Sport On TV: Set the controls for the heart of Wimbledon

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The Independent Online
IT SEEMS that following last week's eulogy to him in this column, the powers of Barry Davies have increased; now, he has the gift of bilocation too, commentating on the tennis from Australia and the ice skating from Prague, all in the same day. How on earth does he do it? The tennis cubicle in Television Centre is yards and yards away from the skating cubicle.

It is not just him: Sue Barker is at it as well, though in her case she has to fight against busy back-projections. What's the point of these? Are they to hoodwink us into thinking Barker is sitting on a bridge in downtown Prague? When we've just seen her in bas-relief against the Melbourne skyline?

Thursday's Horizon was about supernovae, which explode with the force of 10 billion stars (the expansion of the universe is speeding up by the way, not slowing down as the boffins thought, outstripping gravity and leading eventually to a cold, dark, largely empty universe in a few billion years' time, or whenever Manchester City return to the Premiership, whichever is sooner). On the tennis highlights programme earlier the same day (BBC2) it was possible to witness something roughly similar, though it is to be hoped that the career of Amelie Mauresmo, the French Amazon who crushed world No 1 Lindsay Davenport underfoot in the semi-finals, lasts a little longer than the three weeks it takes for a supernova to burn itself out.

"It was like playing a guy," Davenport murmured ruefully afterwards. She is no sylph-like shrinking violet herself, and for the spectator, it was like watching two guys play.

Not that there is anything wrong with that - this is not one of those laments for the days when women only served overarm because their bustle got in the way. I am all for strong women, and the ferocity of some of the exchanges between Davenport and Mauresmo was thrilling.

Mauresmo is a big girl, no doubt about it - upper arms like Henry Cooper, fabulous huge shoulders that radiate power and presence. Apart from the protrusions at the front, and with a few adjustments down below, I would do gaol for a body like that. With a big, determined jaw and eyes like a cobra, she has the granite-like impassivity of a Borg - the sportsman, that is, not one of the bionic, "resistance-is-futile" Star Trek baddies. Set the controls for the heart of Wimbledon.

It was appropriate that on the weekend of the fourth round of the FA Cup, Casualty (BBC1) should have a footballing plot. Tigers, Holby's local small-time team, are in a David 'n' Goliath Cup tie. Karl the star striker has a hangover from hell, so the spivvy thug of a manager blackmails his predecessor as star striker, now the embittered perennial substitute, to slip a little something into his glucose to pick him up.

They go 1-0 down and Karl is struggling. Vic Harkness, the grizzled trainer (and Karl's father figure) shouts: "He'll have a heart attack!" I wonder how this plot is about to develop, you say to yourself. Karl, despite his knee injury, equalises. Then he has a heart attack.

There were a good few things wrong in the veracity department: for a start, some players do take, have taken, stimulants of diverse varieties (just ask Willie Johnston), but on-field heart attacks are about as common as Liverpool winning an FA Cup tie against Manchester United. And the idea that a "top Spanish club" would send its manager to watch a player who had not even made it beyond the lower reaches is laughable.

It seems Casualty specialises in improbable plot lines, though: a fan who had bought tickets for the match appeared to have knocked his son about for losing them; the lad, it transpired, a 14-year-old alcoholic with cirrhosis of the liver, had been beating dad up for ages.

Again, I am sure this has happened once or twice, somewhere, but not very often (no doubt someone will regale me with figures to demonstrate the appalling prevalence of the frightening unseen menace of Teenage Alcoholic Lower-League Football Fans abusing their father because mum died three years ago and he didn't cry about it - the charity is called TAL-LFF Anon, I am told, if there are any sufferers out there.

Still, at the end, after a turbulent we-can-work-this-out-together scene, son asked dad the score in the match. "It was a draw," he replies. "We have a second chance." Do you think he was referring just to the football match there? Or might there have been a double meaning?

There was no ambiguity about Will Carling's appearance on Sporting Greats (BBC2, Thursday): as an exercise in rehabilitation through self-deprecation it was shameless, if not wholly successful.

"I had no effect on the team that week - obviously," he said of his start as England captain. "And it went on for eight years." This was a typical response, reeking of apparent humility. It's impossible to shake off the feeling with Carling, though, that it is all an act, and with a bit too much slap and what looked like dyed eyebrows, he came across like Dirk Bogarde as Aschenbach in Death in Venice. It made me feel queasy, anyway.

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