A Life in a Year – 23rd June, Wimbledon Fortnight

I have always liked to watch sport and when I was young I especially liked the BBC cricket Test Match coverage. It was cricket heaven with literally hours and hours of England v Australia, England v West Indies, England v India and so on and so on.

If I wasn’t playing outside I’d be ready for the Test Match from the very first delivery of the day, take lunch and tea at the same time as the players and watch it right through to the end.  In the days before teletext or the internet I even used to keep a scorecard up-to-date so that I could show my dad when he came home for lunch and when he had finished work for the day.

It was perfect for someone who liked cricket as much as I did, five long glorious test matches from about June through to August.  Perfect that was until about this time of the year when Wimbledon fortnight came along and interfered with the schedules.  This was in the days of only two (later three) TV channels so it was difficult accommodating conflicting sports coverage and there I was sitting in front of the (black and white) television when I’d hear the dreaded words: “Well, that’s all from Lords for the moment as we return you to Wimbledon for coverage of the tennis”

I hated Wimbledon, I never liked tennis and they used to take the test match coverage off to broadcast it.  It was boring, especially the women’s matches!  What made it worse was that this was in the days before tennis became a glamour sport.  In the dressing room they removed any hint of femininity, scraped off their make-up and changed into frumpy white clothes that were totally unfashionable. There was no fun watching this I can tell you.  In the 1950s an Australian player called Gussy Moran (Gorgeous Gussy) had tried to fizz things up a bit by wearing frilly knickers but the Wimbledon authorities soon put a stop to that.

 

No one could accuse Billie Jean King, Margaret Court or Virginia Wade of being glamorous and I hated watching them knocking the ball backwards and forwards in long boring base line rallies.

I realise now that this was selfish but I used to pray for rain at Wimbledon and hope the sun was still shining at Headingley, Trent Bridge or Edgbaston so that the BBC would be forced to return to the cricket and I used to wish so hard that a game would be over in only two sets so that the ordeal would be over and we could get back to a real sport.

The reason that it was so bad was that the Wimbledon fortnight would disrupt the coverage of two test matches.  The last two days of the second test match and the first three of the third (test matches started on a Thursday and finished on Tuesday and there was no play on a Sunday) were completely ruined in terms of continuity by this to and froing, backwards and forwards to SW19.

Things have changed a great deal since then of course and these days you can’t get test match coverage on the BBC (except on the radio) but you can still get Wimbledon.  According to the website:

  • Approximately 2,500 broadcasters work in the Broadcast Centre
  • Nine courts have live television coverage
  • The BBC uses nearly 100 cameras around the grounds
  • There are positions for 120 commentators on Centre Court alone

So there is really no way of getting away from the blanket coverage of the Wimbledon fortnight and to be honest, I don’t know why, but recently I have begun to find it a whole lot more enjoyable and when the women are playing these days I dread the words “we will be leaving Wimbledon now and return you to Ascot for live coverage of the three-thirty”.

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