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10sBalls.com Shares Alix Ramsay’s Rambling On About Tennis and The Holidays

The festive season is almost upon us. All around us, children are getting over-excited while grown-ups are getting over-stressed. Hark: is that sleigh bells we can hear in the distance? No, it’s Dave Haggerty jingling all that money in his pockets now that the ITF has sold the Davis Cup to Kosmos. But never mind.

Now, this is going to be tricky so bear with us. This is an international website, a non-denominational provider of tennis news, fact and, in my case, trivia, to the world. We aim to please everyone and upset no one. But in these days of heightened sensibilities and millennials demanding their human right to be seriously offended at least once a day, we have to tread carefully. Let us begin.

This is a story about Christmas. Yes, we know that Christmas is a niche market and it is not our intention to exclude those who observe Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Ashura, Yalda or, indeed, Yule. In the land of my birth, Yule – or the winter solstice – is marked by groups of big blokes in white frocks and mistletoe stomping around Stone Henge. We are truly multicultural, us Brits. Come one, come all – it is open house here.

But this is a look at Christmas and how it is celebrated by the good and the great of the tennis world. It may not be wholly accurate but when has that ever stopped us?

Down at Postlethwaite’s Garden Centre (purveyors of fine shrubbery to the discerning horticulturalist), Novak Djokovic is looking for a tree. Not just any tree, you understand, but the tree. It must be old enough and healthy enough to provide positive energy throughout the holiday season, big enough to hug and strong enough to support the weight of the chairmen of the four grand slams (all of whom he intends to dangle from the branches until they agree to give him a bigger share of their profits).

Then there is the business of drop versus non-drop. What type of tree to have? A traditional fir looks lovely and smells divine but the needles get everywhere. And when one is practising one’s yoga and is holding one’s crouching peeved panther with added pike pose, one doesn’t want a nostril full of fir detritus. It can play havoc with one’s Nirodha – as was proved by last year’s trip to the ER. A Nordmann non-drop it is then. And yet…

Meanwhile, Roger Federer is taking the family to see Santa. Ordinarily, this would be a fairly straight forward exercise – load everyone into car, drive to grotto, queue for several hours with other harassed parents and screaming offspring, see Santa for approx. 27 seconds, note brown ale stains on Santa’s tunic but say nothing, leave with underwhelmed kids clutching hugely inappropriate gifts and that sinking feeling that that was an afternoon of your life and a wallet full of banknotes you will never get back again. ‘Twas ever thus. But this is the Federer family we are talking about and this is slightly different.

The GOAT, Mrs GOAT and the kids (we like to be technically accurate) have arrived at the back of the queue for Santa’s grotto. As the two sets of twins wait with Mum and Dad, their excitement is growing.

In the queue, the excitement is growing, too. “It is – it’s him,” the lady in blue hisses to the man standing next to her. “Who?” “Him!” “What him?” “Him off the telly… you know…. Whassisname. Him.” “You’re right – it’s him,” the man says and then scurries down the line to tell Shane and Wayne’s mum that “that’s him, him off the telly, at the end of the queue”. Shane and Wayne’s mum almost faints, but not before she has had time to tell six other mums. At the end of the queue, the GOAT has clocked the hubbub. He smiles politely and then engages Mrs GOAT in conversation in an attempt to show that this is just a normal family day out and that there is nothing to see here.

Alas, in the grotto, all is not well. The chief elf has seen the GOAT herd and, not being a tennis fan, has only identified a rival workforce. Four beautifully turned out small people arranged in two matching sets – this is just what he had feared: cheap labour brought in from outside to ruin the livelihoods of hard working elves, elves who have, through years of collective bargaining, negotiated a living wage and decent working conditions for everyone under the height of four foot two. He immediately calls a union meeting and orders all elves to down presents. The grotto descends into chaos.

At the same time, back in the city, a tall, blond bloke is desperately looking for socks. Convinced that he was the best dressed member of the elite at the ATP Tour Finals – posh suit, expensive shoes and naked ankles – he has just seen the error of his ways. He is $2.5million richer after beating Djokovic in London but without a sock to hang at the end of his bed, Sascha Zverev ain’t getting nothin’ on Christmas morning. Quick – to the men’s wear department….

On a more spiritual plane, Mohamed Lahyani, is taking an evening constitutional through the fields when, all at once, he comes upon a group of shepherds. Not expecting to see a well turned out Swedish bloke with a booming voice striding through the undergrowth, the shepherds are sore afraid. But Mohamed says unto them: “Be not afraid. I bring you good news of great joy…” But before he can finish, the shepherds have run for their lives. Mohamed (for it is he), walks slowly and carefully to the bush behind which the shepherds are hiding and says in an encouraging tone: “I want to help you. This isn’t you. I know that.” He then rummages about in his pocket and produces a gift before vanishing into the night. The shepherds emerge from behind the bush and find the gift lying on the grass. “Bugger me,” says the biggest of the shepherds. “It’s three bus tickets to Bethlehem. Come on lads…!”

Back at Santa’s grotto, peace and good will has been restored. The chief elf has been placated and is now teaching both sets of Federer twins how to wrap a reindeer on the strict understanding that they leave the grotto as soon as they have run out of Scotch Tape, Santa is now sitting on the GOAT’s knee and is being promised a better forehand for Christmas while Shane and Wayne’s mum is swapping mince pie recipes with Mrs GOAT. Mrs GOAT makes a mental note not to come back to Santa’s grotto next year.

At Postlethwaite’s, Bert Postlethwaite is trying to talk Djokovic back down to earth. The world No.1 has found his perfect tree and is now communing with same by standing, one-legged, on an upper branch. Unfortunately, it is the 20 foot, 50-year-old pear tree that grows in the centre of Postlethwaite’s yard. “You can’t take it with you Mr Djokovic,” Bert tries to explain, “You’ll never get it through your front door.” But our newly restored world champion is having none of it. He has found his source of festive peace and he will not be parted from it.

As the Federer’s drive home, Lenny, Leo, Charlene and Myla start jumping about in the back seat. “Look, look…. Can we go there. Oh please, please, pleeeeaaase…” they chirrup in unison. The mighty GOAT rolls down the tinted window to read the hand written sign pinned to the door of Postlethwaite’s Garden Centre (purveyors of fine shrubbery to the discerning horticulturalist): “Roll up! Roll up! For the 12 days of Christmas only – and at only £5 a head – come and see your Novak Djokovic in a pear tree. Happy Christmas everybody!”

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