Luke Blackall: Queen's could be the last refuge of the quiet fan
Man About Town: At cricket matches, singing continues for much of the day and fancy dress is practically compulsory
The gentle, uniform patter of applause for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's opponent was broken by a cry from the crowd. "Come on, Willy!" came the shout. "You've got to get it up – over the net, I mean."
The head-turning was not just because fans of the tennis star normally call for "Jo". Rather it was because in the refined surrounds of The Queen's Club, such strenuous (and not to mention suggestive) vocal support is rarely heard.
The offenders were sitting near me. Four gentlemen old enough to know better, but still young enough to be able to enjoy an afternoon of drinking without falling asleep.
For a moment I thought that their noise would be drowned out by the chorus of "harrumphs" "sshhs" and "tuts" that came from the crowd.
They continued with their support but attempts to engage fellow spectators in their "banter" were met with cold stares. Their serious (at times overly so) neighbours failed to realise that disapproving looks only fuel a drinker's self-righteousness.
At almost any other sporting fixture they would have cut an unremarkable bunch. The banks of the Thames at Henley are heaving with Hooray Henrys drunkenly cheering on the Regatta. Once, cricket induced little more than the odd round of applause and head-nodding for fine play. Now, wickets are met with roars of delight, singing continues for much of the day and in parts of some grounds, fancy dress is practically compulsory.
While it might have upset the purists, this change has helped keep a new generation interested. A quick chat to the noisy fans at a Test Match will tell you that such support spans class divides.
It is part of the growing commercialisation of sport, which demands ever greater numbers of spectators. But if you want the big screens, big money and the over-the-top celebrations, all of which tennis has, you have to let in different people. It comes at a cost, of course. Formerly smart racecourses have become magnets for the boorish and the scantily clad who see them as an excuse to drink all day.
Apart from the Willy fans, there was none of that at the Queen's Club. Access has become a status symbol, a desire to be seen at the tennis as much as a desire to see the tennis. And while their members still want that status quo maintained, this corner of west London might still remain a no-go area to the noisy fan.
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