Hang on in there, footie refuseniks, for tomorrow the televisual and conversational respite begins. It might not be quite the breath of fresh air some are looking for – they won't suddenly be screening Eastern European arthouse flicks at your local or anything – but in terms of major sporting events, Wimbledon feels about as far removed from the World Cup as south London is from South Africa.
Contrary to the belief of the marketing community, televised football does not inspire us ladies to run to the nearest purveyor of distracting fripperies. By and large, it just leaves me, at least, indifferent. And the rare moments when I do find my emotions involuntarily roused are usually followed by a slight embarrassment, as I'm such a blatant part-timer. I don't know the offside rule and can only name the most OK!-worthy of the England squad.
Wimbledon lends itself far better to the annual non-aficionado – partly due to its smaller cast of characters, an easier set of rules and a two-week window that's perfect for building tension without straining one's attention span.
That's why, over the coming fortnight, committed amateur players will be furious to find courts all over the country booked up by overenthusiastic no-hopers like me swearing blind we'll keep this tennis thing up. Relax, I can confidently say we'll have forgotten what a racket is by mid-July.
It's not the strawberries, the champagne or even Roger Federer's natty white blazer that hook people. On the contrary, all those little traditions that allude to the sport's genteel origins, and might be taken as its point of difference from football, are a red herring when it comes to identifying its modern appeal. No, what makes tennis so engaging is how it embraces all the stuff we would condemn in football – on-court tantrums, shameless show-ponying (see Roger, above) and off-court roguishness that makes Ashley Cole look coy (think vintage Cash, Becker et al).
While footballers have been beaten into verbal discretion by their media training, tennis can also be relied on for refreshingly bitchy quotes. Laura Robson's decision to tell Vogue that most of her fellow female players were "sluts" can't have won her too many female friends. And though Andy Murray (inset) incurred much wrath over the "anyone but England" quip at the 2006 World Cup, I've rather respected him ever since for having a personality.
None of this may have much to do with good sport, but if it's going to take up 50 per cent of the TV schedule, I'll be voting with the remote for good entertainment. Come on Tim! Oops, I mean Andy. Told you I was a part-timer.Reuse content