Roger and Andy: boys will be girls

What has happened to men? British men in particular? Since when do men weep publicly from either joy or sadness? One can understand, just, a lachrymose display following the death of a loved one. But losing a tennis match? I say that’s pathetic – and if you’re a thoroughly modern person you’ll probably say I’m a fossil, a kind of throwback.

If so, the throw isn’t very far back. Santana and Laver, Becker and McEnroe, even our own Tim Henman – can you imagine any of them weeping at the end of a tennis match? Yet there they all were, either watching the 2012 Wimbledon Finals from the Royal Box or doing the commentary.

‘It’s good to show your emotions,’ wrote Becker this morning. No, it isn’t good, Boris. It’s wimpish and vulgar. And if it’s so good, how come you never shed a tear on the tennis court? After all, major finals are highly charged affairs, and not every emotion can be released by knocking the felt off the ball. Some residue will remain after the last ball clipped the line, and it’ll be pushing against whatever control valve the player has in his emotional makeup. Yet it’s easier to imagine Laver or McEnroe playing on high heels than sobbing at an award ceremony.

It’s all part of the same transsexualism that’s been thrust down our throats not so much by feminism but by a society all too ready to welcome any perversion, provided it’s couched in PC cant. Self-control, a much admired quality of men everywhere this side of Russia and a defining, possibly the defining, quality of British men, is now seen as uncool gender stereotyping. It’s all right for men to weep at the slightest provocation; it’s fine for women to brawl in pubs. We’re no longer men and women. We’re all androgynous persons now, and proud of it.

Suddenly Andy Murray, a good, though not great, tennis player and generally a rather unpleasant young man, has endeared himself to the nation by sobbing like a little girl confined to her room for nicking chocolates from the pantry. ‘Didn’t know he had it in him,’ is the typical approving commentary all over the press. Well, if you didn’t you haven’t been following tennis closely. Murray wept just as energetically after losing to Federer in the 2010 Australian Open final. ‘I can cry like Roger,’ he croaked on that occasion, ‘too bad I can’t win like him.’

The poor chap doesn’t even realise that there’s a causal relationship between the two. Federer is a player of rare, possibly unmatched talent. Emotional incontinence that he pioneered in the men’s game possibly takes 10 percent away from his performance, but the remaining 90 percent is still enough to win serial Grand Slams, 17 of them and counting. So getting in touch with his feminine self in public doesn’t cost him money or ranking points. It is of course girlish, but then what do you expect from a man who claims his favourite pastime, when he isn’t playing tennis, is shopping? 

Our new darling isn’t like that. He needs every ounce of self-control to have a chance against the Federers, Nadals and Djokoviches of this world when they are playing at their best. If he had a better grip on his bubbling emotions he wouldn’t have missed two easy passes on pivotal points yesterday. Nor would he have blown his bread-and-butter backhand down the line on break point at four-all in the second set. Had he landed it on the line, rather than over it, he would have probably won the second set and with it, in all likelihood, the match. He still would have wept afterwards of course, as the public expects nowadays. But the tears would have been different.

Ice-cold nerves and unflinching grit are required for Murray to overcome his technical inferiority to the top three players. Amazingly, none of the commentators today, all of whom have forgotten more about tennis than I’ll ever know, talk about Murray’s tennis deficiencies. Yet even any decent club player will notice them. For example, Murray clearly doesn’t have much wrist snap on his forehand, which doesn’t let him put enough topspin on low, short balls. On many key points yesterday, Federer, who’s as wise as he’s physically gifted, chipped the ball low and short to Murray’s forehand, collecting a point every time.

Instead of enlightening hackers like me on such things, most commentators have chosen to praise Murray for wearing his heart on his sleeve. Yet such exposure to our culturally polluted air will quickly cake the heart in filth.

Perhaps gender stereotypes formed over millennia aren’t such a bad thing after all. It’s just possible that we’d all be better off if women behaved like women, and men like men. And stiff upper lip is an essential characteristic of a man, Andy. Stiff upper lap isn’t enough.















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