There was a time, in the late seventies and early eighties, when I would go to Wimbledon every year, but my interest in tennis waned in the 1990s as the main players just resorted to bashing the ball from base line to base line. Seeing a player come to the net was as rare as a British tennis victory. Today I am going to Wimbledon for the first time in at least fifteen years.
Strangely, in World Cup week my interest in tennis has been reawakened after Wimbledon has been hit by the same disease of ‘underdogitis’ which has affected the World Cup. Even the sainted Roger Federer came as close as you can get to losing in the first round. And then there was the match which ended 70-68 in the final set. This match has been lauded as the greatest in modern tennis history, and a tribute to the fitness of the two players. The latter is certainly true, but in some ways is displayed all that is wrong with modern tennis. During the match a record 212 aces were served. Aces certainly have their place in the game, but most people go to tennis matches to see exciting rallies, rather than ace after boring ace.
I used to be able to name all the top players. I would have at least heard of most of the Top 100 players in the world. I marvelled at the skills of the likes of Jimmy Connors, McEnroe, Lendl and Nastase. But today I couldn’t name more than the top five players in the world. And apart from the Williams sisters, the leading womens’ players are a mystery to me. But then womens’ tennis always has been the Vauxhall Conference of tennis – slow, plodding and full of grunting. There have been some great women players in the game - Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf, but be honest - apart from Venus and Serena Williams, there are very few who you would pay good money to go and see.
[battens down hatch]
To be honest, the thing I am most looking forward to today is meeting up with my old German lecturer from my university days, Gordon Turner. In March 2009 I wrote this...
Yesterday I went to see my old lecturer from UEA, Gordon Turner, who I hadn't seen for many years. He was one of those people in my life who went the extra mile to help me. One of those special people who enhance every life they touch. I wondered if he had changed, but I needn't have worried. It was as if there hadn't been two intervening decades since I graduated.
We're meeting up with another university friend, Chris Bowers, who is a tennis journalist and this year stood as a LibDem candidate in the general election. Chris and I both had parts in two German musicals which Gordon Turner produced and directed. One of them was Brecht's 'Die Dreigroschenoper' in which I played one of Mack the Knife's henchmen. I'm the one in yellow in this picture!...