I am not a fan of tennis. The ‘punk-punk’ sound of the ball oscillating between players, overheard whilst reading the paper or writing a blog post in the same room as a television, is enough to induce boredom in me.
That’s not to say that I can’t appreciate that many people appear to feel a great love for the game, especially as I’m a fan of relaxing to snooker (although my penchant for this ‘sport’ is a direct result of having had nothing else to do at three o’clock in the morning post-waiting shift, and the joy of continual mental arithmetic), but rather that the attraction continues to elude me wholesale.
Living in the UK, and in London, it is impossible to avoid the fever, however obliquely it is experienced, that surrounds the Wimbledon Championships each and every year. People camp out on the streets to secure a centre court ticket, South West London suffers a strawberry shortage, and children everywhere search (generally in vain) for a public court on which to emulate these once-a-year heroes.
By far the most amusing element, however, is the panic with which the British greet an event that they otherwise purport to relish. For two weeks a year, it seems, our national self image is intimately related to the fortunes of a lone man in white shorts. And it always is a man, unfortunately; little if anything is widely reported concerning British women players, and certainly not with the fervour reserved for those in possession of a Y-chromosome.
For around ten years I watched from the sidelines as the dreams of a nation of 60 million were heaped on the shoulders of Tim Henman, who, despite carving out a great career for himself in the face of personal adversity (Henman has osteochondritis), could only have won a special place in their hearts along with the famed silver gilt cup. Henman was the son through which the British parent hoped to vicariously fulfil their dreams, but when he failed to boost their ego he was rendered little more than a genetic relation.