Spectator sport

Rog apart, Wimbledon 2017 was a disgrace

22 July 2017

9:00 AM

22 July 2017

9:00 AM

For obvious reasons this column always welcomes ‘King Roger Rules The World’ headlines on the back pages. And the front too. So warm congrats from one Rog to the greatest Rog of all. Is Federer the best sportsman ever? Pelé? Ali? Bradman? Maybe, but it’s hard to challenge Rog. Look at this year: two grand slams at 35 and four children under seven to tire him out, too. What odds on the two sets of Federer twins for the mixed doubles in 2040? Their dad will probably still be reaching the quarter-finals. Though just a word Rog: maybe you were slightly overdoing the whole Von Trapp shtick with the younger twins in their little suits and you in floods of tears. I mean I know you’re Swiss, but baby blue?

The Fed is now so far ahead that he felt compelled to give the next bunch of tennis players a sharp bollocking for being tactically naive and not competitive enough. ‘Since my generation and Rafa’s generation, yes, the next one hasn’t been strong enough to push all of us out really.’

This slight lack of modesty has always been appealing; not that Rog has much to be modest about. The ready-made personalised ‘Ro8er’ T-shirts were the sign of a man who knew what he was doing. Maybe just a bit naff. But that’s why we love him.

But without Rog and a couple of fine matches (Nadal, Konta) Wimbledon was a disgrace: two poor finals, and a first round full of players picking up 35 grand for turning up unfit or unwilling to try. Andy Murray effectively gave up against Sam Querrey, though he did have a good excuse. Djokovic gave up; so did Venus Williams. And Cilic weeping over his blister? It’s hard to imagine Pete Sampras doing that, or Ivan Lendl. One of the worst Wimbledons ever.

Spare a thought for anyone who took their kids to Trent Bridge on Monday to see a hard-nosed, gritty fight for survival in one of the most unforgiving arenas of all: five-day Test cricket. What? England’s collapse was lamentable. Only Root and Cook were dismissed by wicket balls. Jennings and Ballance don’t seem up to it, and Stokes, Ali and Bairstow, all admirable players, didn’t show any understanding of what’s needed for Test cricket. This was an extraordinary contrast to the last session of the previous day. After South Africa declared, Cook and Jennings had 14 minutes at the crease, weary and aching after a day in the field. They bravely kept at bay some of the most hostile fast bowling I have ever seen from Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander. If only England could have kept it up for another day. If only.

One great sportsman congenitally unable to shortchange anyone is Chris Froome, whose fortitude in an incredibly close Tour de France is a great act of courage. He looked about to die after losing the overall lead on an impossibly steep finish a week ago, but by the weekend had snatched it back. Then he had to change a wheel and was stuck at the side of the road for nearly a minute just after his rivals had piled on the pace at the foot of a climb. Incredibly, on a category one climb he caught up, booed all the way by the French. Instead of falling out of contention he held on to his lead.

Froome is the face of cycling in a post-Armstrong world: quiet, unassuming, deadly and above all clean. I admire him hugely and everyone in Britain should too. But the public seem reluctant to give him his due while turning cartwheels of excitement when Jamie Murray wins the Wimbledon mixed doubles.

Can anything stop Froome winning in Paris on Sunday? I very much doubt it, and if so, it will be his fourth (and the fifth victory for a British rider since 2012). This is one of the great sporting achievements of this or any age.

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