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Worldventures.co.uk : the times post wembley review

World Ventures


The Times


By Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent.
4th October 2004.

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 sport’s 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/evening’s 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 won’t catch Federer SuperSetting for a while.

Borg doesn’t 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 didn’t 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 a blur.

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 linesman’s 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 couldn’t believe he didn’t 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, 6-4, said.

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