Immediate disclaimer; I can’t pretend to be a huge tennis fan. I watch bits and racquets here and there, but I can’t say I find a whole match the most exciting of prospects. It is in that mindset that this piece is written.
I watched the men’s singles final of Wimbledon on Sunday, like countless other millions. I was hoping Andy Murray won, but I – like he – can have no complaints with the outcome of the day. He was outplayed by a man whose skills are legendary, particularly on that court, in that tournament. There can have been few, if any better. I wanted Andy Murray to win not through patriotism (though it would be nice to see Britain, host of a major tennis tournament, provide a winner in living memory) but because he has consistently been one of the best players in the world for a number of years now; and his ascent probably warrants the major title it has not yet been garnished with as yet.
So at about 1.30pm I settled down to watch the match in a pub near London Waterloo, casually hoping Murray would be victorious, but safe in the knowledge that if he wasn’t, there was nobody I would rather see win than Roger Federer.
That illusion was shattered by 2.00.
The BBC showed a highlights package of the ‘rivalry’ between Roger and Andy, with a few clips from the archive; Andy’s mini-afro becoming smaller and smaller with his world ranking, Roger’s immaculate look since, seemingly, he was a small boy – never once ruffled by anything. Then something jarred. There was a clip of Federer lifting the trophy, and kissing it. People do that; I wouldn’t want metal in my own mouth, but that’s their look out. On his wrist, though, in that shot, he wore a watch.
‘That’s unusual’, I thought to myself. ‘I wonder if he plays in a watch. Seems unlikely’.
Such is the champion Federer has been that, for a while, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He had a sizeable sweatband (immaculately) placed on his wrist – not that he ever needed it – and I thought he maybe was hiding his watch under there. So I kept watching (pardon the pun) his game, and the realisation came to me that he must have, that day, put the watch on after the match ended. A little of my respect for him faded with that thought.
So I carried on watching.
It became inevitable that Federer would be victorious towards the end of the third set. It was an interesting match in that it ebbed and flowed, but only once. Murray was pulling Federer to all corners during the first set, but by the end of the second, it was he doing the chasing, and his energy being sapped. It must be particularly demoralised for a player to be slogging one’s guts out to see, on the other side of the net, a man moving about so serenely he could be knocking about with his children.
So I carried on watching.
As the final point flew wide, and Federer fell to his knees, I was rapt, hoping to see in Roger the behaviour of a great champion. He fell to his knees. He kissed the court. He consoled Murray. He sat down on his chair, and went to his bag. ‘Water’, I thought ‘He’ll be getting water’. Alas. He went straight to the bag for a watch. This, then, is your champion. A man so calm in his moment of great triumph that his first thought was for some sponsorship dollars.
I know that I enjoy sports wherein players are adorned with baudy sponsorship, but they wear it all the time – don’t put it on for celebrations (though, admittedly, there is a trend towards
‘celebration t-shirts’ being handed out so they can dance around to Status Quo in them). Roger Federer made sport die a little for me on Sunday, and I have lost respect for him as a result.