They Go To SW19

Apologies to Nigel Williams.

As I start to write Andy Murray is 3-4 down in the first set of a Wimbledon QF against Rafael Nadal.  I was rather hoping the man from Majorca would have sorted the out the boy from Dunblane by now, but as is usual in a British sporting summer, rain stopped play earlier on this afternoon.  Nadal is taunting Murray with drop-shots, though, and the Scot couldn’t deliver with the only one he tried.

I thought it was just me who was appalled by the scenes in Murray’s previous match with Richard Gasquet, well me and the lone voice in the crowd that shouted out: “Come on Gasquet, do it for England!”.

But then I happened to browse through a copy of the Mail someone had left on a table in the cafe this morning.  A columnist in that paper (sorry, can’t find the article online) found Murray’s behaviour gross.  I’m not sure about that.  I was surprised that he had the energy to win the match, though.  I turned on towards the end of the 3rd set (when Murray was 2 sets and a break down) and from then until the end of the match he basically – sorry, there’s no genteel way to put this – jerked off after every point.

A lot’s been made of Murray’s anti-Englishness – “anyone but England” for the 2006 World Cup – and of course that doesn’t help turn me into a keen supporter.  David “Chelsea shorts” Mellor, who knows a thing or to about the behaviour of the media (and sport, his column in the London Evening Standard is always worth reading) was on the radio this morning challenging Murray to drape himself in the Union Jack.  I think Mellor meant if he beat Nadal, but I now I read he lost no time in doing this.  The bread-head.  Does he think we’re stupid?  A lot of people would have more respect if he had the Saltire tattooed on his forehead, if that showed how he really feels.

I hardly follow tennis, but young Andy got my attention when he decided to give the world his views on who should be in Britain’s Davis Cup team – besides himself, of course.  I expect Alex Ferguson will ask Wayne Rooney who to pick this season, then.  After all, Rooney has won a lot more than Murray.

So, not being a partisan supporter, the scenes on Monday evening appalled me.  Not because I’m anti-Scottish.  I hope I’m not.  I never had much time for Tim Henman either, so such Centre Court scenes were fairly unfamiliar.  Besides, Gasquet is French! 😉  And it’s not because I’m offended by a bit of fist-pumping.  It’s because Gasquet didn’t have the option of trying to get the crowd behind him.

If life weren’t so short I’d form the Campaign to Abolish Nationalism from Sport – slogan: “Just CAN it!”.  For me, nothing ruins a World Cup like the host country out-performing – France 1998, say, or Japan/Korea 2002.  In fact, most of them!  Euro 2008 was so good partly because the hosts Austria and Switzerland never got going.  The best team won the tournament.  Yes, it may come as a surprise to many, but the idea of a competition is to find the best team or player.  To be honest, I don’t even think the host country should compete in the World Cup.

Let’s hope – though I suspect it will be in vain – that China don’t win bucketfuls of medals in the Olympics.   And if they do, I’m sure it is equally pointless to hope that the success is met by anything other than overt nationalism.  We don’t want a repeat of the 1984 Los “USA USA” Angeles games.  I hardly remember Atlanta except switching off in disgust at Linford Christie’s absurd disqualification from the 100m final simply for being good at the start.  In fact it was not until Sydney 2000 that my boyhood enthusiasm for the event was reignited.

Poor Gasquet, who admittedly needs to toughen up, was reduced to pleading with the umpire.  All to no avail.  After the match all he could say was that he’d love to play Murray at Roland Garros.  I hope he does.

The BBC must take a lot of the blame.  They had 10 million watching on Monday and were hoping for 12 million this evening.  Clearly they have a commercial interest in corrupting sporting values.  Their commentary team were finding the crowd’s treatment of Gasquet all very amusing.  Presumably not the same team who, when I turned on for Federer vs Nadal in the French Open final just a few weeks ago, I distinctly heard making snide comments about the French crowd.

Some of the BBC’s editorial decisions are bizarre.  Just before this evening’s match Federer trounced his QF opponent.  We were told to switch channels for the next match up, Murray vs. Nadal, and the Beeb’s coverage of an imperious win by Federer ended with… clips from Murray against Gasquet.  And the Corporation had the hypocrisy in a news bulletin last week to start wittering on about how the Scot mysteriously becomes British for Wimbledon, as if that’s the fault of me, the viewer.  You couldn’t make it up.

But who are these people who go to SW19?  They’re not being directly influenced by the television coverage.  I cringed with embarrassment when they booed Gasquet as he left for a comfort break and returned to the court between the 4th and 5th sets.  All within the rules, and predicted by the commentator.  Don’t they realise they’re being manipulated? – and that Murray – aided in advance by the media in general, and the BBC in particular – used them to tip the balance against a more skillful opponent?

Such behaviour isn’t British.  It’s certainly not cricket.

Nadal is 2 sets to 0 up, 5-3 in the third.  I don’t sense a repeat performance…