Wimbledon or Glastonbury? Pimm's or pills? While the children of Middle England pack their wellies and leave home for three days to get off their faces in the mud, their parents can make the midsummer pilgrimage to SW19 and stuff their faces with strawberries. They had better not forget their wellies either, though. Murray Mound can apparently become a health-and-safety hazard when it rains. Which it does, from time to time.
Both summer extravaganzas attract the celebrities in their droves. On BBC Radio Five Live last Monday, Noel Fielding, comedian of Mighty Boosh fame, gave us the benefit of his in-depth knowledge of tennis and said he would roll naked down Henman Hill if Andy Murray won. Now that really would be a hazard.
And the newly dubbed Sir Bruce Forsyth told Today At Wimbledon (BBC2, Wednesday): "If Murray wins Wimbledon he'll get a knighthood – eventually." One fears that the long search for a hero might make Brucie's 70-year wait for honours look like a drop shot in the ocean.
But does it really matter? 125 Years Of Wimbledon – You Cannot Be Serious (BBC2, Sunday) amply demonstrated that it doesn't. So long as another "long"-serving knight, Sir Cliff Richard, is on hand to entertain the masses, Daily Mail readers won't really care. He featured far too early in this eulogy to the Middle-England Championships, saying: "I'm probably going to be immortalised not for 'Summer Holiday' but because I sang at Wimbledon." Just think, if it hadn't rained for three hours that terrible day in 1996, he might have shuffled off into obscurity – or played Glastonbury. It's just another reason to shake your fists at the skies of south-west London.
Rod Laver was quoted as saying: "That was my whole impression of England, that it was tennis at his best." How wrong can you be? And not just because of all the rain. Yet ever since, players have come to Wimbledon thinking the same, and it was the adoring public that made them superstars – they even made Tim Henman famous.
When Jimmy Connors beat Ken Rosewall in the 1974 final, we are told "he turned sport into showbusiness" and ushered in the era of Borg and McEnroe. Even those who didn't like tennis were transfixed; now the players were celebrities themselves. You could learn to love a plucky loser – and, in Jana Novotna's case, see one hugged by royalty as she bawled her eyes out – so long as the big guns wereon display.
Henman is, of course, hard to avoid in the media at this time of year, and he showed he had lost none of his grass-court reflexes with a flawless performance in the quickfire round of A Question of Sport (BBC1, Monday).
His team's victory was especially impressive given that the three of them were pitted against four opponents – the Bryan brothers, the record-breaking doubles specialists, counted as one. Scrunched up together in a special chair that is presumably reserved for darts players, they looked like conjoined twins, and perhaps that is the answer for British tennis: a player with four arms and four legs. Then again, that might be going out on a limb. And it would make those between-the-legs shots rather complicated.Reuse content