Glasgow 2014 has missed a trick by lobbing tennis out of the Commonwealth Games as its inclusion would have given Andy Murray an opportunity for gentle tournament rehab after his shock Wimbledon exit.
It would also have added some domestic lustre to an event that until Mo Farah and Usain Bolt finally confirmed their intention to appear was not overflowing either with athletic glitterati or Scottish hopes for gold medals.
Murray has expressed disappointment that tennis has been axed from the 17 sports that will be contested over 11 days from 23 July. So has his brother Jamie, who competed in the last Games in Delhi and the Scottish pair Colin Fleming and Jocelyn Rae, gold medal winners for Scotland in the mixed doubles.
There is now regret among the Games organisers that after beating the Nigerian city of Abuju in the 2007 ballot to become this year’s hosts Glasgow ditched tennis, alongside archery, and instead bring in triathlon and judo. Of course they weren’t to know then that Scotland later would be boasting Britain’s first Wimbledon champion for three-quarters of a century and an Olympic tennis gold medallist.
Instead Glasgow 2014 has served up a double fault, for a peeved Murray said before this year’s Wimbledon that he probably would have competed, a view doubtless enhanced by his defeat. A Commonwealth tournament, where opposition would not be too formidable would have been the perfect confidence rebuilder before the US Open. Instead he plans to practise in Miami.
Murray says he would have liked to see tennis included in Glasgow. “I’m not sure exactly why they got rid of it – there was a fairly good turnout at the last Games. It’s a shame.”
Scotland’s opportunistic first minister Alex Salmond declares he is “gutted” that Murray won’t be able to play in Glasgow, no doubt aware that a Murray gold medal doubtless would have given him the chance to again unfurl the Scottish flag, as he did at Wimbledon last year. Had Murray successfully defended the title his absence from Glasgow really would have rubbed the Saltire into the wound.
That’s life, Frank
As Wimbledon draws to a close, we are reminded that not everyone’s for tennis. One who certainly wasn’t was the late Frank Keating, doyen among sport’s wordsmiths, whose collection of Guardian essays was recently reviewed by my colleague Simon Redfern.
Keating positively loathed the sport, especially its ancestral home in London SW19. Politically a lifelong leftie, to him “Wimblebore” represented much that was wrong with British society. He found it stuffy, smug and snooty – a veritable Tory garden party. And he frequently said so.
On one occasion years ago, when sent to cover it, he temporarily loaned his Centre Court press pass to a young fan who had been trying, unsuccessfully, to get in all day. A cardinal sin. Keating was rumbled by officials and hauled before an All-England Club committee. They told him that as a result he would be banned from Wimbledon for the rest of the week. “Can’t you make it life?” Keating pleaded.
Roy Hodgson, who is paid £3.2 million a year, must be mightily relieved that domestic reaction to England’s World Cup debacle seems one of apathy rather than anger.
Not so in Russia, whose team, like England, failed to win a game and whose coach Fabio Capello has been hauled before parliament and given a dressing down. One MP even demanded that he should either be fired or return half, or all, his £7m salary.
UK sports minister Helen Grant, from whom we haven’t had a peep following her Brazil visit, will be equally relieved that the Government isn’t as furious as Ghana’s, which has sacked its own sports minister after the team’s early exit.