AS THE crow flies, it is ten miles from Wimbledon
to Wembley and there was one green and purple tie on display as
Alan Mills fresh from a cameo role in the new feature film
based on the premise that love is the answer to an Englishman
winning rather than the score most of them make there moonlighted
as the referee of the sports newest show, SuperSet. In every
other concept, it was akin to playing tennis on the other side
of the moon. Whether SuperSet is here to stay is in the lap of
the admission-paying members of the public and whether television
thinks it can move more people to watch tennis at an event in
this country than those mesmerised by the All England Championships.
Those enticed to northwest rather than southwest London on a wickedly
wet afternoon, thoroughly relished the experience.
The format is simple: one set, one court, one
chance and heaven help you if you drop serve. The contest at the
Wembley Arena yesterday would offer £250,000 to the winner,
but if you thought the other seven in the contest were simply
attending on a whim and willingly gave their serve and services
for free, that was not the case. Each of the participants received
£50,000, only the winner collected five times that much.
Considering that Roger Federer, the world No
1, took home £602,500 for becoming Wimbledon champion for
the second time in July, it is not a bad return for an afternoon/evenings
work. The champion here would have to win three sets for, ostensibly,
the event started at the quarter-final stage and was then played
through to its gyrating climax. Federer yesterday defeated Andy
Roddick, the world No 2, 6-4, 6-0 to win the Thailand Open on
his debut in Bangkok a crushing validation of his talents
and his twelfth consecutive victory in a tournament final, which
equalled the records of John McEnroe in 1984-85 when he played
the finest tennis of his life, and Bjorn Borg in 1979-80, the
height of his powers. You wont catch Federer SuperSetting
for a while.
Borg doesnt go near a court these days
other than the odd private hit in Sweden; McEnroe was at the vanguard
of the crew who descended on a venue where he used to wow them
in the days of the Benson and Hedges tournament. He knows most
of the nooks and crannies of this musty stadium but even he never
came on court to an umpire with HawkEye to help him to endorse
any line calls he was not happy with.
McEnroe, being McEnroe hammed it up a bit but
there was determination etched into everything he did in the 24
minutes that it took to provide Andrew Murray, the 17-year-old
from Scotland, with a rude awakening into this venture. The veteran
was cut and thrust, winning 6-1. I didnt play well,
Murray said. He hardly missed a first serve, his reflexes
around the net were excellent. I told him it was an honour to
be on the opposite side of the net to him.
McEnroe knows what it is like to be a junior
with the world at his feet, he coped the best way he could and
became a great of the game whose star refuses to dim. Whether
Murray can get that far, a lot of time will tell, but he has an
idea of what lies ahead, even if it all went by in the bit of
Greg Rusedski serves.
The opening match lasted over an hour longer,
Boris Becker playing the second longest set of his life. Losing
11-10 to Greg Rusedski, there were four attempts to change calls
and only one proved that a linesmans eyes were the slightest
bit suspect. The eyes of the judges had it rather than the players,
but Becker often had more interest in those females walking around
the court and especially the two who accompanied him from
the locker-room as he did staring down the British No 2.
Indeed, Becker had four match points at 6-5 and
missing the second brought a disbelieving rebuke from Goran Ivanisevic.
I couldnt believe he didnt make that backhand
cross-court pass, that is the best shot he has, Ivanisevic,
the 2001 Wimbledon champion who lost to Tommy Robredo, of Spain,