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Backhanded compliments

Backhanded compliments

There had been fears that, with Spain not having made the finals, the reception would be little more than luke warm. Not at all

Friday, 24 November 2023, 14:09

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Tennis fever has gripped the city of Malaga where the Davis Cup finals are taking place this week. Only last night a chap wandered into the pub with a massive racquet bag slung over his shoulder. I thought for a moment that he might be vaguely famous but after he ordered a pint of lager and promptly fell asleep at the table without taking so much as a sip, I was roundly disabused of the notion.

There had been fears that, with Spain not having made the finals, the reception would be little more than luke warm. Not at all - fans have responded brilliantly. Add to this solid fan base, the four thousand Finnish spectators who willed their team to victory over the current Champions Canada - without having a single player in the top one hundred - plus the recent arrival of Novak Djokavic to much fanfare and it looks as though the tournament is heading for a resounding crescendo. There may be, however, some people who feel a little left out because they've never really followed tennis and don't understand the basics. To this end, I've compiled a handy guide of the sport´s most important characteristics.

First, grunting. A gutteral roar very time you hit a shot is not compulsory but it's very much frowned upon by the tennis fraternity if not offered. Rumour has it that the umpire's pen conceals a hidden gruntometer and that there's a grunt ranking on the deep web, with millions of dollars worth of bets being placed by mysterious Asian syndicates. Grunts are judged on decibels, duration and throat texture.

Next, falling on one's back like a sack of spuds after a victory. In the olden days, the first thing the winner would do, would be to march sharply to the net to offer a firm handshake of condolence to his vanquished opponent. Not now. After lying prostrate and weeping for anything up to five hours, the victor will then often choose to clamber up through the stands in order to hug and kiss his family, friends, agent and a random selection of nobody people inexplicably wearing Ray Bans when the sun quite clearly bade farewell hours ago. With any luck, the winner will eventually get round to heading back to commiserate with his defeated opponent before the first signs of rigor mortis become too noticable in the poor fellow.

Last, but by no means least, we must mention the attention-seeker. This is somebody who works in a job he doesn't like and lives with a wife who ignores him and children who treat him like a taxi driver. He believes that these misfortunes entitle him to bellow "Come on Rafael/Novak/Iga/Aryna!!" just as the ball has been tossed into the air for the most vital serve of the match. He will consequently be shushed by thousands of people in unison which gives him the validation he doesn't get at home. It might actually be the same bloke at every tournament, nobody's really sure.

Well, I hope that goes some way to bringing the uninitiated up to speed. Enjoy the tennis.

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