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What the papers say

Marion Bartoli shows her trophy to fans.
by Clive White
Sunday 7 July 2013

Ivan Lendl, the coach of Andy Murray, is in little doubt that it will be a war on Centre Court today between the No.1 and No.2 seeds, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Writing in the Sunday Times, Barry Flatman quotes Lendl on the subject: “When you play this guy [Djokovic] we all know it’s going to be a war out there.

“In a final against somebody ranked nine or 10 in the world, the match could be a blowout. Against somebody like Novak, it’s very unlikely to end up that way. You know at some stage it comes to who wants it more, who is tougher and who can execute under extreme pressure. I’m not just saying it to sound dramatic, it is war.”

No prizes for guessing who thinks will be the victor – or what Jim White, of the Sunday Telegraph, thinks. He likened Murray to a fictional super man in his piece. He seems to make Murray the winner by a neck.

“Eight years ago, when he first addressed the nation’s urgent need for a home champion, at the All England Club, his neck was a thin stick-like thing, seeming barely substantial enough to hold his head in position,” writes White. “When he arrives on Centre Court to face Novak Djokovic in this afternoon’s men’s singles final, however, he will look as if he is auditioning for a role as the Incredible Hulk’s body double.

“His neck these days is huge, a bristling taut, honed strip of muscle that might well serve as a girder on the Forth Bridge. And it is in his neck that you can see the evidence of what makes Murray special: his absolute determination to realise the genius within him.”

Pat Cash, the former Wimbledon champion, certainly thinks the Briton will come to Centre Court the fresher of the two combatants. Writing in the Sunday Times, he says: “When the pair walk on to Centre Court for today’s final, I think I’m pretty safe in my belief that Murray will be the fresher of the two.

“Sure, he played the second semi-final on Friday and Djokovic was already into his recovery process by the time Murray was warming up. But that engrossing four hours 43 minutes over five sets against Juan Martin Del Potro, brimful of extended rallies and changes of momentum, was far more draining than the two hours 52  minutes Murray spent facing the bombardment unleashed by Jerzy Janowicz.”

Nick Pitt, in the Sunday Times, explains how Djokovic turned from a player whose fitness and stamina was questionable at times into the supremely fit warrior he is today. He gives a lot of the credit to a Dr Igor Cetljevic, who had watched Djokovic pulling up short on fitness in a televised match in Serbia against France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

“The commentator had frequently referred to Djokovic’s “asthma” but Dr Cetojevic was sceptical,” writes Pitt. “He told Djokovic the problem might be a digestive disorder and mooted a gluten-free diet. For his part, Djokovic admitted he was over-anxious and struggled to sleep before important matches, especially if the opponent was Federer or Nadal.”

Martin Johnson, also of the Sunday Times, provides a reason why he thinks Murray has found it hard to win public affection.  “Andy Murray has been a seriously good tennis player for years now, but that by itself is not guaranteed to win you public affection,” he says. “You need look no further than Murray’s box for confirmation of that. Ivan Lendl was widely admired in his playing days but it’s not easy for people to love you when you wear the permanent look of someone who’s just trodden in something nasty.”

Love him or not, viewing figures have been going through the roof during Murray’s matches at Wimbledon, particularly the semi-final against Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz, as Simon Briggs, of the Sunday Telegraph, reports. “The BBC’s live coverage enjoyed a peak audience of 13.2 million, making that match the most watched broadcast of the year. Murray, in other words, is already a bigger draw than Simon Cowell, the Dowager Duchess of Downton Abbey or Dot Cotton from Eastenders. Imagine what might happen if he won today.”

While on the subject of the host broadcaster, Georgie Graham and James Gillespie, of the Sunday Times, report that the BBC had to issue an apology last night for comments made by its Wimbledon presenter John Inverdale about Marion Bartoli, the new Wimbledon champion. They report that Inverdale said of the French girl: “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little: ‘You are never going to be a looker, you’ll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight?”

The BBC said by way of apology: “We accept that this remark was insensitive and for that we apologise.” Inverdale explained that he had poked fun “in a nice way at how she looks”.  “His remarks sparked widespread criticism on Twitter,” writes Graham and Gillespie, “with one user writing that the presenter was “never going to be a looker, or as good at anything as Bartoli’.”

Pitt is a little critical of the French girl’s playing style, asking: “Has there ever been a champion who has brought so strange and apparently limited a game and achieved so much with it? Probably not.

He continues: “All her strokes look untutored, of a kind more likely to be seen in public parks than the professional tour, but her service is the weirdest of all. It is delivered with the sort of motion a goofy young lady might make when pretending to be a ballet dancer, her right arm flying back before launching the racket at the ball. With a stiff wrist she is unable to put much spin on the ball so serves two flat serves of the same speed, hopes that one will go in and accepts that double faults, six yesterday, are inevitable.”

Tim Lewis, in The Observer, is more positive about what Bartoli has to offer. He writes: “The 28-year-old Bartoli won her first major title in her 47th Grand Slam appearance, breaking the record for late development.

“Lisicki may have been the crowd favourite, but Bartoli is an eccentric and popular champion. Her family hails from Corsica, and she looks like a tennis player created by Asterix’s Goscinny and Uderzo. She is a frenzy of compulsive tics on the court and an endearing oddball off it. It’s said that she has an IQ score of 175, higher than Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.”

Owen Gibson, of The Observer, quotes Mike and Bob Bryan on their “Golden Bryan Slam” in the gentlemen’s doubles. The Bryan twins’ win yesterday against Croatia’s Ivan Dodig and Brazil’s Marcelo Melo means that they hold all Grand Slam titles simultaneously as well as the gold medal from last year’s London Olympics.

“Mike Bryan said of their achievement,” writes Gibson. ‘This one is probably up there at the top. I didn’t think anything would feel as sweet as the gold medal but this one feels like a ribbon around our career. I never thought we’d win four in a row. It’s so hard to dominate in doubles.’

“Bob added: ‘The reason we’ve been playing so well is that we have everything and anything else is a bonus. We’re adding nuts and whipped cream and cherries to everything we’ve done before’.”

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