Back (back) and forth (and forth)
19 June 2003
The Samsung Open, Nottingham, UK, 17th June 2003. Our very own British- Canadian Greg Rusedski plays Jarkko Niemenen of Finland. I am an honorary Finn for the day.
Fashion is a non-issue here. Bottom drawers have been rifled for sporting detritus: England football shirts and Union Jacks - how are they even remotely appropriate, unless a highly self-conscious statement is being made about British colonialism? (didn't think so). And those dreadful velveteen jesters hats worn at rugby matches, doubtless harking back to a particular medieval association of the sport with the fool's brand of social criticism of which I have hitherto been unaware. Otherwise it's a sea of cricket hats and those over-glasses which look like laboratory goggles - except for the one Bohemian woman at the south end who has imaginatively chosen to sport a pointy Ching Chong Chinaman hat (with her laboratory goggles). Mind you, I'm in no position to mock. Today, Matthew, I am a cross between Private Benjamin and a Magyar in her Sunday best - the Cheeky Girls' stouter cousin on a night out.
Tagged on to the main tournament is a week of coaching for kids. Every ten minutes or so during the match the most godawful collective scream is heard - there must be about fifty of them. Off-putting for the players, I'm sure. I console myself with the fact that there is probably a game of What's the time, Mr Wolf? - but with a tennis theme - going on somewhere on one of the smaller courts. But I cannot quite shake the fear that Cliff Richard and Sue Barker are attempting to instruct the youngsters in the delights of "special kisses".
Sitting here in the sunshine I finally admit to myself that I just don't get it. It's not even really about the back and forth thing - I like badminton, after all. But in tennis the ball is allowed to bounce, a rule which goes against all my childhood sensibilities. Badminton, at least, makes sense in the world of one trained to identify a dropped ball as a failure. When played properly - without rules or lines and in your back garden with a set from Woolworth's - it is just one big game of keepy-uppy - which can only engender feelings of joy and success amongst its participants. Dejection, on the other hand, is an essential constituent of tennis.
This is the first top flight tennis match I've been to. My only contact with the sport - other than as an excuse at school for a session of heavy petting (a phrase which really does deserve to be used in contexts other than prohibition notices in local swimming pools) - is in the "lame duck" time post-GCSEs, A-Levels, Finals, dissertation submission into which Wimbledon conveniently falls. Regaining my strength, drinking tea, wondering why on earth I'm not making the most of the weather or dreaming about the luxury items on which I will spend my birthday money, I stare through the television, with a glimmer only for the tall Croatian war crimes suspect or the strawberry-blonde ginger who loves Afro-Caribbean women in cupboards. So in a derivative 9/11 way which irks me, I find that I'm unable to watch the "live" Rusedski-Niemenen match as anything but televised. I feel perfectly entitled to get up and put the kettle on, turn the sound down and dance around to "Off the Wall", ring and text my mates with obvious remarks about the weather and the apparent quality of play, nod off for a bit, and react in my own special and almost witty way. I, at least, am not at all surprised when I rise to my feet, point at the taller gentleman on court and shout, "Hey, Greg! Why the long face?"
18 December 2003. George writes: This List
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15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
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4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
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