Monday, 8 March 2010

Demonic Numerology, Hydras and ‘Inglourious Basterds’

Having been downed 3-2 by Lithuania (a country with only three world ranked players, only one of which is inside the top 500) the Brits now face a precarious face-off with Turkey in July to avoid tumbling into the bacteria-infested swamplands of Euro-Africa Zone Group 2 – the bargain-less basement of Davis Cup Competition.

With not a goat amongst them to help mitigate against the fall.

It ain’t pretty down there.


The press quite predictably showed no mercy. Why would they?

It is one of the most humiliating moments we have ever suffered. The ecstatic Lithuanians are dancing up and down on the corpse of British tennis.

20 years ago, Lithuania were not recognised as a tennis playing nation, but Britain has lost to a team of teenagers.

-- The Times

The wreckage was not of broken bottles or body parts, the stench not of alcohol poisoning, but British tennis had effectively been stripped bare, roped to a tree and beaten with branches.

Defeat to Lithuania had been total humiliation. At least the bosses admitted so. "It's like being in a very bad dream," LTA chief executive Roger Draper told BBC Sport. "Along with lots of other British tennis fans [we are] sharing the humiliation of losing to Lithuania."

-- Jonathan Overend, BBC

It’s not often you see such a deliberately sadistic tinge applied to the metaphors crafted by the British Press.

With these descriptive diatribes involving corpses, flagellation and broken bottles, one wonders about the passages that never made it into print on the grounds of good taste.

One might easily imagine descriptions of gang rape and necrophilia.

They want blood, you see.

This panto, that’s seen the Nation’s Press in the role of Grand Inquisitor, rousing up the masses against tennis’s powers that be, who for the time being remain nestled away in an ivy clad tower with an SW15 postcode, has something like the French Revolution about it.

It's also beginning to feel like it’s run it’s course.

My guess is heads will roll this time round. As they ought to have a long time ago.

Except John Lloyd’s need not be amongst them

Despite his future as DC Captain now in the balance, he has somewhat tastefully, been spared the worst of the wrath and vitriol, with commentators once again calling for all nine heads of the Hydra, otherwise known as the LTA, to be neatly severed.

Preferably in one clean sweep.

The only people who should have been saying sorry were those who have lived very nicely thank you while the game in Britain has fallen into unacceptable disrepair.

What is it about these [Lithuanian] players, what have they got that ours have not? Hunger? Desire? Talent? Spirit? The present LTA regime has had enough time to find the answers and they have palpably failed, so they should depart.

-- The Times

Whip? Meet Dead Horse – Dead Horse? Cat o’nine tails.

Spraying Myla Rose coloured poo at the LTA seems both an overly-worn and suspiciously knee-jerk reaction.

I don’t want to be an Inglourious Basterd about this, but it’s difficult to see where else (if anywhere) the buck should stop.

You can hardly blame John Lloyd even though he’ll now likely be forever remembered as the only British Captain to preside over five consecutive losses (that and being the one time beau of Chris Evert).

Nor as the Muzz-Haters would have it, does Murray have anything to answer for in this torrid affair. It was his involvement (with an injured wrist) after all in the relegation play-off against Poland last year, that handed us one our rare live rubber wins.

I certainly don’t blame the players.

James Ward made history this weekend by becoming only the fourth player in the last thirteen years to win a live Davis Cup Rubber, and 19-year old Dan Evans left everything (including his bloodied pulsating heart) out on court despite coming up short in two five setters, in the latter of which the play of his 18 year old Lithuanian opponent Laurynas Grigelis left the The Times wondering “what British teenager ranked outside the world’s top 500 could possibly have performed with such maturity?”

Dare I utter the word that dare not speak its name? At least not here in the UK.


Men’s tennis, as we are regularly told, has bucket-loads of it right now.

Here in the UK we like to mostly keep quiet about it.

It’s like one of those noteworthy examples of insularity when a worldwide phenomenon completely passes you by. Like say, China and the Credit Crunch, only the other way round and with significantly less yield per capita.

Britain may have talent, it’s just that Spain and France have a whole lot more. Sacking John Lloyd won’t change any of that.

With a budget of £59.7m for 2009, which included £25m for high performance player development, the LTA expenditure dwarfs that of the LTU, which had a budget of around £90,000.

-- BBC

You do the math. Oh alright I will. Even if we restrict our comparison to the amount of money put aside for “high performance development”, the numbers make grim reading: 27700% more grim.

Comparing both nations’ total budgets yields a figure of approximately 66600%.

Numerology both ironic and demonic as you’re ever likely to see.

Contenders for greater mass mis-expenditure? Sir John Chilcott, certainly has his work cut out this week.

I’ve never believed in laying blame solely at a manager or team captain’s door in any sport, however results driven it might be.

In this particular case, the failures appear to be more suggestive of a far reaching institutionalised and systemic disorder that has resulted in an inability to produce players capable of holding their own on the world stage, much less winning big budget events.

Greg Rusedski is rumoured to be lined up to pick up the pieces, though it’s difficult to see what change, if any, he can bring.

Well-placed sources confirmed to The Times last night that he had been sounded out. On his Twitter feed, Rusedski described the defeat as “unbelievable”.

He would be an intriguing choice, not least because he would be the first non-British-born captain since Warren Jacques, the Australian, was appointed in the late 1980s.

Rusedski has made no secret of the fact that he would love to do the job, but how that appointment goes down with Murray, whom the LTA needs to keep sweet, could be the determining factor.

-- The Times

After Pete Bodo’s “well placed sources” left him with more of those organically certified speckled quails eggs on his face over the likelihood of Federer’s presence (or otherwsie) at Indian Wells this week, I’m taking every dish I’m served with a generous sprinkling of sodium bicarbonate.

I’m rarely in agreement with much of what gets made of Murray’s ‘gruff’ disposition, especially as it gives rise to a nasty divisive Anglo-Scot sentiment we could frankly do without. That said though, when was he ever considered “sweet” about anything?

Whatever the case, it really doesn’t sound like they’re the best of friends.

Going into the WTF in London at the end of last year, Greg Rusedski and Barry Cowan were amongst the many voices alerting Murray to the need to raise the levels of aggression present in his game:

"Yeah, who are these 'experts'?" Murray asked, rhetorically. "Barry Cowan? Greg Rusedski? I think I know more about tennis than Barry and Greg. I work very hard with my coaching team to come out with the right game-plan. I've been told a lot of times that I'm very astute.

--The Telegraph

This, from early 2009, when (short-lived) rumours were raised of a potential comeback from Greg at the age of thirty five, to represent the UK at Davis Cup:

Murray has remained extremely polite in public, limiting himself to saying that when he retires he will stay retired. Behind the scenes he is said to have made it clear that if Rusedski were ever to be considered for a recall then the LTA could forget about him playing. End of story.

--The Guardian

End of story for him maybe. But I suspect this saga has another chapter or two to go.


Word just out: David (rather than John) Lloyd calling for Roger Draper to walk.

I can’t watch. *Averts eyes*

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