Magazine article The Spectator

Serbian Siren

Magazine article The Spectator

Serbian Siren

Article excerpt


I've been watching the Australian Tennis Open on the telly and boring myself to sleep. The modern game is too onedimensional, the players too predictable.

The pumping of the fist after a winner is now de rigueur, as is the tapping of the ball five, ten, in the case of Nadal 16 times before serving. And the rallies are much too long.

The only relief from the utter boredom is Ana Ivanovic, probably the prettiest young woman ever to play on the circuit. She has beautiful green hooded eyes, high Slavic cheekbones and a figure which is feminine and to die for.

Long before my time, Gussie Moran was the reigning queen of looks -- I used to practise with her after she had retired -- and, although Gussie was a sexpot, she had nothing on the Serbian siren. When I was competing during the mid-Fifties and early Sixties the women players were not lookers, except the two Budding sisters from Germany, Edda and Ilse, but both preferred top-ranked players rather than lowly old me.

The one lady I had my eye on was Margaret Osborne duPont, a great doubles player and Wimbledon doubles champion many times, but she told me I was much too young for her and 'certainly much too wild'. Now that I've finally found my dream female tennis player, I have as much chance of landing her as a Brit has of winning a grand slam.

Which is not to rub it in, but if Andy Murray had fewer adviser-hangers-on he might make it through a round or two. I write this on Sunday, one week before the final, but Nadal looks to me to be the winner over Federer this time. The Serbs, of course, are my favourites, because their game developed while the brave war hero Bill Clinton was bombing the hell out of their small country.

Ivanovic was then hitting against the sides of an empty swimming-pool. Last year she was the fourth seed and finalist in the Roland Garros tournament. Adversity breeds toughness, so if Britain wants sporting heroes she should declare war on Uncle Sam.

And speaking of winners, my prediction is that ten years down the road the top four English football teams will have only black and Latin players. Such is the greed of, say, Chelsea, that their manager Avram Grant is loudly complaining about the timing of the African Cup because it deprives Chelsea of some of its best players while they compete for their countries. This is amazing cheek. It would have been amazing even back in the good old days of imperialism. Why should Africa change its schedule in order to suit an undeserving Russian oligarch? …

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