No event in the sporting calendar is more overplayed on the airwaves and in newspapers than the Wimbledon fortnight

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Four days of play and I have yet to see a ball struck in that annual festival of swat, the Wimbledon lawn tennis championships. Not even a clip on the television news bulletins. Does this put me in a minority of one?

Apparently not. This week, a friend of ample proportions who operates successfully in the field of corporate entertainment beat a hasty retreat from the All England Club after ensuring that all was in order for a batch of clients. A man of wide sporting interests, tennis leaves him cold. "Metronomic," he said.

The Wimbledon fortnight is regarded here as a breather between Test matches, time in which to salve the wounds of Ascot and get a line on Goodwood. While the fuzz ball flies, I prefer to dwell on the impending glories of the Open golf championship.

A personal view is that no event in the sporting calendar is more overplayed on the airwaves and in newspapers than Wimbledon. Tennis stars who have sweated their way up - not that far up in many cases - are admiringly interviewed and receive the same adoring space as rock stars. This applies in other games, but the concentrated attention Wimbledon gets makes it more obvious.

Tennis courts were not freely available to the proletariat youth of my home town in south Wales, but social prejudice is no longer a consideration.

The genteel air of the sport in the old days has long since been drowned out by the roar of the cash register. As for elegant lines, the principal fashion today is undergraduate scruffiness. I find neither of these facts irksome. Like star entertainers in every game, tennis players are paid accordingly and sport is for all the people.

No, it is the passion for two weeks of metronomic activity that I find baffling. What happens to all these tennis buffs when Wimbledon is over? Where do they get their kicks? Do they show up at Premiership matches? Do they hibernate?

For the rest of the year, tennis does not appear to occupy the thoughts of many people. It does not figure very much in sporting conversation. Nobody gets excited in bars over news from far-off locations. There isn't a season, just two weeks in south-west London.

Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that we have been dunces at the game since the late Fred Perry went into retirement. That's another thing. The interminable inquest into why Britain cannot produce a challenger of either gender. Get past the first round and you are feted on television and in every newspaper. Reach the quarter-finals and you are a national hero.

Once, I was privileged to fall into conversation with a man who came across as being tougher than the majority of his contemporaries in sport: Pancho Gonzales. You would have fancied Gonzales to win a street fight. People who asked for his autograph did so politely and were inclined to address him as "Sir".

If Gonzales, Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad and a number of others were playing today, I would pay over the odds to watch them. Exploited by the amateur ethos, they were real men.

An interesting thing about tennis is that it appeals to the unlikeliest of people. One of the greatest modern boxing champions, Sugar Ray Leonard, became an enthusiast, playing the game avidly. "I took up the wrong sport," he said one day when in training for a title defence. "Nobody is aiming to hit you in the head out there."

Pleading a deep interest in the game, another former pugilist of renown who shall be nameless was given two tickets for the final of the men's singles. Wearied by extra-marital activity, he passed them on to ladies of the night. That's how two hookers came to be sitting near to the royal box.

Another thought about tennis is that it is not so much a game as a multiplication table. As someone once put it, the scoring system was invented by Lewis Carroll. Why else would the first point be scored 15, the second 30 and the third 40? Six games win a set, but only if you stay two games ahead of your opponent. Why? You can win a cricket match by one run, a football match by one goal.

As for all the stamina tennis players are supposed to need, it was once established scientifically that a man plastering ceilings expends a similar amount of energy.

Time in which to towel down, sip some cordial, munch on a banana. If I had anything to do with it, they would not get anything to eat or drink until they had got the job done.

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