Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Only sport can do zis

To Centre Court at Wimbledon to see Gasquet versus Murray.

At 7.15, with Murray two sets down, looking clueless, his first serve not working and facing a rampant Gasquet serving for the match, I packed away my water bottle in my back pack and made ready to go home.

It was another two and a half hours before I picked up the bag and left, Murray having won three sets to two.

And people still ask what it is about sport.


  1. So what IS it about sport then, David? (I'm still genuinely puzzled!).

  2. ...and for that matter, what's this modern behavioural tic of people always walking around with a water bottle? Never used to happen when I were a lad, and the design of the human body hasn't changed in the last decade or two, yet everybody (else) seems to do it these days. Strange.

  3. I can understand what it is about sport, but not Wimbledon. A tournement that really does bring out the worst of a certain kind of Britishness. All the English people cheering for Murray despite the fact that he openly slags off England and is the most arrogant, obnoxious player on the tour. I just don't get it.

  4. Anonymous10:06 am

    You said it, Simon. A fortnight of jingoism for an army of HRT harridans and shires tories. They're welcome to it.

  5. I've been to sporting events of all kinds all over the world. The temptation to indulge in uncharitable generalisations about the nature of crowds is always there.

    I prefer to resist it.

  6. Anonymous12:21 pm

    I tuned in to watch the new BBC 1 thriller and instead got the last set of what was obviously a great game. Murray has all the determination and killer instinct Tiny Tim lacked. Also, as someone from Edinburgh, I should say that any sensible Englishman (which is hopefully most of you) knows that the anti-english stuff is all tongue-in-cheek.

    Good luck this afternoon Andy!

  7. Anonymous12:38 pm

    Indeed. Murray once said, jokingly, he would be supporting England's opponents at the 2006 World Cup, but as I recall it may have been a response to a journalist baiting him about Scotland not being there!
    Last night's match was fantastic. Murray's brilliant defensive shots and ability to come back from the brink of defeat was the sort of stuff you'd get from Andre Agassi a few years ago.
    This year's women's tournament has also been the strongest I can remember. Ivanovic's match with Dechy, when she was saved by the net cord on match point, was almost as gripping as last night's.

  8. He didn't say it jokingly, he said it for real; then had to do the most enormous climbdown.

  9. Anonymous1:16 pm

    ... when he realised how chippy the English media can be.

  10. Anonymous1:34 pm

    This morning's BBC Breakfast featured a debate on whether Murray should smile more.
    Despite the frothiness of the programme, it was a new low for punditry. And it's been said before, but if he goes out to Nadal he'll instantly become 'Scotland's Andy Murray'.


  11. Anonymous1:44 pm

    I was talking about anti-english stuff in general, not Murray's comments specifically. He's a young guy and was even younger when he made them, and I hope we can accommodate and dismiss such strutting macho arrogance in a young sportsman - baby and bathwater etc

  12. I've never seen the problem with the crowd at Wimbledon it's not like there aren't tossers and bores at football matches, you know the twisting with the wind flip flopping "rentaopinion" behind you, that knob with the bell from plymouth, the fat blokes who take their shirts off all the time. A few older women with flags and silly hats hardly seems a crime. As for Murray's anti-english nonsense it's not as if we've ever met a chippy celt is it?

  13. I have never cared much for tennis, or most other sports, but I went to Wimbledon once, two years ago, thanks to a pair of Radio 2 comps being left down the back of the radiator, and I was, I must admit, captivated. And I was watching a Henman match.

    That said, I haven't watched a single set since.

    I can confirm though for Peter H that not everybody in the crowd was on Hormone Replacement Therapy. Still, good to generalise in terms of age, gender, geography and political preference! Way to go.

  14. A perfect example of doughty British optimism from Jon above: "if he goes out to Nadal".

  15. The radio this morning was full of talk of the "relationship" between Murray and the crowd.

    Speaking as a member of that crowd it's more to do with etiquette than a relationship. It's difficult to support a tennis player given the fact that you have to be quiet when they're playing.

    In the first two sets Murray was playing like a drain and Gasquet was brilliant. Murray kept trying drop shots that didn't work. When this happened again and again, much as a crowd might want to say "oh, for God's sake", it has to content itself with a half-swallowed tut, like a parent watching his child louse up the Nativity play.

    When a player does something right the crowd roars its approval and exhorts him to do it again, only harder. The crowd can only get behind him when he appears to have some idea what he's doing.

    What's interesting about Murray is that he can only perform when the adrenaline is pumping. This is why he spends so much time orchestrating the crowd.

