Murray falters... and Becker falls short, too

By Boris Starling


And so to Flushing Meadows: not a euphemism for The Oval after the England cricket team's celebrations, but the venue for the US Open tennis.

All four grand slam tournaments play up to national archetypes. Melbourne is friendly, good-natured and pulverisingly hot.

The crowds in Paris flip between insouciance and rebellious hostility.

Going out: Andy Murray reached the quarter-finals but his run stopped there

Going out: Andy Murray reached the quarter-finals but his run stopped there

Wimbledon is reverential tradition and the firm belief that we do this kind of thing better than anyone else (see also: anything to do with the Royal Family).

And Flushing Meadows is New York in a nutshell: planes coming in low to La Guardia, a ubiquitous smell of frying onions and a crowd that is never quiet and always demands to be impressed.

Andy Murray was their champion last year, but this time round he was never really at the races. Maybe it was the fault of his shirts, which looked less like bold new designs and more like someone at his kit supplier had said at the last minute: 'Cripes! We forgot Murray! Quick: bung him a job lot of German and Dutch football shirts and hope he doesn't notice.'

Where Murray faltered, so too did Boris Becker in the Sky Sports commentary box, at least by his own standards of eccentric stream-of-consciousness musings.

Boris did little wrong, but seemed a bit flat - as indeed did his hair, which one feels could attain roughly the height of a Californian redwood if left to its own devices.

Maybe it was too much to expect Boris to peak again so soon after his spectacular Wimbledon, when with four words half-growled, half-whispered into the microphone as Murray served for the championship - 'Let's do zis now' - he'd simultaneously auditioned for a blue movie, offered someone 'outside' in the car park and perfectly encapsulated the thoughts of the 20million Britons watching with chewed fingernails.

Feeling flat: Boris Becker at the US Open

Feeling flat: Boris Becker at the US Open

Greg Rusedski gave courtside updates during changeovers at Flushing Meadows, the players in the background behind him.

This provided a great sense of immediacy and took the viewer right to the game, helped by Rusedski's insights: for example, comparing the sound of the ball off the rackets of Stan Wawrinka and Murray respectively and explaining how that reflected the state of the match.

Wimbledon should go for such updates next year, though you know they won't.

As far as the All England Club are concerned, there's a time and place for people with microphones on the court, and it's (a) once the whole shebang is over and the Duke of Kent has been wheeled out (b) Sue Barker or no one.

Rusedski reached the US Open final 16 years ago, for which he was promptly awarded Sports Personality of the Year: perhaps the nadir of Britain's self-image as a nation of plucky losers.

How things have changed, at least in tennis, where the hosts would now bite your hand off for a men's finalist.

Not a single American man made it into the fourth round and it's been a decade since their last grand slam winner.

Jim Courier was thoughtful and interesting on the underlying reasons: the lure of other sports, the internationalisation of the game and the softness of life nowadays.

He suggested seeking future champions among immigrant communities, whose work ethic and drive for a better life helped produce Pete Sampras (Greek), Andre Agassi (Iranian) and Michael Chang (Taiwanese).

Thoughtful and interesting: Jim Courier added plenty to the mix

Thoughtful and interesting: Jim Courier added plenty to the mix

But surely Courier should have been looking closer to home? He's a former world No 1 and winner of four slams, and all that while named after a typeface.

This is a hidden seam of talent waiting to be mined. America has more than 300million people for whom no name is too wacky.

Somewhere out there must be boys who share their name with other text fonts: somewhere a Bernard Condensed, Cooper Black, Franklin Gothic, even Comic Sans or Zapf Dingbats.

Those are your next champions, America. Find them.

Over on Eurosport, Mats Wilander - looking leaner and harder at nearly 50 than he did in his playing days and speaking better English than most Englishmen, particularly John Prescott - was back at the helm of Game, Set and Mats.

Some think the punning title is groaninducingly awful, but there's a counter-argument that actually Eurosport haven't gone far enough.

Nothing against Mats, but maybe he'd be better as part of a triumvirate. There 's no shortage of candidates.

The rapper Game (real name Jayceon Taylor, itself surely a typeface in waiting) used to style himself 'The Game', but has since dropped the definite article. If that's not a hint, Mats, then what is?

And it would surely be a TV first if a Eurosport producer was to descend into the ancient Egyptian underworld and return with Set, the god of chaos and darkness: or, as he's known in tennis circles, Ivan Lendl. Inspired by Eurosport's wordplay, I pitched an idea to the BBC in which Pat Cash explores the top floors of people's houses.

Working title: Cash In The Attic. They haven't got back to me yet.


The comments below have not been moderated.

Anybody, but that drivelling idiot Andrew Castle !

Click to rate     Rating   18

Perhaps you ought to go back to school for lessons in basic comprehension, Ginistera. I remember that moment as Murray raised his arm to serve for the championship. Superb!

Click to rate     Rating   4

What ARE you blathering on about, Boris? (Starling, not Becker, obviously).....

Click to rate     Rating   7
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