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
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links