View from the Sofa: Mats Wilander to the rescue after I nearly had to laugh at Jimmy Carr

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix/Davis Cup. BBC/Eurosport

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Last week would have been a good one to give up watching sport. Or caring about it, full stop. In between football club owners being racist, England fans being offensive and the rest of the sporting landscape being barren, aside from the odd tennis match, it was enough to send us scurrying to light entertainment-land and pretending to laugh at the jokes Jimmy Carr had written for him.

Which, for a while, we did. To watch I’m a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here, to be precise. Strictly speaking, it was in the interests of sporting TV as the show featured the retired England squad footballer Jimmy Bullard and the tough-as-old-boots ex-motorcycle racer Carl Fogarty. But aside from Bullard repeatedly screaming “You bastards!” at a knot of snakes and Fogarty moaning about a lack of food, there was little for us there.

As our faith in sports types was swiftly plummeting towards its nadir, we were reminded that Friday was World Television Day. Why the world needs a television day is worth wondering – it’s not like World Toilet Day, marked earlier last week, which was used to highlight the lack of sanitation in large parts of the globe.


To bemoan the lack of a telly in the house seems, in the context of other world shortages, a little like wailing and gnashing your teeth that Waitrose is out of genuine Modena balsamic vinegar.

But, as the day was inaugurated by the United Nations, we felt a little under obligation to watch the box. And first up was the practice session for yesterday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Even though the commentators, James Allen and Allan McNish, were banging on about gear changes and engine manufacturers, to watch the onboard cameras as the cars whizzed around the frankly stunning Yas Marina track at dusk was mesmerising.

It’s a shame the Beeb had to interrupt our reverie with an in-depth analysis of front wing design. And they wonder why Formula One is failing to attract new viewers...

Luckily, Eurosport came to our rescue by showing the final of the much-maligned Davis Cup. Let’s face it, few care about the competition – but the coverage had everything you’d need for a psychedelic desert rock gig: cowbells, pounding drums, a wild, partisan crowd and Mats Wilander, who, apart from being well known for owning a massive camper van, is never shy in delivering biting punditry.

On Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, while he was being wiped across the court by Stan Wawrinka: “He’s good at some things, but sometimes he gets stale in his tactics.” Zing. And on Wawrinka, after the Swiss had been broken: “He’s just guessing there.” Pow.

Wilander and Simon Reed did not so much commentate as pass comment on both players, to great effect. “Wawrinka’s weapons are so much more effective,” Reed said at one stage. Wilander replied: “And when that happens Tsonga has nothing. Nothing.” It was like listening to two very knowledgeable, occasionally grumpy friends. They were helped by a barnstormer of a match, but the whole thing rekindled our love of sport on telly. On World Television Day, no less.