Robin Scott-Elliot: Barker is left to turn off the lights at the end of the longest day
View From The Sofa: Wimbledon, BBC 1
Monday 02 July 2012
You could tell it was getting late because one of the Rs and the A from the group wearing T-shirts each sporting a letter of Andy Murray's name had disappeared. Either that or their spelling is atrocious. Still M, U, R and Y and the rest went home happy from Centre Court on Saturday night, leaving Sue Barker to turn out the lights in the All England Club.
By the end of the tournament's longest day, Barker had been abandoned. There was no one else in the studio – although at least it was indoors. The highlights show earlier in the week had taken British TV stoicism to new heights as John Inverdale and guests sat under umbrellas on the roof.
Barker earned her money on Saturday, pointing out she had been at it for nearly 12 hours. Wimbledon suits her and it's where she is at her relaxed best as a presenter. Wimbledon also suits the BBC – on TV and radio – although there remains a tendency to begin each day by numbers: "Hello, lots of exciting tennis coming up and here's a montage with plenty of slo-mo grimacing set to a track which shows our producer knows his tunes."
There is a good mix of pundits well used by the presenters and then there is John McEnroe. The annual dose of McEnroe, with his wit, no-nonsense approach to sport and life, natural mischievousness and character accent, has become a summer staple in British sporting life. Richie Benaud is dead – we're talking figuratively here – long live John McEnroe.
Wimbledon commentary boxes have become an American home from home this summer. On 5Live Jeff Tarango is entertainingly prickly, while our own Nick Bollettieri has plenty of admirers. Bollettieri has the best accent in sport, a New York drawl created by gargling on a gravel and wasp cocktail. He is the Godfather of tennis. Which makes McEnroe the Capo – the guy who gets involved at the business end.
When Murray hit a down section of his usual Wimbledon rollercoaster, gingerly feeling his groin after another tumble, McEnroe suggested drily that "he's going to run out of body parts".
In the players' box, Ivan Lendl sat and scowled, adapting that Kipling line for his own use. Murray broke; Lendl scowled. Murray broken; Lendl scowled. Ball falls out of Murray's pocket; Lendl doubles up in fit of giggles. That last one did not happen. When Murray finally won and the crowd rose to him, Lendl remained noticeably on his seat. After a moment's consideration, he patted one giant hand on the wall in front of him a couple of times. It may have been a ringing endorsement of his charge or perhaps he was overwhelmed by a deep feeling of Wimbledon weltschmerz. Why are you standing, you schmucks? It's futile, a Briton will never win here.
Garry Richardson stayed to the bitter end, too, to grab Murray as he came off court. Being a pro, Richardson crowbarred in the requisite joke about Murray adjusting his balls better in his pockets, and, as they say across the pond, when you've got them by the balls, the hearts and minds will follow.
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