Murray shouldn’t have relied on injury-prone Raducanu

Talk about raging against the dying of the light: Andy Murray and President Biden both. Murray because he is no longer as quick on his feet and Joe Biden because he’s no longer, well, quick. At all. Biden has said he will only step down if the Lord Almighty tells him to, and ethereal intervention might not be too far away, after the BBC’s Thought for the Day turned its spiritual gaze on to the Biden/Murray dilemma the other day. Raducanu’s dodgy wrist was not good enough for tiger mum Judy Murray Poor old Murray had tried to keep the end at bay with a mixed doubles partnership with golden

The sheer drudgery of professional tennis

Wimbledon’s starched whites, manicured flower beds and hushed silence enable tennis to present itself as a genteel sport. But Wimbledon only represents tennis in the way that an Olympic 100m final represents athletics. It is the best players in the best setting for a brief period. Actual tennis, the day-to-day life of a regular player on the circuit, is very different. It is relentless, stingy and unsentimental. The most surprising thing about The Racket, Conor Niland’s bruising account of his career as a good (but not great) tennis player, is that he emerges with both his sanity and his compassion intact. Tennis is not an easy game to break into.

I sledged Steve Smith for England

In this summer of sporting dramas, every patriotic sports fan likes to think he’s done his bit to help. I went up to Manchester with my brother last Thursday and in the evening we found ourselves in an Indian restaurant with the England wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow at the next table. I feel sure it was Edward’s and my manly cries of ‘Good luck, Jonny’ as he left that helped him bat so brilliantly for his 99 not out. Though I suppose it could have been the vindaloo that fired him up. My major influence on the Ashes series came a few days earlier, when I bumped into the Australian all-time-great batsman

The death of sportsmanship

Now that Wimbledon is over, a few thoughts about youthful brains showing traces of horse tranquillisers, angel dust and cannabis, the ingredients that spell ‘moron’. I mean those sporting idiots who booed Victoria Azarenka after she lost the tiebreak 11 to 9 in the third set to the charming Ukrainian Elina Svitolina. Here’s Vica – a woman, a mother, a wonderful player and, through no fault of her own, a Belarusian – being booed for going along with the decision of Ukrainian players not to shake hands with Russian or Belarusian opponents. When a Ukrainian player refused to shake hands during the French Open last month, the public booed her,

Anyone for tennis – on film?

With Wimbledon fortnight upon us, what better time to explore tennis on the silver screen? Even more fortuitous is that Aidan Turner’s raunchy Amazon Prime series Fifteen Love will debut this summer, in which the Poldark star plays a tennis coach with a chequered past. Turner also features as moustachioed TV presenter Declan O’Hara (shades of Des Lynam as was) in Disney+’s upcoming adaptation of Jilly Cooper’s Rivals, a show apparently so steamy it needed two intimacy coaches. As an aspirational, largely middle-class game, tennis when depicted in the movies is largely free of the pile-ons, punch-ups and bad language of films about football, rugby and other contact sports. But,

The Oprah-fication of Wimbledon

Now that the weakest Wimbledon since 1973 – the year of the boycott – is over, a few thoughts about Pam Shriver’s recent revelations that her coach Don Candy, deceased, was also her lover. Candy was 50 at the time, while Pam was 17, which in my book made Candy a lucky guy, assuming it was legal. The age of consent varies from place to place, and the only time I had to defend myself was when an irate father, whose 28-year-old daughter I had dated, rang me early in the morning and complained about me being 72. ‘There is no age limit as far as being too old,’ I

The only thing stopping Nick Kyrgios is himself

It’s hard to watch Nick Kyrgios for long without the sense he wants the world to know he considers everything beneath him. Clearly, journalists are beneath him and he treats them with open contempt at every opportunity, but so too are the officials he abuses, the opponents he mocks and even tennis itself. ‘I don’t really like the sport of tennis that much. I don’t love it’, he has stated publicly, claiming instead that his real affection is for basketball. To say Kyrgios has failed to realise his talent for tennis is one of sport’s great understatements, and something he seems to accept. ‘I thought my ship had sailed,’ he

