HUGH MacDON­ALD

Brand Wim­ble­don knows no bounds

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FRONT PAGE -

THE dif­fer­ence be­tween Scot­land and the rest of the world? The me­dia have an­nounced a break­through in that there is a chip that can be in­serted into a paral­ysed hand to make it move. In Cale­do­nia, doc­tors are try­ing to stop par­a­lytic hands mov­ing for a chip.

Made this re­flec­tion as I waited at lunchtime in the mem­bers’ lounge of the All Eng­land Club for my sweet.

“Are you sure you want your straw­ber­ries deep-fried?” I was asked. “Cer­tain,” I replied.

“And how do you like your cream?” “Clot­ted, like my ar­ter­ies.” The Scot­tish theme was con­tin­ued with my host be­moan­ing the ab­sence of his Aun­tie Muriel from Shet­tle­ston, a de­voted devourer of mince – cu­ri­ously in­clud­ing that served up by this col­umn – who would surely have en­joyed the at­trac­tions of the All Eng­land Club and its en­vi­rons. In this, of course, she is a typ­i­cal Glaswe­gian.

In­deed, we once talked of lit­tle else but the nu­ances of lawn ten­nis on Old Shet­tle­ston Road when we vis­ited mater’s mater and re­tired to the out­side court, an ash sur­face formed by the residue of spilled bins from the mid­dens. Rain would never stop play.

My granny – and most of her con­tem­po­raries – had a ro­bust at­ti­tude to child­care. Chil­dren should not be seen or heard and, where pos­si­ble, should be fed at a dis­tance, in the man­ner of zookeep­ers giv­ing tigers their tea. Thus matches could be punc­tu­ated with manna from heaven. Or, more ac­cu­rately, slices of Mi­landa from the third floor, smeared with var­i­ous forms of su­gar. The bread, that is. Not the stairs.

The back­yard was our Cen­tre Court, though there was the odd, some would say pe­cu­liar, game on Kil­learn Street be­fore we all reached the lush turf of Busby. The game we played may by un­recog­nised as ten­nis by the All Eng­land Club.

First, the im­ple­ments were as crude as Frankie Boyle at a stag do. Sec­ond, said im­ple­ments were used for more than just hit­ting balls. They could some­times catch you on the knee.

Third, any op­po­nents were so vi­o­lent they would have laughed at the puerile bel­liger­ence of Luis Suarez. Ow­ing to the lack of den­tal care at the time and afore­men­tioned pieces, it would have been a gumsy smile. They may not have been able to bite yir shoul­der but they could have given you a nasty sook.

Yet Wim­ble­don some­how had the abil­ity to cast its spell over work­ing-class Glesca. The point I am try­ing to make – and this col­umn may just in­clude it – is that Wim­ble­don trav­els well. It was the start­ing point for sum­mer games all over the world and through all classes.

This in­no­cent re­play­ing of Cen­tre Court mo­ments in back­yards has been re­placed by kids play­ing com­puter games in bed­rooms or trav­el­ling to a proper court in a proper cen­tre. The temp­ta­tion is to say I had more fun in my day. But I didn’t.

The Wim­ble­don brand has grown from some­thing once viewed on a black-and-white telly by many of us to a green and pur­ple monster that se­duces pun­ters and gen­er­ates the sort of money that makes it the aris­to­crat of sport­ing mar­ket­ing.

Wim­ble­don is seen as time­less, classy and the leading tour­na­ment in a global sport. Its ap­peal stretches be­yond the miles for pa­tient pun­ters who camp out for three days for a chance to have a peek at its glory. Tick­ets are as rare as a Suarez gumshield.

But there is more. The cor­po­rate back­ers see its worth, the tele­vi­sion chan­nels vie to pay to broad­cast it and the All Eng­land Club, cu­ri­ously and mis­tak­enly por­trayed as in­com­pe­tent buf­fers, have a grand vi­sion to cap­i­talise on all this. And not just in mon­e­tary terms.

Wim­ble­don has a mas­ter­plan, clev­erly called the Wim­ble­don Mas­ter­plan. The de­tails in­clude tun­nels to courts, mov­ing some courts around, do­ing some land­scap­ing, a re­designed en­trance plaza, bet­ter fa­cil­i­ties for com­peti­tors, and putting a roof on No.1 Court. And a deep-fat fryer for straw­ber­ries. Okay, I lied about that.

The truth is that there is a grand de­sign for Wim­ble­don to grow and that may in­clude an ex­pan­sion in acreage; Wim­ble­don may creep out­side its con­trolled borders.

In­deed, if it keeps mak­ing so much moolah and de­cides to in­vest it in land ex­pan­sion, Aun­tie Muriel may just be able to see matches in out­side courts from her bed­room win­dow. And throw me a piece and su­gar.

Pic­ture: Clive Rose/Getty Im­ages

FLY­ING THE FLAG: A spec­ta­tor at the Kil­learn Street Open cel­e­brates the ar­rival of a piece and sugar from the third floor win­dow.

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