Chris McGrath: Nostalgic BBC writes tennis history before it happens

View From The Sofa: Did Andrew Castle have a verbal time capsule ready for future generations?

This was a classic BBC occasion. And didn't the BBC just know it. Because you can forget the Centre Court roof – it's the closed shop they needed to worry about; the paradox that the most precious broadcasting rights in sport are those immured against the free market. And that means identifying moments such as these, in the nation's communal memory, as somehow contingent on their stewardship.

Sure enough, they set the scene yesterday on the margin between self-reference and self-reverence. The broadcast opened with a spool of iconic commentaries, from Peter O'Sullevan calling Red Rum's third National to Kenneth Wolstenholme himself declaring: "It is now."

You had to feel for Andrew Castle. Did he have his lines ready? Would he find the words to distil Andy Murray's golden moment, a verbal time capsule for future generations?

Expectation, in other words, was not confined to Murray himself: the whole nation was being invited to wallow in anticipated nostalgia. You could almost see it, certainly once the roof closed. As the players returned from the rain break, Sir Steve Redgrave was interviewed at court-side and observed how the arena had now obtained "a very yellow tint".

But all nostalgia is bittersweet, and the BBC team did not resist a due foreboding on Murray's behalf. A wistful Tim Henman, gamely pretending that he was not talking about himself, wished that Murray could be endowed with "a selective memory". That way, he could suppress the legacy of doubt – having failed to win a single set in three previous Grand Slam finals.

John McEnroe interviewed his boyhood hero, Rod Laver, who candidly reproached Murray. "He plays a safe game a little bit too long," he said. "That's the one thing I think maybe he's missing: that sixth sense, 'I've got to win this point'." Nor did McEnroe himself hold back. "I can't recall a time when Murray got angry and turned it to his favour," he said. This, then, was the day Murray had to ask himself: "Are you going to be an also-ran forever?"

And there would soon be a moment when this despondency unmistakably infected the whole nation. That was when Sue Barker turned to McEnroe and said: "I know we've got to let you go, you've commitments to American television." We had already seen Pat Cash summoned from the studio by his Five Live duties. "Tune into the radio everybody," he said, as he left. "You don't want these guys. What do they know?"

A trifle harsh on Castle, Henman and Boris Becker, even if their chat-to-camera in the commentary booth, during the rain break, would prove irresistibly suggestive of three Thunderbirds at the console. At the very beginning, as the finalists left the locker room, Becker instantly spotted that Federer had sportingly levelled out the odds. Only Murray appeared to be carrying a racket. But then Becker observed him jumping nervously up and down, behind the insouciant Swiss seraph, as they waited to step on to court. "Oh dear," said Boris. Henman said he actually liked to see that. "Oh dear," said several million Britons.

But the pressure was on Federer too, Becker noted. "It could be his last Wimbledon final, as well," he said. It was a throwaway remark, with epic intimations. True, the team briefly developed a surreal theory that Federer had won 16 Grand Slam titles with a backhand like a wet dishcloth. As soon as the roof closed, however, it caved in on Murray.

Becker noticed that his "bardy language" was increasingly negative. He did not mean that Murray had resorted to Hamlet's bleakest soliloquies. After the lachrymose presentation ceremony, Castle would instead end up invoking Kipling and the twin impostors. And if the tint was yellow, it had never been rose.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
The video, titled 'A Message to America', was released a day after Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that has overrun large parts of Iraq, threatened to attack Americans 'in any place'. U.S. officials said they were working to determine the video's authenticity
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape