Game, set and match to a tour­na­ment that re­fuses to change with the times…

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FOOD & DRINK -

You’d think that Wim­ble­don, with its ar­chaic tra­di­tions and cus­toms, would be some­thing of a gold­mine for co­me­di­ans. But maybe be­cause there is al­ready so much silli­ness in that part of south­west Lon­don at this time of year, it re­mains be­yond par­ody. From the lu­di­crous rain de­lays to the weird colour of John McEn­roe’s hair, there’s al­ways some­thing a lit­tle off­beat about this tour­na­ment that draws non-ten­nis fans, as well as non­sports fans, to tune in each year.

De­spite some changes in re­cent times – the in­stal­la­tion of a re­tractable roof on Cen­tre Court, the do­ing away with the Mrs or Miss be­fore the fe­male play­ers’ names – there’s some­thing re­as­sur­ing about Wim­ble­don, as if, no mat­ter how mad the rest of the sport­ing world be­comes, the old duf­fers in their blaz­ers will still be tuck­ing into the straw­ber­ries and cream and tut-tut­ting when a player de­cides to de­con­struct his or her racket in rage.

The com­men­tary on the BBC con­trib­utes to this idea of Wim­ble­don be­ing an oa­sis of Old Eng­land in a ster­ile desert of brash moder­nity. Watch­ing Wim­ble­don on TG4 just feels wrong. For some rea­son, the ca­dences of the first of­fi­cial lan­guage seem to fit when the cy­clists are rolling into gor­geous me­dieval towns dur­ing the Tour de France. Yet there’s some­thing in­con­gru­ous about lis­ten­ing to a com­men­ta­tor de­scrib­ing the ge­nius of Maria Shara­pova or No­vak Djokovic as Gaeilge.

Part of the fun of watch­ing the Bri­tish Open is hear­ing Peter Al­liss’s sar­donic com­ments about the golfers’ sar­to­rial ele­gance (or lack of it). In Wim­ble­don, it’s watch­ing how lit­tle ba­nal­i­ties can make the com­men­ta­tors split their sides laugh­ing. On one oc­ca­sion dur­ing the last fort­night, one of the com­men­ta­tors found the sight of a ball girl strug­gling to right an inside- out um­brella hi­lar­i­ous. Which proves that ten­nis is quite a bor­ing game.

But that’s be­side the point, be­cause the real at­trac­tion of Wim­ble­don is that it re­mains a relic of tra­di­tion in a sched­ule clogged with an­o­dyne and overly com­mer­cial events. That’s not to say that there’s no money to be made in Wim­ble­don – the play­ers man­age to get their lo­gos onto the screen, de­spite the in­junc­tions of the All Eng­land Club. Rather that, like other sport­ing events around the world which are peren­ni­ally ac­cused of cling­ing onto their hide­bound cus­toms and re­fus­ing to change with the times, Wim­ble­don con­tin­ues to be a draw be­cause it doesn’t re­sem­ble ev­ery other event on tour. Af­ter all, some­times we like to be re­minded of the past.


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