A very classy thriller indeed: C4’s The Undeclared War reviewed

The Undeclared War has many of the traditional signifiers of a classy thriller: the assiduous letter-by-letter captioning of every location; the weirdly precise time-checks (‘Sunday 09.47’); above all, the frankly baffling opening scene. In it, a young woman walked around a deserted fairground, broke into a beach hut that turned into a gym and spotted a door in the ceiling which led into a stately home. Gradually, the fact that the first episode interspersed this with the same woman typing computer code made it clear what was going on: writer/director Peter Kosminsky was making a plucky attempt to solve his main challenge here. Never afraid of a big issue, Kosminsky

What Wimbledon gets wrong about tennis fans

Brace yourself for the unmistakable sound of a tennis ball thwacking away in the background of your living room for two weeks – Wimbledon is finally upon us. As skilled as the players on the court are, it’s the delightful spectacle of my family’s amateur commentary that I enjoy the most. ‘Who on earth is that?’ my grandmother used to ask, unfailingly, when anyone unseeded dared to play against her beloved Steffi Graff. ‘The Spaniard is touching his bum again’ is the refrain in our house when Nadal prepares to serve. For the casual spectator, it’s our lack of true tennis expertise that makes the tournament such a delight to

Can we talk about Emma Raducanu’s Christianity?

I’ve just been looking at photographs of Emma Raducanu again, this time focusing on her upper chest. She usually wears a pendant cross, which suggests that she is a Christian. Yes I know that some people wear crosses for fashion reasons, but I don’t think she’s in that camp. Maybe it’s more a sign of cultural than religious allegiance, maybe a treasured gift from a grandparent? Or maybe a sign of solidarity with China’s persecuted Christians. To what extent is it legitimate to inquire into this? The orthodoxy is, not at all, you meddling creep. It’s her business, and it’s utterly irrelevant to her tennis success. But it is not

The sport of the Royal Box

Yes, we tune in for the tennis on Wimbledon fortnight. But lovers of SW19 also tune in for another kind of spectating on any given day: the sport of the Royal Box. A championship of notoriety and celebrity in its own right. Raised feudally above the Centre Court, the Royal Box has seventy-four Lloyd Loom dark green chairs for its chosen occupants on all thirteen days of play. For nearly a century, since 1922, the Royal Box has welcomed an illustrious rollcall of guests, described by the All England Club as ‘British and overseas Royal Families, heads of government, people from the world of tennis, commercial partners, British armed forces,

The dying art of sports commentary

Wimbledon is here at last, after its absence in 2020. What struck me watching the French Open on television a couple of weeks before was just how much rubbish I had to listen to if I kept the sound on. There are now too many matches broadcast, which means more and more commentators spouting off about the game in the middle of rallies. I don’t know why viewers don’t raise hell with the networks about these non-stop blabbermouths who interrupt our viewing. We’ve become a nation of sheep, accepting everything so-called experts throw at us. Televised sport needs commentators only before and after the event. Although the Wimbledon lot spout

In defence of Naomi Osaka

‘Kawaisou’ or ‘wagamama’ (poor thing or spoiled brat)? That’s the question Japanese tennis fans have been asking ever since world number two Naomi Osaka quit the French Open, having refused to fulfil her post-match press conference obligations. The tennis superstar cited mental health problems for her reluctance to be quizzed by journalists, after which she was censored sharply, and handed a $15,000 (£11,000) fine. She was told to comply, but has chosen not to, packing her bags and leaving instead.  Osaka has said that she suffers ‘bouts of depression’ and has confessed to a chronic shyness that prompts her to wear headphones to shut out the world whenever she is at a tournament.

The science of tennis grunts

The cancellation of Wimbledon this summer deprived fans of their annual exercise in moralising. There is one topic SW19-goers love to complain about every year: the grunting sounds that players emit as they hit the tennis ball. Maria Sharapova, who retired in February, was called the Queen of Screams. Her grunts were once recorded at 101 decibels, more than a Boeing 707 as it touches down. They even inspired a series of ringtones. ‘I’ve done this ever since I started playing tennis and I’m not going to change,’ Sharapova once said. Yet her grunts were said to be mysteriously absent on the practice court. Grunting can give players a tactical