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Tennis 10sBalls Team Are Either In Melbourne Or On The Way • Here’s Some Thoughts On ATP Cup And Royal Gossip

By Alix Ramsay

Is it over? How can we tell? Or has the tennis even started yet?

After working out the time difference, consulting live scores and trying to remember who was supposed to be doing what to whom, we discover that the ATP Cup is not over. Not quite. Well, not as we type this before heading to the airport. Djoko beat Rafa, RBA (Roberto Bautista Agut to you) beat Lajovic. So, the final is neatly balanced at one rubber each. On, then, to the doubles to decide the winners of the inaugural ATP Cup. Or the rerun of the Davis Cup, depending on your point of view.

These two team competitions running either side of Christmas seem to merge the end of one season and the beginning of another seamlessly into the festive break. Just as life over Christmas is like Groundhog Day (answer front door, find uninvited neighbour/relative on doorstep bearing unwanted mince pies. Invite them in, ply them with drink and over-priced nibbles and engage in meaningless festive conversation about turkey, presents and hang-overs while fretting that Leicester v Liverpool has already started and you didn’t have time to record it before the doorbell rang. Rinse and repeat the following day but this time missing the start of the only decent film on the telly over the holidays…) so Spain winning the Davis Cup morphs into Spain trying to win the ATP Cup. Same players, same format, different venue.

The upside to this is that some of the tennis has been spectacular. Well, we read that it has been as we do not have Amazon Prime so haven’t actually seen it. We are too cheap to pay yet more money for sports coverage of an event that happens in the middle of the night.

The downside is that if the tennis isn’t happening at the ATP Cup, it doesn’t appear to happening at all. The women are playing events somewhere but over here in Blighty, no one has noticed. Then, to be fair, we Brits have had a lot on our minds lately. And no, we are not referring to Brexit or the Labour leadership elections – we mean Harry and Meghan. They are the only show in town.

Funny thing that: Haz and Meg announced that they wanted to “step down” as senior royals in order to get out of the limelight. Yet the way they announced it – without discussing it with Her Maj – has created something of a constitutional crisis. That, in turn, has meant that the papers, the TV and the radio are full of nothing but Haz and Meg: where are they, how did this happen, what will they do next, whose fault is it…you know the sort of thing. Perhaps if they had quietly talked it through with Her Maj and come up with a proper plan, they could have slipped away with no fuss and no headlines. Moi? Cynical? How can you think such a thing?

Anyway, whether you are a royalist or a republican, a monarchist or moderniser, there is one part of this story that is chuckle-worthy.

Haz and Meg want to become financially independent. Fair enough. In order to do this, they want to create their own “brand” – Sussex Royal – and plaster it over a range of products from “office requisites” to hoodies via socks and greetings cards. That should rake in the folding stuff.

The only slight problem with that is that their titles as Duke and Duchess of Sussex weren’t theirs in the first place; they were a wedding present from Her Maj (she’ll do anything to save on wrapping paper).

In effect, it is a bit like you or me putting that woolly pully that Granny gave us for Christmas up for sale on eBay. Admittedly, it was a particularly violent shade of cerise (with an alarming mustard coloured trim) and it was three sizes too big but, even so, Granny had spent months knitting it. Somehow, it just doesn’t seem right. It may seem even less right if Haz’s granny, who just happens to be Her Maj, gets the hump and takes her titles back again: no Sussex and no royal. Now whatcha gonna do (as Her Maj is wont to say)? Hey ho, it’s just another day in the life of ordinary royal folk.

Anyway, what has this got to do with tennis? Not a lot but it does mean that the results from Brisbane, Perth and Sydney have had a lot to compete with to get on the news agenda. Add to that a distinct lack of Roger Federer and Serena Williams (she’s not a bloke so she can’t play in the ATP Cup ergo she doesn’t exist in this brave new world, not until we get to Melbourne at any rate) and we have a quiet start to the year.

Compare this to the fun and games at the Hopman Cup last January when Serena and Fed faced each other in mixed doubles. That made headlines around the world and we knew that the tennis season had started with a bang. Now we are twiddling our thumbs waiting for the Australian Open to start so that life can get back to normal (and so that the women will get their fair share of the spotlight).

On a purely parochial note, Britain did not bad by reaching the quarter-finals. Tim Henman proved to be a popular captain and Dan Evans was the star of the team, beating David Goffin, Alex de Minaur and Radu Albot. The points gathered moved him up to No.31 in the rankings and earned him a seeding for the Open. Not bad for a bloke who this time last year was the world No.190 and was working his way back from a ban after testing positive for cocaine. Yes, he could be fitter (he could afford to miss a few meals, as Captain Tim so delicately put it) and, yes, he needs to focus more on each and every point, but he has talent by the bucketload and when he is playing well, he is great to watch.

What was also fun to watch was Tim watching Evo. Urging him to focus, Tiger Tim kept cupping his hands around his eyes presumably to signal to Evo to put the blinkers on, to focus on what was directly in front of him. The end result was that Evo won his matches his way while Tim appeared to be giving a passable impression of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”. Oh, well, no one said that being a captain was easy.

And with that, the taxi is here. In a couple of days, 10sballs will be in Melbourne, there to provide regular updates on news, gossip and the odd forehand and backhand. Watch this space.


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