Category Archives: Sport

Wimbledon: Marion Bartoli

Today, Marion Bartoli has 16,377 Twitter followers. Sabine Lisicki has 137, 043. Marion Bartoli is a Wimbledon Champion. Sabine Lisicki isn’t. I like Bartoli. I like Lisicki. In fact, I pretty much like all professional tennis players. They’re professional tennis players! What’s not to like? But yesterday, in the Wimbledon women’s finals, I wanted Bartoli to win. Why? Firstly, she’s a great tennis player. Secondly, until recently she didn’t have any sponsorship. Thirdly, because I knew that it would piss off stupid people – and it’s important to piss off stupid people.

A few years ago Bartoli was asked by an interviewer why she didn’t have any sponsors. “I’m probably not blonde enough, not tall enough, and not thin enough,” she replied. This was despite being the number 11 seed and having a higher IQ than Einstein. In women’s tennis, the best players often don’t make the most money. Here’s why:

For some reason, a lot of people still seem to think women’s tennis is an X-factor-style hunt for a Nuts magazine cover star and get pretty angry when they’re given someone who’s simply brilliant at sport. While Bartoli’s Wimbledon win was unpredictable (given that Serena Williams was the favourite), the tirade of abuse that followed it on Twitter wasn’t.

Along with plenty of talk of rape and violence, that boring phrase tagged on to so many supposedly acceptable conversations about the Williams sisters was also wheeled out: “She looks like a man.” Not that it’s relevant, but neither Bartoli nor the Williams sisters look anything like men: athletes, yes; men, no. The Williams sisters’ colourful fashion, hairstyles and nail art are not what I’d imagine the people behind the tweets would describe as masculine (although, you never know…).

Bartoli looks like she’s just thrown on a white T-shirt, but then so does Andy Murray. I like the fact she has a grey headband that could have come out of my sock drawer in the same way I like the fact that Murray’s bedroom, as a teenager, looked like a bombsite. It makes me feel like we have something in common, even though we don’t.

Despite being the acceptable face of tennis for internet trolls, Sabine Lisicki isn’t referred to any more pleasantly. Rape and violence seem to be a reoccurring theme whether those advocating them love or hate the sportswoman they’re referring to – not that, I’m sure, Lisicki or Bartoli give a shit what a load of repressed losers furiously pounding their computers have to say.

I show The Other One a list of some of the Bartoli tweets. He is surprised that they are all by young men, rather than older people stuck in a bygone era – people like BBC commentators John Inverdale and Simon Reed, who have been criticised for making derogatory remarks about female players. I’m not surprised. Young people can be idiots too. At least there’s the hope the one day they’ll grow up – or that everyone will harass them on Twitter until they explode in a ball of bitter, all-consuming women hating rage. Their usernames are up there. Why not drop them a line.

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Wimbledon: Andy Murray

Whenever any of my family manages to get tickets to Wimbledon, the rest of us spend the entire day trying to spot them in the audience on television. “Who are you seeing?” is a less important question than “What are you wearing?” Why, a giant blue flag and a red plastic hat with ‘Murray’ painted on it, thanks for asking. Only, of course, we aren’t because then we’d look like everyone else.

The Other One and I have got tickets to this year’s men’s quarter finals. We’re watching Andy Murray play Fernando Verdasco and Jean Martin del Potro play David Ferrer. Whatever we’re wearing, you won’t be seeing it because we’re sitting right at the back of Centre Court, twenty rows behind the TV cameras. Mamar sends a frustrated text from Newcastle: “They just keep showing the Royal Box.” Yeah, why aren’t they doing a three-hour panning shot of all our faces?

It sometimes seems like tennis players are also expected to spend all of their time watching the audience – perhaps more so than we’re expected to watch them. “Did it help when the crowd got behind you?” is a common question from BBC commentators like Sue Barker or Gary Richardson. Yes, Andy Murray invariably answers. He likes the crowd, as we discovered when he tearfully thanked us all after losing last year’s Wimbledon final to Roger Federer. In post-match interviews Murray might be more comfortable with a dry step-by-step analysis of his game (“I was serving well in the first set, I lost the second, then I won the third”), but what we really want to know is whether he can hear the applause on Henman Hill.

Tennis, like most things, isn’t really about the logistics of a game; it’s about emotional drama. Hence, the great British hope is always The Underdog, opponents who don’t show emotion are “robots crushing him” and female players have “a lovely personality” unless they’re Serena Williams who is “arrogant” or this year’s Wimbledon women’s champion Marion Bartoli who is “eccentric.”

Murray was criticised in the past for having no personality at all in the same way snooker player Steve Davis was. Now that’s become his personality – a down-to-earth bloke from Dunblane to contrast the gold monogrammed style of Federer. The Evening Standard even claims Murray’s a sex symbol and that TV presenter Tess Daly giving him 7 out of 10 somehow helps prove this.

Like many people, I’ve been waiting for a British winner at Wimbledon for years. Professional tennis players start training at six-years-old. When I was six-years-old I started watching them on TV. My sisters and I used to line up small wooden men (Solitaire pieces) on top of the television and knock one on the floor every time a player got knocked out: Greg Rusedski, Stefan Edberg, Michael Stich – the names you don’t realise have disappeared until they pop up in Invitation Seniors matches. Every year, tiny wooden Tim Henman hit the carpet.

At the 2013 men’s quarter finals there are the familiar shouts. “Come on Tim” has become “Come on Andy” and will no doubt become “Come On Someone Else” in the future. At one point Murray looks to the crowd. He was “asking us to support him” we later hear a commentator explain. Luckily we do, and he goes on to win. “If they [the crowd] can be like that from the first shot to the last it makes a real difference,” Murray says afterwards. Basically, he can’t win unless we help him. Which is great, because that means we can all be sports champions without doing very much – even the woman sitting next to us on her own and half of The Other One’s seat, who says “I can do better than that” every time he misses a shot. If Murray can beat Novak Djokovic in tomorrow’s men’s finals, we can all feel like winners – or, at least, that he couldn’t have done it without our help.