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Sunday 2nd July 2006

Happy Birthday to my old Bobby Robson mum.

So I was a bit hungover after the reunion (and an afternoon of drinking watching the football), so I experienced some trepidation when my nephew asked me if I fancied a game of tennis. Yes, it was that nephew. It had been a very humid night and I was sweaty from that and the alcohol and feeling pretty lousy, but I need to get back into exercising. And maybe I would also be doing some exorcising of demons. I have been playing a lot of tennis recently and he hasn't been playing at all. Maybe I could beat him. Admittedly I am two years older and more decrepid, whilst in the same period he has just got stronger and fitter. But there was still a window of opportunity that in maybe as little as two years will be gone.
It was a hot and humid day in Cheddar and I was certainly feeling the effects of my over-indulgence and though the first couple of games both went to deuce, I wasn't quite in the zone and he won them both. I then put in an exhausting couple of games of attention and levelled things up. But I was feeling weak and sweaty and sick. It wasn't all that different from the last time we played. I was wishing I had met him without a hangover as I was confident I could take him. His serve was incredibly fast these days, but it only went in about once a game. Evenso I had to take my foot off the gas as I was feeling so hot and unwell and quickly found myself 5-2 down. It would be so much work to try to win this set that I found myself contemplating the idea of letting him win so I could put all my energy into the second set. But then I realised that there was no way I'd get through three sets in my current state, in this horrible sweatbox. I decided to go for it.
I was serving to save myself in the first set, but despite my resolve went 0-40 down. Three set points. I won the first one and said, "this is where the game turns around." Andrew arrogantly laughed. But his sneering turned to ice in the warm air as I won the next point and the next one and the next two to take the game. At least the score line would be less embarrassing.
The next game Andrew seemed confident, but I had a new flush of energy. I chased balls and he made some errors and I won that game too. If I could hold my serve we would be back level. I had my nephew on the run now and indeed found that I had levelled the game. The momentum was all going my way. I was sure I could do this now. Andrew served and I won the first point. And the second. And the third. I now had three break points to go 6-5 up.
The first I squandered. The second I hit an adventurous cross-court shot that he had no chance of getting. Alas it landed inches out. The third point I played well. I saw Andrew weakly hit my return and could see it heading for the net. Inside I cheered. I knew I had done it. The ball hit the net some way down and then improbably pushed its way up, hit the lip and rolled over to my side. I gasped and managed to return it, but he smashed the ball away to get deuce. What the deuces! How lucky was that?
My resolve and spirit was broken and he took the game. I had lost my edge and my superiority and he broke me to take the set 7-5. Would I never win?
I think even if I had won the game and then if I had won the set, I think it would have been a tough call to win the match. I was hot and bothered and exhausted and unable to run and so in a hollow echo of the final Herculean match I retired exhausted at 3-0 down.
I had been cheated out of it, after some gallant play. It was like England Portugal all over again.
I don't know how many years of hurt I have had over this issue, but I suspect like the Baddiel/Skinner/Lightning Seeds song they are going to have to keep adding on the years. That song came on the radio on my drive home on the run down of the chart and I found myself practically crying. I am not massively into football, even though I do enjoy the World Cup, but our continued failure and the disappointment and tears of our players are strangely moving. But it's horrible to admit that David Baddiel has made me cry emotional tears. He must never find out.

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