Sunday, 23 November 2014

What a very odd sporting weekend - everyone I wanted to win won!

Just after the BBC Sport Formula One presenter Suzi Perry had informed us that we were watching pictures of Lewis Hamilton's girlfriend "kissing his helmet" (lucky boy!), I realised what a strange weekend it had been. I wanted Lewis Hamilton to win the F1 World Championship - and he did. I wanted Manchester United (deservedly or otherwise) to beat Arsenal - and they did. And I very much wanted my all-time sporting hero Roger Federer to fill the last remaining spot in his trophy cabinet with the Davis Cup. And he did. Something has gone very wrong - perhaps a rent in the fabric of the space-time continuum -  because the universe rarely rearranges itself to accommodate my desires so comprehensively. Maybe I'll wake up in a short while to discover it's all been a dream.

Whatever the reason, I'm very grateful. When Federer had to pull out of last week's ATP World Tour finals with back trouble, I assumed the game was up, and when he was smashed off court by Gael Monfils (who, admittedly, was superb) in the second rubber against France on Friday, I knew that was that. But the old boy seemed strangely unconcerned by that defeat, claiming afterwards that he'd played himself back into form during the match and that his back was tickedy-boo. It sounded like sheer bravado - yodelling in the dark. When will I learn not to doubt the old maestro? He played brilliantly alongside his sensationally in-form partner Wawrinka in yesterdays' doubles against Benneteau and Gasquet to make it 2-1 - and today, in the fourth rubber, he played as well on clay as I have ever seen him perform (and I'm talking about the second best clay court player of his era). Poor old Gasquet didn't play badly, but he was doomed from the start (he was a last-minute replacement for Tsonga, who claimed to have damaged his elbow, but may have been suffering from some sort of mental melt-down after being thoroughly duffed up by Wawrinka in the opening singles match)

Whatever was going on behind the scenes, Federer is now a Davis Cup winner. And so is Stan Wawrinka, who - we mustn't forget - has just completed an absolutely stunning season: first Grand Slam, first Masters 1000 title, Davis Cup winner and fourth in the world rankings, all at the advanced age of 29. One presumes that playing alongside the greatest player in tennis history (even the presenters have started omitting the "probably") must have helped Wawrinka raise his game - but he's a shy chap, and Federer's giant shadow might just as easily have chilled the ambition out of him. I wonder if Stan has yet realised that he's the third most popular player in tennis (although evidently not with Mrs. Federer) - there's just something lovable about this sleepy-eyed, pock-marked, self-effacing bull of a man. Federer himself was quick to give Wawrinka credit following today's Swiss victory - which was good to hear, because without the burly French-speaker the great  man would undoubtedly have ended his career with a Davis Cup-shaped hole in his trophy room (which must be the size of an aircraft hangar by now).

As for Hamilton, it's always heartening to see a British sportsman cry during the national anthem. And even more heartening to see talent so splendidly and justly rewarded. Sebastian Vettel's four-year victory streak had turned F1 into a snooze-fest, but watching Hamilton reel off victory after victory in his successful bid to overhaul yet another Teuton has breathed life back into the sport: for the first time in years, I'm actually looking forward to the next season.

As for Manchester United, well, I'm not that interested, but, for history's sake, I don't like seeing them humiliated - even with Wayne Rooney as captain - and the last season and a quarter has been deeply embarrassing. I don't need them to win the Premiership or the European Cup, but seeing them languish mid-table just feels wrong: it's like your boiler being on the blink or the car acting up. Besides, a puffed-up Louis Van Gaal is as great a comedy treat as a sulky Jose Murinho or a furious Arsene Wenger - in fact, this trio of foreign funnymen often provide far better entertainment than their teams.

Anyway, a satisfying sports weekend - I thought I should publicly acknowledge whoever is responsible for organising these things.


  1. You consider F1 a sport then SG?

    1. I'm tempted to say it's a sport if the winner is British - but the truth is, I've never been able to decide. It would definitely be a fully-fledged sport if every driver had exactly the same car, tyres and amount of petrol - in which case I'm fairly sure Alonso and Hamilton would have shared the honours for the last ten years. But then, that would kill what little's left of the romance and, without the constructors, who would pay for the whole damn thing - including the numerous seedy troughers who seem to infest the sport (or pastime, if you prefer)?