Taki

High life | 14 July 2012

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Dare I encroach on James Delingpole’s TV territory and ask what has happened to Wimbledon? A crying jag in public would surely have embarrassed Baron von Cramm, a three-time losing finalist, not to mention Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and John Newcombe, all three multiple winners of the crown. Back in my time, Lew Hoad won it and I took him to Les Ambassadeurs nightclub, owned by John Mills, no relation to the actor. No one recognised him, which was fine with Lew. So he did the same in 1957, murdering Ashley Cooper in the process, and once again we went out and got smashed near Hyde Park Corner. No one, not even the women, cried back then, especially in public and on the telly. Angela Mortimer, Ann Jones, even Ginny Wade in the Jubilee Year, would not have dreamt of it. All three are Brits and all three are Wimbledon winners. Angela’s hubby made mincemeat of Taki in the Wimbledon doubles in 1957, and I remember him looking at me with amazement as I kept wiping my very red and swollen eyes. Hay fever, I told him, and he sighed with relief.

When did the crying start? I’ve no idea, but I remember when Pete Sampras did it in the middle of a match — his coach had just died of leukemia — so he had a valid excuse. That was about ten years ago. Then the greatest of them all, Roger Federer, cried in Paris, and it’s been downhill ever since. Mind you, although not a Murray fan, I totally understand his emotional state after a great final. He had really given it his all, and even more, so he was drained of everything, including emotional control. What really peed me off, however, were not the players crying, but that nice Sue Barker giving a platform to the likes of Serena Williams to play the eternal victim and to thank everyone under the stars for helping her win her fifth title. What the hell is this? The Oscars? 

The recently retired chief racket-stringer of the All England Club went on record as saying that the two most horrible human beings he knows were the Williams sisters. They treated him as an underling, were rude, and never said thanks. Par for the course. I still know a few oldies connected with the game and they have more or less told me the same thing. The Williams family has a lot to learn where manners and sportsmanship are concerned. 

Now before any of you start to smell racism on my part, furgerraboutit. Solipsism is an essential part of being a great athlete, but the Williams girls, especially Serena, also like to play the victim. Sweet and jolly Sue Barker facilitates them. Although Sue did bring up that the losing finalist, Aggie Radwanska, was not feeling her best during the final. The brave Polish girl had a fever and had been sick for days. Never have I rooted more for one than I did for her, but it was not to be. I love Poland and the Poles, and have always had a crush on Poland’s foreign minister’s wife, but that’s another story altogether. 

Even that terrifically gifted commentator who tells it like it is, John McEnroe, lost his way when it came to la Williams. He called her the greatest ever, which is a bit premature, if you ask me. The greatest ever until now is Margaret Court, with 24 majors to her credit, followed by the best-looking pair of legs ever to hit a tennis ball, Steffi Graf with 22.Then come Chrissie Evert and Martina Navratilova with 19 each, and then Serena, with 14. No one ever mentions Margaret Court any more because she has devoted her life to the Church and is against all the things we now embrace, basically homosexuality and gay marriage. Once that story got out, la Margaret became a non-person overnight. Such are the joys of political correctness, one can win 24 majors and never be mentioned because one is opposed to Sir Elton making David Furnish Lady John. Incidentally, and while I’m at it, what’s the ruling on mixed doubles? Can two men who are married play in them? I think a ruling is due and the quicker the better. 

But back to the mawkishness that television coverage brings to sport, especially in tennis. What I’d like to know is what ever happened to the phlegmatic Brits? I know times are ‘a changin’’ but John Lloyd sounded like a spiv selling used cars at times. He was right to pick Murray to win because the match was so much closer than the score indicated. Greg Rusedski said the one who wins the first set wins the match, which proved that both men know tennis as well as anyone, but that no one can predict the outcome of a tennis match between equals. When asked to predict the outcome of a match between equals, I remain a cunctator — look up the word, it was given to me by our executive editor. Which shows that I know something about the game. Federer is my man because he comes from a country as small as Scotland that is not in the EU, is a Luddite in the new technology department — still using a racket head of 90 inches with natural gut — and the man who still shrinks the court by playing close to the baseline and going to the net. And using only one arm to hit the ball. And this has been my first and last television column. Sorry, James..