Friday, 25 June 2010

Philip Sidney and tennis

The longest tennis match in history came to an end at Wimbledon, in front of the Queen, this week. I was rooting for Nicolas Mahut - feline, messy-haired, Gallic - as against the bland, buff American Isener. Mahut looked as if he was playing in a black and white film, with an overcoat hunched up around his shoulders and a cigarette with the filter cut off in his mouth; whereas Isener resembled someone who spends a lot of time listening to motivational tapes. But alas, it wasn't to be. The Frenchman lost. As a match, it was incredibly uninteresting to watch, and yet there was a strange, hypnotic intensity to it which kept me glued to the screen. Back and forth they went, aceing each other, never gaining the advantage: until finally Mahut gave up, in existential despair. They hugged, briefly, at the end. I wonder if we well ever hear of either of them again. It reminded me of one of my favourite Philip Sidney quotes, from the The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia: 'We are tennis balls tossed by the racket of the higher powers." But at least there was a purpose to the longest match, even if the gain is only fleeting.

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