Tennis: Wimbledon '94 / Not seeing is believing the unbelievable: Martin Johnson casts his eye around the courts on finals day

Click to follow
The Independent Online
NOT everyone who comes through the All England Club gates on the final Sunday turns up to watch the tennis, and all those without tickets at Wimbledon yesterday doubtless considered themselves a good deal more fortunate than those who had. It was free to get in, and pounds 49 for a seat on Centre Court. Next year, perhaps, Wimbledon might price it the other way around.

The lucky ones (ie, the ticketless) spent their time sunbathing on the lawns, knocking back the Pimms, and wandering through the souvenir shops. There were those who had simply turned up to watch the Princess of Wales drive in and back out again, and one Japanese gentleman was aiming his camcorder at any number of interesting things, such as people eating strawberries, and empty benches around the equally empty outside courts.

Near the main gates, there was a giant video screen beaming the match to those who wanted to watch, although the sun shone so fiercely that it was impossible to see the ball. Not too far away, 13,000 people had spent a lot of money for the privilege of not being able to see the ball.

On the TV in the Wimbledon press room, the BBC team were full of pre-match doom and gloom about the prospect of no one being able to see the ball. John Barrett told the viewers that he hoped it would be a 'tennis match rather than a serving match' but there was a note in his voice which said that sighting a squadron of low-flying pigs over Centre Court would be more likely.

The unluckiest men on court yesterday were the judges assigned to the centre service line. These were the real heroes, risking all on the service line of duty, and it was a wonder they didn't end the match weeping buckets of relief on the Duchess of Kent's shoulder.

The men's game may be changing, but the BBC's Wimbledon coverage remains as firmly rooted in tradition as ever. The Duchess' arrival in the royal box is obligatory viewing, and it is traditional to hand out bouquets to the groundstaff, the referee ('grand job, once again') and the ball boys. As usual, the ball boys are congratulated because 'no one ever sees them'. A bit like the balls, really.

Then they talk about the tension, and who can handle the pressure better. Barrett's sidekick yesterday was Bill Threlfall, who thankfully alerted viewers early on as to what they should be looking for. 'We need,' said Bill, 'to try to spot the important points in this match.'

What he meant by this was a little unclear, although some of us took him to mean that the key point of the match would arrive when someone got a serve back over the net. Before Ivanisevic's first serve of the match, Barrett said: 'If he's going to be nervous, this is when he's at his most vulnerable.' Thud. Bang. 15- love.

'Ivanisevic,' Barrett said later, 'has been serving like this since he was six years old', which presumably meant that Goran's friends' mothers refused to let their children play with him. Goran also has a reputation of having remained (in terms of on court deportment) a six- year-old all his life, but he has recently tamed his volatile temperament, thus ruling out any faint hopes of a tantrum or two to liven up proceedings.

Afterwards in the interview room, the Croat was, he said, not too upset at having lost to someone who was 'too good'. He described Sampras as 'too good' 10 times, and Sampras clearly shared that view. 'What did Sampras say to you afterwards, Goran?' 'He said: 'I played too good.' '

Barrett's pre-match analysis of Ivanisevic's temperament ('the volatility is now under complete control') seemed a copper-bottomed invitation for the Croat to headbutt the umpire immediately, but the BBC man was spot on.

When he sat on his chair contemplating the loss of the second set, Goran got mildly annoyed with his towel. When he queried a Sampras ace, and the referee gave him a ('how the hell do you expect me to see the ball either?') type of shrug, the Croat declined to continue the argument.

Then when Goran broke a string banging his racket on the changeover chair, Barrett leapt to his defence. 'Perfectly controlled that,' he said, as if referring to a backhand volley. 'Not an uncontrolled outburst, just annoyance really.'

Comments