Confesssions of an Ageing Tennis Player: 2nd set, how to win at Wimbledon (5th game)

Success is an instrument of torture (3-2)

I’m fuming.  Absolutely fuming.

I’ve just come off court after what must have been one of the most ridiculous days in recent Wimbledon history. And it’s all down to the prancing and preening of several so-called tennis VIPs , so-called pros and their fluffed up youthful wild card ilk.

When the chalk dust settles, I shall have strong words with the blazers, leather arm patches, twinsets and pearls that make up the LTA establishment, make no mistake.

The morning had started so well. I started my match against Milos Milosovich (Croatian, court 28, 2nd round if you’ve not kept up) in reasonable form. Not great, I grant you, but certainly reasonable. I was 0-5 down after eight minutes and he was playing like a possessed Balkan demon, but I was holding my nerve, if nothing else.

But then lo and bloody behold who appears court side as I serve to save the first set? None other than the sneering Gerd Fistingburger and his mate Alois, both wearing ridiculously expensive wrap around shades and their baseball caps shoved firmly the wrong way around on their short-cropped heads.

I catch them out of the corner of my eye as I bounce the ball eight times prior to my specialist underarm serve and one of them yells ‘fault’ at the top of his tinny little continental voice and I promptly belt the ball right up and out over the court towards Henman Hill.

I duly protest straight after this outlandish behaviour but am cautioned by the so-called umpire. Five seconds later he’s given me another caution for racket abuse.

Now, I will admit my racket is no great technological marvel – but it’s well versed in being kicked around tennis courts and is used to a volley of expletives if it gives up on me at crucial times. It’s used to a bit of abuse – it’s why we get on so well and it’s the main reason I’ve got this far in my tennis career (such as it is).

So, giving me a caution for treating my racket with the contempt it occasionally deserves is like the proverbial suspect line call to a McEnroe. Needless to say, I lose the first set 0-6 and a red mist descends all around me as I struggle to compete in the second.

It goes from bad-to-worse. Not only do Gerd and Alois put their feet up on the railings and snigger and giggle at my hapless progress, but they’re joined by the other wildcard of Wimbledon, Emma Raducanu, who for some inexplicable reason is generating huge waves of enthusiasm from the fickle Wimbledon crowds everywhere she floats.

Emma adds to my general misery by outrageously flirting with one of the line judges at crucial times. Eight times my serve goes in, eight times he calls it out after she has distracted him with her fluttering eyelashes. Before I know it, I am 0-3 down in the second and the world is imploding.

Slowly though. It implodes very, very slowly. The ball slows right down. I run at the pace of a slug. The crowd applauds as if it’s in a trance. The seagulls over-head seem to hover for ever, and you can see their droppings leaving their backsides and falling slowly, inevitably and inexorably towards the umpire’s head. I think about warning him but it’s pointless. The way this tennis universe is operating, my warning would take over a week to reach his ears.

Before I know it, I’ve lost the second set 0-6 and I’m in the process of repeating the experience in the third set.

I get to 0-5 down and have to serve to save the match when all of sudden the heavens open.

The rain comes down unlike any other day in Wimbledon history and the umpire has no choice but to postpone proceedings and get the BBG onto the court, dragging the covers behind them.

I look at Milos and shrug my shoulders. There’s not a lot I can do about the English weather. I apologise but he ignores me, packs his bags and scarpers off to the locker room.

Meanwhile, Emma Raducanu cheerfully skips onto the court (what is she on? I ask myself)  swops my racket for a black and gold supercharged version and tells me to go practice hitting balls against the BBGs until it stops raining.

“From a young age, my parents always drilled into me that my attitude was the most important thing, and it’s either going to make or break my career,” she cheerfully confides in me. “So sort out your head, pull your socks up and try and stay here as long as you can. It’s what I intend to do. I feel like I’m on a holiday!” she trills and swans off to sign autographs for the wildebeest feeding frenzy that is the Wimbledon mob.

At two sets down and 0-5 down in the third, I really can’t see the point of it now. My so-called success at Wimbledon has become an instrument of torture.

But I do as she suggests, penning letters of complaint in my mind to keep the boredom of hitting balls against a motley collection of BBGs at bay. We’re back on court later this afternoon to no doubt finish off what has been an excruciating morning.

The sooner I can get the hell out of Kansas the better.

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