Friday, 9 June 2017

Different ways of losing - Andy Murray v. Theresa May

Feeling a trifle shell-shocked this afternoon, following a sleepless night - and unwilling to subject myself to any more ghastly political news - I sat and watched the French Open semi-final between Andy "Churckles"  Murray and Stan "Strong like Bull" Wawrinka. Wowsers. One of the greatest matches I've ever seen. Murray edged the first set, Stan struck back in the second, Murray sneaked the third - against pretty much any other player, Murray would have won in four or five sets: he has an impressive five-set record, being a bloody-minded Scot and all. The only doubt in my mind arose from the fact that Wawrinka has this knack of - every now and then - suddenly...

...entering a weird, almost mystical state in which he turns into the greatest tennis player the world has ever seen: his every ball is a supersonic, laser-guided missile which leaves any opponent - Federer, Nadal or Djokovic, it doesn't matter - flat-footed and baffled.

This awesome display of utter perfection can last for an hour or more, and there is nothing whatsoever Wawrinka's opponent can do about it. He did it to Nadal at the Australian Open in 2014, and to Djokovic at Roland Garros the following year. Today it was Andy Murray's turn. Murray has rediscovered his form at these championships, and played really well today - but, for over an hour, the burly Swiss, who had fallen behind due to a mixture of Murray magic and a series of sloppy errors, suddenly entered The Zone and wound up winning in five, having blitzed his way through the final set. Obviously, I was supporting Murray - I want him back to his best for Wimbledon - but when Stan morphs into a racket-wielding superhero, tennis fans, no matter what our allegiance, simply gaze in wonder, our spines tingling, grinning goofily and shaking our heads in delighted disbelief.

Murray's congratulations at the end were evidently genuine: it must be galling to lose such a long, gruelling match - especially when the whole crowd is enthusiastically rooting for your opponent. Perhaps knowing that you've played a major role in a classic contest makes the frustration easier to bear: I wouldn't know. But it must be some consolation to know you've been steamrollered by a force of nature whom no player in the whole history of tennis would have mastered on that court, on that day. Murray is a better player than Wawrinka - more skilled, more creative, quicker about the court, and with a far greater variety of shots at his disposal. But that all counts for absolutely nothing when Stan the Man temporarily becomes Stan the Deity. And everyone who witnessed the transformation counts themselves fortunate to have seen it: there's no pain or shame in your guy losing.

Now, onto Theresa May. Oh Lord, there is so much anger out there, and it's not directed at Jeremy Corbyn - who, after all, played a good game - but at "our" guy, or gal. It's as if Andy Murray had turned up at French Open to play Stan Wawrinka, not having bothered to train beforehand, without the right equipment, having refused to discuss the match with his coach, Ivan Lendl, had turned down all interview requests, and had then wandered onto the court so sure of winning that he hadn't bothered to devise a game-plan, and, when Stan showed signs of having one of his sublime episodes, hadn't bothered to up his game, but had simply waited for his opponent to burn himself out. Now, if Murray had approached today's game in that way, I would have been screaming curses at the television set, and, when he played at Wimbledon, I would be cheering on his opponent, eager to see Murray humiliated.

Well, that seems to have been the way Theresa May approached her contest with Jeremy Corbyn. She treated her opponent and her supporters with utter contempt. While, as a rabid opponent of socialism in all its forms, I will certainly not be cheering on her opponents in future - I will certainly not be supporting her in any way. I sincerely hope that her decision to remain Prime Minister is a purely temporary measure to allow the Brexit negotiations to start on schedule  (although God knows what she imagines she can achieve, as she'll be batting for Britain with the political equivalent of two broken legs) and to give her party time to choose a successor who doesn't treat victory as their God-given right.

In case you haven't had enough of people frothing with rage about Mrs. May today, you will enjoy this rant on Iain Dale's LBC phone-in from working-class Londoner, Martin, a former New Labour supporter who voted Tory for the first time yesterday because he despises the hard left. He is understandably furious. I really hope Theresa May, her advisers, and those goofballs at Conservative Central Office are listening with manic concentration to the likes of Martin. But I suspect not - they're apparently seriously considering Phillip Hammond as a suitable replacement for May. If that's true, then I think we have to conclude that the silly, useless bastards really don't have a clue what just happened - in which case, we're all royally screwed. I suggest they all spent a few hours soaking up the anger on social media - or watching a recording of the Murray-Wawrinka match to learn what skill, guts, effort, application and sheer bloody-minded determination look like.



  1. I have no interest in tennis. The sign of a great sport journalist [like Michael Henderson versus the ghastly Simon Barnes] is that he triggers an interest in a sport amongst the unbelievers and engages you. I must now track down this Murray- Wawrinka game and watch it.

    Did you not once have an altercation with a famous American player also called "Stan" whose name I have forgotten?

    Moving seamlessly on. "Phillipe" Hammond!! The Victorian Undertaker. Nobody talks about Michael Gove anymore [back-stabber etc] - OK, a Scot, ghastly Lady Macbeth-type wife, a vast arse and eye-brow problems. But very able.

    1. I know you're not a huge tennis fan, so I'd concentrate on the fifth set, especially as Wawrinka races to am 4-0 lead in an eye-blink. He's not the most demonstrative of players - in fact he usually looks as if he's just learned that the village where he lives has been destroyed in an earthquake - but even he's laughing at the improbable feats he's performing.

      Stan Smith, the lanky American Wimbledon champion, once caught me swearing and hitting a coca-cola dispenser at an indoor tournament in London. I explained it was refusing to disgorge the can of coke I'd paid for.

      "You sure you put money in?"

      "Of course!"

      "I don't know," he said. "You look like a pretty shifty character to me."

      A decent human being, especially compared to his contemporaries, Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase.

      Gove did a test for me as a political talk-show presenter at the BBC. I thought he was excellent, but, mysteriously, my request to use him was turned down by the brass. Really nice chap. Brillo asked him two weeks ago on air if this was the worst political campaign he'd ever seen. "No," he replied, "that would be my campaign to become Tory leader."

  2. The British Lions also put in a gutsy performance last night.
    My kids want me to take them to see Wonder Woman the movie.Theresa May should be compelled to sit through it at least twice.