John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Friday 6 July 2012) Empathy with Andy

John Vane: Roy’s Summer of Sport (Friday 6 July 2012) Empathy with Andy

There was a nail in the wall of the room where Gwen had died, which was the room where Leila had slept as a girl. Roy hung the motorcycle photo on it, stood back, admired it, imagined the room cleared of Gwen’s slippers, Gwen’s dressing gown, Gwen’s hand cream, hairspray and little shoes. He could put a desk in there. More photographs too.

It was an overcast day; no change there. Breakfast was two croissants from the freezer, lunch was another lasagne ready meal. Federer beat Djokovic in four sets to reach the men’s final. Roy liked Federer, deeming him the last survivor of a lost age of artistry. Once invincible, he’d been overhauled by the machine Djokovic and the bludgeoning Nadal but now he was resurrecting, clawing his way back against those younger men. It was heartening. Two slack shots by the Serb put Federer in charge of the pivotal third set, then he was home.

Roy watched website highlights of Connors beating McEnroe in the final of 1982. Before that year he’d hated Connors (too American, a brat) for thrashing Rosewall (ageing gentleman, Australian) then loved it when Connors had lost to Ashe (an underdog despite also being American, not a brat). But he’d rooted like mad for Connors to beat McEnroe (even more too American, even more of a brat). Thirty years on he loved them both.

Murray came on to Centre Court. His opponent was the genial, muscular Tsonga – dusky for an Australian, Don would have said. Murray was quickly on top. He took the first set six-three, the second six-four. Roy waited for everything to go wrong. Murray started the third set with a loose service game, which Tsonga won. Tsonga held serve, held serve, held serve, held serve, held serve and Murray’s lead was halved. All that dominance self-dismantled by a couple of sloppy shots, the self-loathing self-perpetuating. The Scot was surely doomed.

Roy killed the sound, went upstairs, sat on his bed. He watched the clock, counted the minutes ticking by: five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. He went back down and saw the score. Level. He sat and watched through cracks in his fingers. Tsonga had break points at four-all, but Murray saved them. Then Murray broke at five-all and was serving for the match. He won with a cross-court drive that clipped the line and was the first Briton in the men’s singles final for 76 years.

Murray did his funny victory thing, lifting his hands shoulder high and pointing his index fingers to the skies. Then came an excruciating post-match interview, Murray recoiling from flattery, resisting overtures for nation-pleasing platitudes, the reporter’s obsequiousness poorly masking his intrusions into places Murray didn’t want him near.

“What can it possibly have been like, Andy, for your parents, watching?”

“Uh, I’ve no idea.”

Eye contact now completely gone, body language screaming for mercy.

“I’m not really that bothered, it’s a lot harder for me, that’s for sure.”

Chippy Scot, murmured the ghost of Don. But Roy suspected that Murray’s jarring ungraciousness was a cover for acute embarrassment. His interviewer released a matey guffaw.

“I mean, but for your mum and dad, and your brother, they’ve been such a big part of your tennis life. The whole nation will have been on the edge of their seats, now. And mum and dad. The cameras are on them every two seconds. What a great moment for them.”

“Yeah, dickhead,” said Roy, on Murray’s behalf.

“We see you pointing to the sky at the end. What relief for you,” the interviewer said.

“Piss off now,” said Roy.

“And maybe at the end of the tournament you’ll tell us why you, sort of, pointed to the sky, is that something you would tell us at the end…”

Murray’s head was shaking already.

“…or perhaps not, Andy.”

“No. I’ll keep it to myself.”

“And on Sunday,” the interviewer persisted, “You’ll walk just through this door behind us and you’ll walk on to Centre Court, and it will be the Wimbledon final. I mean: feelings?”

“Oh, do fuck off!” begged Roy.

Image from Murray post-match interview. All previous instalments of Roy’s Summer of Sport are HERE. Follow John on Twitter.

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Categories: Culture, Roy's Summer of Sport

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