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

View From The Sofa: Game Set and Mats, British Eurosport
  • @mattbutler503

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.