So it’s all over for another year! I have tennis withdrawal symptoms already. Here’s my totally unscientific survey of the highs and lows of Wmbldn 2011.
1: Both singles titles were won by the player who was, by my reckoning, the underdog. Celebrating the underdog’s win is The British Way. It was my way anyway.
2: The women’s singles was won by the player who didn’t scream / grunt at 110 dB every time she hit the ball (tho’ see below for my totally contradictory regret for the lovely Maria having lost).
The early grunt
On the grunt front, I still treasure an article by Clive James, many years ago, when he said that Jimmy Connors “has taken to grunting loudly at the instant of hitting the ball instead of just afterwards. Confused opponents try to hit the grunt instead of the ball.”
3: Lots more great matches, too numerous to list.
But on the other hand …
0. The lovely Maria lost (but see 1 above)
1, 2 and 3: the BBC’s obsession with interviewing sportspeople (not just tennis stars) 30 seconds after the end of their matches. They must have decided it’s popular but, in the words of a friend of mine: “It’s sport for people who don’t much like sport”.
With a few notable exceptions, most sportspeople are not able to give anything more than a routine answer when totally knackered out, maybe crushed by the disappointment of having lost. They do their talking during the match; afterwards, I’d rather hear the views of the expensively-assembled and very expert team of commentators.
Grumpy Old Man mode
As for the interviewers themselves, don’t get me started. Oh, it seems I already have. When I hear one of them coming up, I go into default grumpy-old-man mode. I’m not alone; on a sports website after the Beijing Olympics I found lots of criticisms of these kinds of facile interviews from serious athletics fans, one of whom wrote: “when a Phil Jones interview comes up, I hit the mute button.”
John Inverdale was clearly shocked by Serena Williams’ “ungracious” (his word) response to an interview question. However, I’ve since seen the whole transcript; she gave serious answers to loads of questions after what was clearly a disappointing defeat. Only one, right at the end, revealed her true feelings:
Q. A lot of people would say if you come here after the best part of the year out of the game and walked away with the title, it wouldn’t necessarily have been a good thing for women’s tennis. Can you appreciate that? Does this result show it’s competitive still?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah, I’m super happy that I lost. Go, women’s tennis.
To ask that question of someone who’d just come back from very serious health problems and had just been put out by an opponent playing out of her skin, got the response it deserved. Ungracious? Maybe. Understandable, I’d say.