  16. Pedantry alert for bltp - the bell bloke is from Portsmouth, not Plymouth.

    He will be Scotland's Andy Murray when he loses, of course he will - but that's what he wants to be anyway.

  17. He's like Gordon Brown - British when it suits him and Scottish the rest of the time.

    On generalising on the crowd, maybe it's due to the only two people I've ever known to always get centre court tickets did so due to having incredibly rich parents. It does seem the ticket policy is:
    1) You're ok if you're fabulously wealthy/famous/well connected or in the media
    2) If not prepare to queue for three days
    3) If you don't fit into one of the above go sit on the hill
    Unfortunately this doesn't help with the general perception of Wimbledon.

  18. To really enjoy any sport I believe it is necessary to ignore, as much as posssible, all the chatter and hype from the media (if you do find a writer you like, just read them). The press mainly go down the "flag waving" route or the "FANTASTIC!" "DISASTER!" roads. Preconceptions about the type of crowd that goes to certain sports (from the same media) is best avoided also. All sports can provide exciting moments if you get into the actual sport itself and try and ignore the nonsense.

  19. Anonymous11:05 pm

    Well said Sean sir!

  20. Anonymous11:17 pm

    I forget that Tim Henman was such a ranked player (4 times semi-finalist) as he is just such a dull player to watch. Regardless of what's going on inside, he never displayed any real emotion.

    Murray does. he shows real heart and passion. And, whatever nationality you are, is surely hard not to warm to a guy like that. When it comes down to it, that's what sport is all about, people putting their all into it, win or lose.

  21. Anonymous11:19 pm

    Good call for staying! The BBC commentator noted that a fair number of people were heading for the exits at two sets down -he actually said "they think its all over".

  22. Anonymous11:42 pm

    Another generalisation but I do get the impression that most of the Wimbledon crowd have little interest in tennis for the rest of the year, which is where they differ from most other sporting crowds.

  23. A lot of spurious, borderline vitriolic, nonsense being said here that I feel moved to comment: If you want to get on centre court you can. You don't need to be 'fabulously weathly' or 'in the media', you just need to get to Wimbledon in time, queue for a bit (3 hours? nothing really), pay 50 - 100 quid (in sporting terms this is peanuts) and you should be able to get on and see several hours of tennis of the highest caliber. Okay this doesn't apply for the semis and final, but it's still a good system - there are few sporting events where you can go on the day and a buy a ticket without having booked months in advance and belong to some members club.

    Wimbledon crowds are always accused of causing an upsurge of interest for two weeks but 'they have little interest for the rest of the year which is where they differ from other sporting crowds' - this is nonsense. Aside from football, no sport retains its crowds aside from the biggest matches - rugby six nations - full house, premiership games, rarely sold out. Cricket - ashes, sold out queuing around the corner, county games - 7 men and a dog. I openly admit this is how I follow these sports - the club competitions don't interest me. It's just that tennis main attraction comes around at a time when there is little other sport and is massively promoted then dies away again. The Six Nations is much the same but spread over six weeks.

    It's so boring to slate Wimbledon as some middle-class middle England thing, almost jingoistic, but it's only that if you want it to be. I went for the first time on Saturday and saw Americans, Czechs, Germans all supporting their players, young and old alike enjoying a sport that can provide genuine and thrilling moment of sheer sporting drama - as this blog originally was commenting on.

  24. THIS is what sport is about.

    Criminally, after Goran wins, this video cuts off the bit where he runs up through the stands to hug his father. You can watch this, and his lovely victory speech here:

  25. Anonymous10:44 pm

    "And it's been said before, but if he goes out to Nadal he'll instantly become 'Scotland's Andy Murray'."


    I'm Scottish, but live in London. A few months ago I was back in Glasgow, and got into conversation with a taxi driver about Murray. From the way the conversation was going, I bet myself that he was going to come out with exactly the piece of crap above. And sure enough, he did.

    It's like a mantra among some whinging Scots, who really should get a life and stop having such a chip on their shoulders about the English.


  26. Thank you to peter h and simon for enlightening me about the ticketing policy at Wimbledon. There was me thinking that the massive demand for scarce tickets was sorted by a system of a) an open ballot; and b) first come first served. It seemed to be the fairest approach but I now realise that it’s all fiddled so that only tory toffs from the “shires” get in.
    I’ve lived in Wimbledon for 20 years and always enjoy the atmosphere during the tournament created by the swarms of (mainly young) people from all over the world knocking about the place. I now realise that they are just poshos from the Home Counties mounting an elaborate fancy dress spoof.