Monday, July 08, 2013

Wimbledon – count me out !

In the Daily Telegraph Peter Oborne decries the middle-classness of tennis. I agree with him 100%! As a sporting nutcase I'll go anywhere anytime to watch it played at the highest level. Silverstone last week. Trent Bridge this. And I believe that when it comes to one-to-one sporting combat nothing can beat tennis. It requires fitness, nerve, creativity and (in the man's game anyway) cojones of steel. I have been to Wimbledon a couple of times many years ago but despite my admiration for tennis and tennis players I haven't been back. As Peter says it is played and watched live by a very narrow cohort indeed. We are very good at putting on tournaments where the privileged can go along, eat their strawberries, display their jingoism and have a jolly time before going back to Esher, and Tunbridge Wells and boasting about it.

Class defines British sport as much as it ever did. I go as often to White Hart Lane as I do to Twickenham – the cultures are dramatically different. To start with spectators at Spurs are far better behaved than they are at Twickenham! Seated in my expensive seats at the Home of Rugby I would say I would have to make way for others in my row at least a dozen times in the hour and a half of a game – and during play not just at half time. They drink cold, over-priced swill continuously and they replenish their glasses and empty their bladders without giving a stuff for the spectators like me they disturb. This never happens at the Lane – drink is banned beyond the bar areas and anyway people are predominantly there to watch the football. All too many in the expensive seats at Twickenham are beneficiaries of the malignant Corporate Hospitality syndrome. Piss-artists with one eye on their glass and perhaps one occasionally on the field of play.

Back to Wimbledon. It and the English tennis establishment that surrounds it is an abysmal failure when it comes to the production of decent British tennis players. It’s been so for decades. Andy Murray owes nothing to the LTA – his progress was almost entirely separate from what purports to be Britain’s tennis academies and coaching set-ups. He is our only man in the world top 100. Spain and France (for example) each have 13! Is the class exclusivity of tennis to blame? Well what other reason is there? Facilities are concentrated in areas that can afford them and the costs of being a club member (never mind the social elitism) are unaffordable for many. Do state schools have tennis courts, coaches and a proper system of talent spotting? Ha!

British tennis is a shameful mess – decades of incompetence and neglect have made us an also ran on the world stage. Our Davis Cup record is deplorable for a nation of 60million – and the one that invented the game! So I won’t be going to Wimbledon to rub shoulders with the self-satisfied elite who frequent it or who sit on the preposterous “Hill” bawling their support for somebody, Andy Murray, who owes them nothing at all.

No comments: