Aces, faults at Wimbledon
Rob Houwing’s 'Tops on the Telly' column
From a purely visual perspective, tennis - and the frankly unmatchable Wimbledon in particular - remains one of my favourite television sports.
Given the handily compact formula of the court and the snug way it therefore fits onto our living room screens, it quite obviously means TV viewers can feel so much closer to the action than they do in most other sports.
For the most part there doesn’t need to be much “panning” or use of fancy angles - though they obviously still come in handy in gaps in play - and the main camera does the trick simply and agreeably in monitoring live serving, strokes and rallies.
And a bit like the “DRS” in cricket has sexed up interest in the sport from a small-screen perspective, the similar player line-call review quotas in tennis have done the same thing.
SuperSport, with their saturation live coverage across two channels, have quite rightly been able to let the BBC-hosted presentation pretty much take care of itself: it’s technically polished and mostly on the ball.
That said, I’ve enjoyed the addition of those Prudential-sponsored mini-boxes on screen from time to time reminding us of South Africans’ progress (hmm, is that the right word?) at the championships.
Of course Wimbledon is one of the few precious, remaining blue-chip sporting events left in the Beeb armoury in England, as they have gradually surrendered so much to pay service Sky over the years.
But they still have the rights to it to 2014 and some things never change, like Sue Barker anchoring their daily fare at SW19 - the former world No 3 has been at it for 18 years, and does it articulately and competently, even if I have found her court-side interviews as champions are crowned over the years a tad too fawning and awe-struck at times.
The commentators are blowing hot and cold for me this year: I have never been a big fan of Virginia Wade (presently in her 30th year behind a BBC mike), whose whiny voice and over-profoundness can become tiresome - methinks she’d never have survived in the booth this long had she not been Britain’s last Wimbledon women’s champ in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year of 1977!
But Greg Rusedski, that “Briton” with still such a strong Canadian accent, was excellent the other day in describing the aura of playing on centre court, as well as being commendably modest in acknowledging how he could just never have cut it personally against a Roger Federer in fullest flight.
Still, like I said, it’s really what you see, rather than hear, that makes Wimbledon so magical, isn’t it?
Rob’s awesome foursome
1. Crusaders v Sharks, Vodacom Super Rugby playoff
Nelson, Saturday 09:35, M-Net, SS1 & SHD
Well, the Sharks will unleash the heaviest guns they can possibly muster, with Willem Alberts predictably promoted for a start at No 8 at the expense of Ryan Kankowski, for the mighty challenge of the Crusaders in what is expected to be a soggy Nelson. With Jean Deysel at No 7, no prizes for guessing that the underdogs have shelved flair for brawn in a plan to bludgeon their hosts into submission! It was fun and more than a bit nostalgic for me this week to ring up a bunch of old Sharks favourites – Mac, Teich, Ollie, Big Mark etc – for their thoughts on the big scrap. You got the sense that, for all their enthusiasm about what happened at Loftus, they reluctantly believe “crossing the ditch” once more will prove decisive ... and yes, not in the Sharks’ favour. My own tip, regrettably, is Crusaders by seven. But make a fist of it, lads!
2. England v Sri Lanka, Twenty20 international cricket
Bristol, Saturday 15:30, SS5
Of course Wimbledon is pleasurably ongoing, and hardly needs a reminder here as an attraction for more than another week. But if you’re flicking channels a little idly on Saturday afternoon so as not to overdose on the tennis – no major rugby or soccer, remember – you might settle for a while on the only T20I between England and Sri Lanka. If the rain stays away (and waddaya know, it’s not expected to!) the game should hold some appeal for lovers of the super-quick format. It’s a precursor to a five-match ODI series between the two nations.
3. New Zealand v England, IRB Junior World Champs rugby final
Padova, Sunday 19:10, SS1 & CSN
I would have felt more assured about putting this fixture up as a TV drawcard had the Baby Boks been one of the finalists, it is true. But it’s a reasonably lean sporting weekend, in many respects, and besides, as South Africans we’re mature enough (er, aren’t we?) to enjoy the IRB junior showpiece even without them. For one thing, it’s an opportunity to gauge the next generation of Carters, McCaws and the like, assuming that the All Blacks will remain our greatest rugby rivals for some time to come. Southern hemisphere loyalty, not to mention New Zealand’s consistent excellence at junior level, has me willing the Baby Blacks to prevail. Still, kudos to England for managing to break SA hearts en route to this appearance. The South African playoff for 5th/6th against Fiji hours earlier is not televised, alas.
4. F1 European Grand Prix motorsport
Valencia, Sunday 14:00, SS2, CSN, SHD & Maximo
Not too far off the midway mark in this year’s F1 schedule ... and a spot of merciful relief last time out as Sebastian Vettel did NOT earn the chequered flag in Canada! Now attention turns to Valencia, and the Spanish port’s hosting of the Euro GP. Despite its scenic waterside setting, this race hasn’t truly captured the imagination of motorheads yet – with overtaking here as rare as Vettel-less podiums, it’s not too hard to understand why. Another win by Jenson Button, now installed at No 2 on the drivers’ standings but still a distant 60 points behind, would obviously please neutrals.