’ve been sarcastic, surely – and I thought they least they could do was bow back, or tell him to stop being so feckin’ stupid. But if you’re brought up that way you just do an infinitesimally small nod as if somehow you deserve it.
I mean all the great and the good have been there to watch, haven’t they? – Bob ‘Wake Me Up When He’s Finished’ Willis, Dermot O’Leary (the little plank at the start of X-Factor), erm.... oh you know, all of them. It’s like one of them ‘orrible ITV C-list festival shows ‘An Audience With Andy Murray’.
Oh and Billie-Jean King was there – still looking like the scariest schoolma’am in the history of American education.
She’s regarded with great fondness by the commentators, with much being made of her ‘knowledge’, ‘expertise’ and ‘enthusiasm’. The implication is that she’s one hell of a bore.
'Course Wimbledon holds on to its traditions like a drowning man clinging to driftwood. Rafa Nadal is defending the Gentleman’s Singles which actually makes it sound like a website detailing exclusive public conveniences for closet homosexuals. The women compete for the Ladies’ title. Ha! That’s no lady, that’s a screaming Eastern European banshee.
Everyone’s still wearing white - presumably cos it looks proper against the green of the grass. I couldn’t give a toss what they’re wearing although I don’t think Venus Williams was helped by trying to play tennis in a lace bin-bag.
There’s also the major bug-bear of hearing two-bit also-ran former British number threes chuntering away about players whose deeds far exceed anything they’ll ever do. Like sparrows giving flying advice to albatrosses.
You watch the tired litany of English wild-card holders all bombing out in the first round and you know for a fact that in 2020, half of them’ll be working for the BBC for 2 weeks of every year.
And there’s the fans, bless ‘em, queuing up in their little tents and looking for all the world like the bit of Glasto that’s set aside for the Women’s Institute. (Incidentally, watched a bit of U2 and, like avocadoes and Little Britain, I’m still at a loss as to why they’re so popular. Beyonce, on the other hand... ha-cha-cha-chaaaa!)
And yet despite all the hackles on me back, it’s a fantastic tournament. This may have summat to do with the fact that we live in rare old times as far as the men’s game is concerned. Jimmy Connors doesn’t seem to appreciate the rivalries at the top of the game cos they’re all so nice. I used to hate watching Connors play meself cos it was hard not to wish a decent barber on the basin-haired grunter.
Federer and Nadal (complete with perennial injury cloud) we know all too well. Djokovic is clearly a magnificent player but appears shorn of any personality on court, except when he’s smashing the shit out his racquet. (I empathise with the lad; it usually takes me four points – or pints - to get to that stage, not two and a half sets).
But yes, they’re all nice lads.
People in the game’ll tell you that the Williams sisters are nice lasses n all. I’ve no doubt they are. Trouble is no one seems to warm to them in this country. Now let me be frank. I think it’s cos Venus and Serena stomp up here with their strapping, let’s not deny it, black limbs and make one Caucasian after another look like they’re made from so many stale twiglets.
Elena Dementieva - serves like a girl.
Now I could take or leave the Jehovah’s Witness stuff but then again I don’t remember either of them sticking their tennis racquets into my hall to stop me closing my front door. And I could probably do without the use of ever-increasing decibels when the point gets very serious.
But there seems to be an underlying sense that their achievements need to be downgraded somehow. They did it their own way, their Dad learnt tennis from a book, they don’t play enough tournaments, they seem to be able to win them whilst managing a business and having a life... all most irregular.
And maybe, too, it’s the fact that there’s two of them. If one don’t get you the other one will. And somehow that’s not fair.
It’s bollocks of course. I don’t think it’s possible to overstate their achievements. They grew up in Compton, played a sport in which black people are as rare as a decent salad in Newcastle. They’ve contended with implicit prejudice, personal tragedy and, as Serena’s blubbing proved after her victory in week one, they care deeply about the sport they play.
I mean what's not to like?
Maybe, like the retrospective love-in that the (not very feminine) woman Martina Navratilova enjoys and deserves, there’ll come a time when a nostalgic fondness for the Williamses overcomes us all. I remember Chris Evert being ‘Miss Poker-Face’. Then she married John Lloyd and we loved her. Ahh!
Maybe Serena could take up with Jamie Murray, eh? Or we could just acknowledge that, even with injuries leaving them looking rustier than the bedsprings in a water bed, both Venus and Serena proved themselves to be two of sport’s greatest exponents and fiercest competitors.
In the meantime, Rafa’s foot’ll be fine and he – and Kvitova (who?) will be champions.
PS Is there a bit of you out there that wouldn’t mind if a bit of David Haye was left in Hamburg?
PPS Mike Doyle died today. A great player, one of them who, were it not for Bobby Moore, would’ve played for England many times.