Magazine article The Spectator

Radio Glorious Moments

Magazine article The Spectator

Radio Glorious Moments

Article excerpt

Out and about in Surrey on Sunday I happened upon a scene that could have been played out 77 years ago. It was mid-afternoon on that glorious sunshiny day. Lunch just about over. The pub had a large garden with tables neatly shaded by leafy pergolas.

A family group had finished their meal but were still huddled round the table, on which in pride of place, amid the empty plates and half-filled glasses, sat a green-andcream Roberts, aerial aloft. They'd taken the chance (the village pub had no TV) that from words and sound alone they'd not miss a forehand slice or backhand volley. They were confident that the Radio 5 Live commentary on the historic encounter between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic (by Jonathan Overend, with expert input from John Lloyd and Richard Krajiceck) would take them right into Centre Court and to the heart of the sportsmanship, the emotion, the sheer excitement generated by ball-on-racket and two pairs of incredible legs.

What a challenge for Overend trying to keep up a running description of that match with all those super-long rallies. How do you paint a picture of what's going on as Murray is seemingly overtaken by a ball high overhead, only for him to fizz into action, catch up with it, and send it back across to Djokovic in such a way that he's sure to win the point? It's four-all in the third set, 15-all.

'A lob comes up from Djokovic, ' continues Overend mid-point, having already gone through the previous 15 or so strokes, his voice rising another octave with each thump of ball upon the half-baked grass. 'Murray turns round it and scores with the forehand.

Djokovic nets. All around us people leap from their seats.' Cue the extraordinary roar of the crowd as with one voice they cheered on the man from Dunblane. Overend explains, 'The ball went over Murray's head, he chased it back, he turned his body and he drove the ball as hard as he could.'

You didn't need to watch it.

On Tuesday morning, on Radio 4, the writer Malcolm Gladwell gave us a masterclass on listening. In Pop-Up Ideas, a new series of 15-minute shorts designed to make us think again, he argued that listening, truly listening, is a gift, an instinct, an intuitive art.

He told us the story of Konrad Kellen who in the 1960s had been employed by the US military to find out what the Vietcong thought about the war against the Americans. How was their morale? Kellen interviewed captured Vietcong guerrillas from South Vietnam. He listened to a senior captain in the Vietcong army who when asked whether he thought the Vietcong would win the war said 'No. …

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