Anorak News | No-One For Tennis

No-One For Tennis

by | 26th, June 2003

‘EARLIER this week the BBC’s coverage of Wimbledon tennis was interrupted for a few words from newly-converted tennis fan Nell McAndrew.

No, Nell, that’s a stool, not a tennis racket

Nell, a model whose quest for publicity recently saw her ”marry” Dale Winton, was now available to talk up the summer sport.

She’d never played it, save for an exhibition match with Tim Henman, in which she made an exhibition of herself.

Nell, Britain’s answer to Anna Kournikova, was soon joined by a man, a fashion designer, who had created a range of tennis T-shirts.

The gear was nothing too special, although the TV presenter Craig Doyle said he thought it was ace.

The only notable thing was that the clothes were black, like the man who had designed them. Here was Wimbledon breaking a written rule – the one about white clothes – and an unwritten rule – the one about black people.

Of course there are black faces at Wimbledon. There are the Williams sister for starters. And for finishers.

But they get less press than the menopausal fans who flag wave for Tim Henman. These fans are an embarrassment to the sport. To them it is a hobby, up there with macramé and scrabble.

This is not Henman’s fault, he can only do his best, but he must be concerned that his appeal goes little further than the Beaconsfield Cake Club.

It is, perhaps, a product of how the game is sold. To the BBC, the channel that covers Wimbledon, the domestic Grand Slam event is a chance for lots of cheap sun-kissed telly.

It is fronted by Sue Barker, the most boring presenter of all time – the epitome of how introverted a sport becomes when it employs sportspeople as journalists.

She chortles at the sight of patriotic men in Union Jack waistcoats. She creases up at the mere mention of Henman Hill, delighting in what she would doubtless call the ”very Britishness” of it all.

We should, however, be thankful that she is not one half of a double act. Had Sue married Cliff Richard, her former and seemingly only boyfriend, we might have been lumbered with tennis’ answer to Richard and Judy.

”This is just great,” says Cliff to his livin’ doll. ”Look! There’s a Union Jack,” splutters Sue, excited as a puppy to see the flag now used as a picnic blanket on the aforesaid Hill. ”Groovy,” says Cliff.

So please let’s change things before they get any worse. Tennis is a sport, and should be treated like one.

If Britain is ever to produce a champion it will need to be at the new all-inclusive All England club. And not the last refuge of the Empire culture.

Posted: 26th, June 2003 | In: Back pages Comment (1) | TrackBack | Permalink