Matt Butler: Look out, Wimbledon, Mats Wilander's about to ride into town

View From The Sofa: Game Set and Mats, British Eurosport

My Uncle Paul looked like Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. He had a leathery face, piercing eyes and a stare that could stop a wild boar in its tracks. He used to say things like "I could take all your fingers off with one bite" and you never quite knew if he was joking or not.

He was a dude. He is sadly no longer with us, but he came to mind this week while I was watching Mats Wilander in the rarefied environs of a tennis court, no less.

Okay, so Wilander isn't quite Uncle Paul, let alone the Man with No Name – there is no poncho or cheroot for a start – but, with his chiselled features and gravelly voice, he has been giving off an air of toughness on Eurosport every night over the past week in the channel's daily French Open round-up, coincidentally titled Game Set and Mats.

He and Annabel Croft sit in a studio made of Perspex perched on stools that look like they have been bought off a defunct 1980s theme bar, dissecting each day's action. The analysis, aided by Hawk-Eye grabs and slow-motion clips, is deep – particularly impressive, given that the show is live. And if a player isn't up to par, then Wilander doesn't hold back.

Take his analysis of Bethanie Mattek-Sands on Thursday night. The American with a penchant for wacky kit had just despatched the No 6 seed and 2011 champion Li Na. Wilander's take: "Up to now, she has underachieved." Ouch.

He did follow up with some positive comments, saying how she has matured into her game, but you get the feeling that other pundits would not give it so straight, especially as Mattek-Sands had enjoyed one of the biggest wins of her career.

His take on how to beat Rafael Nadal on Saturday night's show was equally blunt: "You have to hit the ball as hard as you can, in the right places... and then pray."

So far, Wilander is yet to come out with anything as explosive as the "shrinking balls" jibe he aimed at Roger Federer in reference to his showing in the 2006 final against Nadal, but there is still time; the tournament is only a week old.

If you were looking for updates from Wilander and Croft on the British players earlier last week, you would have been disappointed. On the day Heather Watson became the last Brit to bow out of Roland Garros, the show dedicated her a grand total of zero minutes. Mind you, it is Eurosport, after all – they have an entire continent to fit in.

The other parts of the show serve as comic relief. An odd interview section, with a bearded taxi driver called Guillame and a player in the back seat, is entertaining. The German, Philipp Kohlschreiber's spot on Thursday was priceless, if only because he managed to fulfil almost every stereotype about his nationality in a three-minute slot.

The same night, Janko Tipsarevic, the glasses-wearing Serbian world No 10, had a puerile – and therefore funny – segment with him and Novak Djokovic in an ice bath. It didn't take long for Tipsy to do the old "I may have done something in there" gag so beloved of eight-year-olds.

Wilander approved. "That's the best one so far, well done Tipsy," he said, with a half-smile.

What is really worth looking forward to is Croft and Wilander at Wimbledon. There, among the grass, chumminess and chinless wonders, you can imagine Wilander standing in the corner, eyes squinting, spurs jangling, growling razor-sharp analysis into his enormous Eurosport microphone. Uncle Paul would no doubt have approved.


Suggested Topics
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.

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade