No, not how to cheat playing tennis at Wimbledon…
Nor how to cheat your way to the front of the queue the night before the gates open at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, or how to get a cheap ticket for Centre Court on Finals Day…
I have been to Wimbledon the railway station ( many times ), the town hall ( amateur dramatics ), but not the tennis. How do you cheat at Wimbledon without going there?
My best Wimbledon was played when I was at junior school. Our friends round the corner had six children in their family. The eldest girl no longer a child, but a sophisticated ( to my eyes ) teenager at the local secondary modern. One year she was going with the school to Wimbledon and had made her own tennis racquet brooch, properly strung with cotton sewing thread; a perfect miniature that fitted in the palm of her hand. The excitement filtered down through sister two and sister three, my best friend and with wooden racquets we played tennis in the middle of our little road. The sophisticated game consisted of seeing how many times we could hit the ball back and forth without dropping it; no referees, no losers.
Learning tennis at high school was quite fun and a friend and I cycled to a Saturday morning tennis club, where the height of our achievement was a certificate for doing 20 forehands and 20 backhands in a row.
For most adults, tennis means watching Wimbledon on television. This is where some of us have to cheat. I dread the frequent question at this special fortnight of the summer. Not how is your novel going or have you been busy in the garden but
‘Have you been watching the tennis?’
I cringe in shame, I could simply say NO, but find myself apologising… not yet or just caught the end of er um oh how about that fifteen year old who beat Serena or was it Venus.
It is very difficult to cheat at watching tennis on television, you cannot pretend you watched Venus Williams being beaten by Coco Gauff; even if you get the names right you need to recount how play went. You cannot claim to have watched avidly every day without knowing every name, who played who and for how long. Some people book their annual leave so they can watch it all properly, so why don’t I get around to viewing?
Perhaps the protestant work ethic, watching television during the day? Or the sunshine; I may live one hundred miles from Wimbledon, but if it’s sunny there it will probably be sunny at home and how could I stay indoors on a nice day. I have tried to watch, I like the notion of tennis and have a fair idea of what they are supposed to be doing; hitting the ball before it hits the court or not hitting the ball before it lands outside the court. It is exciting when players make horizontal leaps and lob the ball two inches over the net, five yards from their opponent. But you have to concentrate; don’t tackle a complicated knitting pattern, sneak a look at your smart phone, doze off, or pop to the kitchen to make a sandwich, for you will miss the shock defeat or the fastest volley in history.
If you have not been glued to teletennis you can cheat by catching up with the sport highlights on television in the evening. Write down the relevant names and scores and memorise them so at work the next day when someone asks if you saw the tennis you can reply
‘Did you see Selina Kalashnikov in that last set?’
Have you been watching Wimbledon?
Have you been there for real?