Sport on TV: Somebody call a doctor, Wimbledon's gone crazy
Sunday 30 June 2013
Phew, what a week at Wimbledon. You could almost not bother with the second half – and that would relieve us of the pain of watching Andy Murray grimacing his way to another agonising final.
On the first instalment of the BBC's highlights on Today at Wimbledon, John Inverdale called it "Manic Monday" as Rafa Nadal was knocked out, but the presenter peaked far too soon. By the time the mayhem unfolded on Wounded Wednesday, they were playing the theme tune to Casualty and not playing much tennis, because there was hardly anyone left to knock up with.
Usually the nation pulls its curtains for two weeks at the height of summer. This time it was more like the nurses pulling the curtains around an ailing patient.
"An extraordinary litany of drama and personal tragedy," proclaimed Inverdale on that Weeping, Wailing Wednesday. Steady on, old chap, nobody died – although after listening to some of the players you would think it had been a pretty close call.
John McEnroe added that it had been "by far and away the craziest day I've ever been associated with", and you'd better believe he's seen some craziness in his time. He had begun the week by enthusing, "I just like all the cat-fighting going on", referring to the hurtful words exchanged between Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams – though of course we know now that only sticks, stones and charming stretches of English lawn can break bones.
Wobbly Wednesday featured the ultimate alley-cat scrap between Sharapova and Michelle Larcher De Brito, who is apparently the only woman on the circuit with a louder scream than Maria when she hits the ball. They seemed to be trying to shriek each other off the court.
Then Sharapova started shouting encouragement to herself as well. But she was one cat who couldn't land on her feet, and if you included the squeals whenever she slipped over on the grass, the combined din was enough to make anyone want to run away from SW19 screaming – joining all the players who were already doing so like an evacuation sequence from some disaster movie.
The sound of Victoria Azarenka losing her footing, and seemingly her mind, would have graced any horror film. So congratulations to Nadal, who barely left his mark on the verdant pastures of south-west London but at least wasn't moaning on about his body falling apart, even if he did manage to mention it a few times.
"I don't want to talk about my knee," he insisted after losing to Steve Darcis. "Everything that I can say today about my knee is an excuse." He may have produced the first limp performance of the week but at least he departed with more decorum than even Mr Darcy could have shown in absenting himself from a 19th-century drawing-room.
It was more about Tracy Austin than Jane Austen as royal etiquette was breached on the Thursday. As if there hadn't already been enough injury, the BBC decided to add a little bit of insult when they accidentally broadcast McEnroe's chat with the Duchess of Cornwall as she met the assembled officials and ballboys and girls – and the pundits McEnroe, Austin and Tim Henman ambushed the line-up.
"Do you play?" McEnroe inquired, to which the reply came: "I'm afraid I'm much too old." Clarence House clearance came through that it was "not an issue", but there might not be any swords touching McEnroe's shoulders in the near future.
Mac the Knife is so sharp that he wields his words like a scalpel. On Friday he described Laura Robson's drop-shot: "It's the perfect grass-court shot. She didn't chop down on it, she sliced through it." Part surgery, part slasher movie: it was the perfect sign-off for the week.
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