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London Tennis • Queens Club • Rain Wins Today • But So Do The Pitcher’s Of Pimms • And Fever-Tree Mixers • Alix Ramsay Rambles

As we approach teatime on the second day of the Fever-Tree Championships, we still have Brits left in the singles draw. How so, we hear you gasp (because we know you are utterly fascinated by British tennis).


Alas, this is not due to the gazillions of pounds that the LTA has swimming around in its bank accounts, most of which comes from the Wimbledon “surplus” (the terribly nice people of the All England Club do not like to talk about such common things as profit; they prefer to think of it as a “surplus”). Nor is it is due to a new vein of talent, recently discovered and then diligently mined and refined by the LTA. No, it is due to the good old British summer: it has been chucking it down all day.


It has often been said that the damp little rock upon which I make my home does not have a climate; it simply has weather. And by the cringe, did we get a lot of weather today. Gallons of it.


You do have to wonder about the people at the Met Office. They try and give the impression of being a vast team highly trained meteorologists, men and women with computers and radars, wet bulb thermometers and anemom… amenon… ammneomn…. those things that measure winds speed. Personally, I think it is just a bloke in sou’wester, oilskins and welly boots dripping stoically in a field just outside Exeter. Periodically, he phones in reports to the office: “Hello, Mavis, love. It’s me again. Oh, yes. No change. It’s still coming down like stair rods. My shift’s over in a bit. Put the kettle on and save me a custard cream…”


Anyway, the upshot of this is that Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans are still in the competition having not struck a ball in earnest yet. Actually, Dan is a man in form at the moment. He has won his last 10 grass court matches, a run that has won him the Challenger titles in Surbiton and Nottingham. Whether it will be enough for him to get the better of Stan Wawrinka we will discover when the rain finally stops. Unfortunately, the bloke in the field in Exeter is not looking too hopeful about that.


Still, tennis is only part of the reason why people go to Queen’s Club. Tennis is not really a drinking sport, not like cricket or rugby, but the annual event at the old club bucks that trend. Drinking is what it is all about.


In the old days, the tournament was sponsored by Stella Artois, the producers of a very fine Belgian pilsner. The rain would run in rivers over the centre court covers and the beer would run in a similar fashion down the throats of the patrons. Happy days.


Then we had the interregnum, a dry spell of years when the event – and all the other British grass court events – were sponsored by Aegon. And it just wasn’t the same. They were good to British tennis, were Aegon – no arguments there – but no one goes into a pub and orders a pint of Aegon. Or a gin and Aegon with ice and slice. (That is mainly because Aegon is an insurance and pensions company). British tennis had lost something special; the heart and soul of the Queen’s Club tournament had gone.


It is back now, though, thanks to the involvement of Fever-Tree. Yes, they make tonic water (amongst other things) which is hardly alcoholic, but it is what you put with you Fever-Tree that makes the day fly by.


The press corps is hidden away in a couple of squash courts deep in the bowels of the club house. It is not the best working environment in the world, not by a long shot, but to keep us quiet, a third squash court is always converted into a free bar. In there, when the brain has fogged itself to a standstill, you can unlock the thought processes with a glass of your favourite poison, otherwise known as “intro juice”. Or you could if you weren’t driving home. Sadly, we drive home.


But the beverage of choice for Queen’s goers is Pimms. This is a peculiarly English drink first produced in 1823 and, initially, it was drunk neat as an aid to digestion. The No.1 Cup was based on gin, the No.2 on whisky, the No.3 on brandy. These days, though, only the No.1 Cup remains and it is usually served with ice, a good slosh of lemonade (or ginger ale if you don’t like it too sweet) and a small forest of foliage. Think of it as part of your five a day.


Just a word to the wise: it is not as strong as it used to be so for a more pleasant experience, add a slug of gin to your Pimms glass and then make sure you have a designated driver to take you home.


One of the diversions in the duller moments of a turgid baseline tussle is to watch the posh punters, all suited and booted, trying to make their way down a long line of seats while clutching two pitchers of Pimms and eight glasses. When they make their first run at the start of play, all is well. “Excuse me, may I just squeeze past? Thanks awfully. Excuse me sir, could I…? Oh, thank you. I’m sorry, I just need to shuffle through, thanks so much…”


Post lunchtime, and the trip to the hospitality tent with all that that has to offer, the gentle weave along the row of seats becomes more problematic. And by teatime, our friend with the jugs of jolly juice hasn’t got a care in the world. Tripping over the size 15 brogues sitting in row G, he lurches over the lap of the chinos in seat 56 only to collide with the flash frock and big hat in seat 58. “Oh dear, madam, you décolletage appears to be desperately damp. I’m so sorry about that but don’t worry, it’s only Pimms and it has been paid for. Just suck your lapels and I’m sure you’ll be fine…”


Meanwhile, somewhere in South West England, a bloke in welly boots has finished his shift and is squelching his way back to the car. I hope Mavis saved him that custard cream…

The team at 10sBalls drank our share of Fever Tree this year!

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