The annual Wimbledon ritual is well under way again.
Never mind the tennis, the Beebs’s own line-up is impressive enough—Brits like Trusty Tim, always playing with a straight bat [?—Ed.], and the demure Sam Smith, obligatory Funny Foreigners led by generally lovable but sometimes off-message Mac, wise Tracy Austin and Martina Navratilova, with the ever-hot Pat Cash. It’s entertaining to see how the stalwart female commentators maintain patience with the hapless male pundits negotiating the sexist minefield in the wake of the Inverdale–Bartoli fiasco.
Quaintly more antiquated than the other Majors, it’s a benign celebration for the middle classes (including me—I went to school nearby, and sold ice-creams there). As a Guardian review observed in 2022, the event comes with
that familiar sense of something performative, theatrically static, being British for the British, in front of the British.
Like any ritual, indeed any performance, Wimbledon confirms Correct Behaviour (not least to keep those errant Foreigners in line); and it will mean different things to different people. But it’s a visual treat, despite the retro ritual costumes; and as to the ritual soundscape, the ping-pong [sic] of the ball makes a fine soundtrack too—along with the spectators’ Wimbledon groan.
The Beeb gets it just right by clinging on to the old signature tune (like child chimney-sweeps and Morris dancing) by Leslie Statham (aka Arnold Steck)—here in all its extended glory:
Doubtless this old story will be revisited during the longueurs between matches:
Vitas Gerulaitis lost his first sixteen matches against Jimmy Connors. After finally defeating him at the 1980 Masters, he proudly declared:
“Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis seventeen times in a row!”