When Jimmy Connors didn’t approve of John McEnroe, he put his finger in Mac’s face and started jawing. When Andy Murray was unhappy with Tomas Berdych Thursday at the Australian Open, he tattled.
I’m having a hard time getting past that. Maybe it’s a British thing? Berdych made some remark to Murray as they walked past each other on a changeover after Berdych won the first set. And Murray, all 6-foot-3, 185 weight-lifted pounds of him sat down and, well, snitched. He complained to the chair umpire that Berdych talked to him.
Boo hoo. Let me put this bluntly: I am the official judge and jury on this. I’ll score the spat in a few minutes. But the bigger picture is the thrill you had to feel watching that match. I’ve watched it twice, once stopping every time they showed the players’ fiancees on ESPN to see if I could read Kim Sears’ lips. I’m pretty sure one time she said. “Oh for fun’s sake.” And “Take that, you fun-loving Czech funner.”
I don’t think funner is a word. Maybe a British thing? Surely it’s not a swear word, as Brits have made it clear to all Americans that they aren’t the ugly ones with bad manners. What would I know about it anyway, coming from the country of Milwaukee’s Tim Smyczek, who already locked up the tour’s good sportsmanship award for the year when he allowed Rafael Nadal to hit his first serve again after a fan yelled in a big moment.
Anyway, there was such an edge to the match Thursday that you had to keep paying attention. ESPN has been criticized for showing side-by-side photos of both fiancees and comparing engagement rings. Both rings were estimated over $300,000, Berdych spent more, the funner. I have no idea why ESPN was criticized for that.
Loosen up, tennis. It was fun. I guess that’s the message here. For someone like me, who loves the sport, I’m fine with it as it is. But I have to admit enjoying that added element — personal tension — Thursday. We rarely see it, except when Serena Williams plays Maria Sharapova, which will happen in Saturday’s final.
The general sports fan would be a whole lot more interested in tennis if the sport had just a hint of reality show to it.
Real Houswives of Tennis. And it was just a few months ago that Roger Federer’s wife, Mirka, was calling Stan Wawrinka a “crybaby”
during a match, interrupting play.
This has real potential.
And on the court, there is nothing wrong with a little trash-talking. They have it in football, basketball, baseball. Sometimes, men’s tennis can be a little too warm and fuzzy.
People used to look down their noses at Connors and McEnroe. Yet when they were playing each other, tennis was more popular in the U.S. than the NBA.
Federer and Rafael Nadal get along so well that they serve as an example to us all. But if they weren’t playing historically great tennis, then no one would be watching. And Sampras didn’t like Agassi. McEnroe didn’t like Lendl. Nobody liked Connors. That made their rivalries more interesting.
I went to a match a few years ago when Sampras served one at Agassi’s head. It was an exhibition for charity.
Andy Roddick said he came close to beating up Djokovic in the locker room once.
So back to Thursday. Murray blamed the media for the tension created by Berdych stealing his coach, Dani Vallverdu. Murray whined that the media kept asking about the coaching change, which led to the hard feelings early in the match, and “If you learn how the brain works, it’s completely natural for that.”
Now for the scoring: TV kept showing Sears with that angry look. She has a penchant for words that start with the letter f. Capital F. Something tells me she’s not going to be confused with Kate Middleton. Not sure that Berdych’s fiancee, Ester Satorova, said much. But there was an angry look or two. TEN POINTS TO MURRAY FOR SEARS’ VOCABULARY
Berdych served for the set at 5-3, but Murray broke. Murray turned to Berdych’s box and pumped his fist and yelled in joy. TEN POINTS FOR ANDY. As they walked off to change sides, Berdych stared coolly at Murray the whole way. FIVE POINTS FOR BERDYCH FOR NOT EVEN BLINKING.
A few minutes later, Berdych won the set in a tiebreaker. As they passed each other again, Berdych never looked at Murray but muttered something. TWENTY POINTS! Murray sat down and called up at the chair umpire to complain even though, Murray later admitted, he doesn’t know what Berdych said. He just “wasn’t really into that.”
How did he know Berdych didn’t say “Nice shot, Andy, you funner.” (Berdych said he was congratulating himself on winning the set.) NEGATIVE 50 POINTS FOR MURRAY FOR BEING A WEANIE! Murray then got angry and started playing aggressively. You’re in the semis of a major and need an opponent’s stupid remark to motivate you? MINUS 10 FOR MURRAY.
Then, Murray won the second set 6-0. MINUS 25 FOR BERDYCH FOR BOASTING, THEN IMMEDIATELY GETTING CRUSHED. PLUS 25 FOR MURRAY.
Murray won the match — 30 POINTS WHEN TRASH TALK IS INVOLVED — and the whole thing was trending on social media. The Djokovic-Wawrinka semifinal was low quality play and civil. No one will mention it again.
I think Murray won the reality show score 15-0, or 15-unlove. But it was good tennis, great drama. Admit it: During the Murray-Djokovic final, you’re going to be watching Sears. I wonder if she’ll be having just as much funner.