August 1, 2012 3:26:47 am
It could have been Somdev Devvarman instead of Finnish Jarkko Nieminen,had he only gotten past his first round.
And no matter what the result,this would have been an hour and half,or more,or less,to savour for the rest of his life playing Andy Murray at Wimbledon,with more than the usual flag-waving that youd see here usually,with Olympic patriotism starkly displayed even if the strawberry-and-cream has largely disappeared.
Tough to tell if theyre out of season,or stowed away like the pristine whites and appropriate SW19 traditions,or pursed like the All England members lips when the Olympic jamboree jaunted in here.
But the English summer has vanished after a grand total of 72 hours of warm sunshine this month,and the rains are back,as if they heard that tennis was back at Wimbledon,realising they too ought to be in attendance. But Olympics leave their tell-tale signs at the Championship,even if you took away the rings-logos. Mercifully,the London Games organisers havent brought along the psychedelic blue and pink banners onto the hallowed turf,sticking to the greens and purples.
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Murray plays in a splash of blue,light blue and red with Team GBs zigzaggies on his shirt,against Nieminen,a Finn who could manage to have his wife Annu travel to a rare Wimbledon with him for she qualified for her fourth Olympics as her countrys leading badminton player. Usually,his grass-court high point coincides with the shuttler missus World Championships.
The grass has remained largely intact after the groundsmen got down to soil treatment soon after Roger Federer and Serena Williams had picked their titles earlier and TV scoreboards read GB vs Finland. Mid-court,the net has the five rings stiched into it,and in the stands neutrality is dumped to get right behind the British participants. Murray draws an expected packed house this Tuesday afternoon,and though they will appreciate the rare passing shot from Nieminen,its a sea of Union Jacks wafting around here.
His finals appearance at the Wimbledon two fortnights ago,and the shedding of tears means hes riding a wave of hysteria that gets respectable seat-holders to holler like the Murray Mound occupants.
He wins 6-2,6-4,and the only time the crowd betrays a spot of sympathy for Nieminen is when the Finn goes flying over a court-side wall chasing a return and lies awkwardly in a heap a few feet from the nearest seats. They all ooh-and-aah their concern and then get down to applauding the effort,everyone except Annu Nieminen who sits still,and sighs till he collects himself together and bounds back onto the court. Even in appreciation,the setting must feel like a lonely fighters colosseum.
Roddick comes in next,and despite his three final appearances here,is rudely reminded of where Murray ensured he was dumped out in Rnd 3 and dropped out of Top 10 of the world. Him and Djokovic play in identical blues,but the Serb ensures the crowd doesnt need to wait long before the other Brit hope Laura Robson takes the court.
Shes up against Maria Sharapova,who walks in with a red-faced tense expression and a deep red halter neck,though both stick to white skirts.
The lady has it tougher than Nieminen,for Robsons an underdog and Sharapova will have to bear the brunt of the din that amplifies every defiant point that their girl can snatch from the well-known Russian.Several beseeching rounds of Come on Laura,are followed by sighs of Come on Laura,and finally a wry Come on Laura in different degrees of inflections,as the Brit girl goes down after a fighting 7-6,6-3 an hour and three-quarters match.
The Olympic circus will move out in a week,but we suspect,the Olympics is going to give people ideas of coming up with a Laura-Tor,to go with Henman Hill and the Murray Mountain.
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