Thursday 7 July 2011

Baghdatis, the race is on!

Sometimes we’re lucky enough to experience a day which we know we’ll remember forever. Yesterday, with my centre court ticket for Wimbledon in my hot little hand, this was that day for me.

After hitting a ball relentlessly against our tin garage door before progressing, much to the delight of the neighbourhood I’m sure, to the pitted, gravel courts near my grandparents and the instant game of doubles which was me and my three sisters, my love for tennis was cemented around my twelfth birthday. This was when I finally procured a racquet of my own. It was a white Slazenger with a purple handle and was Juvery of-the-moment compared to the wooden racquets loaned out at school. There wasn’t a speck of steel or graphite and the head was only the size of a large tea plate.

I should point out here that, although an enthusiastic amateur, I don’t recall ever winning anything more significant than a hearty handshake. Even if I’d had the skill, which I didn’t, I certainly didn’t have the head for it.  ‘Don’t throw it all away now,’ the little voices would say. ‘Just don’t do a double fault for goodness sake, don’t do a double…’ Oh dear.

It didn’t matter. Tennis for me was more about meeting my friend, Rachel, at the town club (it wasn’t as grand as it sounds) and bashing the ball back and forwards over the net as we discussed our burgeoning love lives, our fast deteriorating school and the general trials and hairspray which accompanied teenagehood in The Eighties.

Lack of skill, height and hunger for the game were major contributory factors as to why my tennis never went any further but it didn’t stop me following Wimbledon on BBC2 every year, in the days when McEnroe still had the anger and the headband and Connors wasn’t stopped from jumping over the barrier to sit with the crowd while the slightly befuddled umpire attempted to sort out whatever battle of wits he’d generally started.

Yesterday, the first two matches went pretty much as the winner would have planned.  Caroline Wozniacki, the number one seed, finished off her opponent’s Wimbledon in an hour.  And Roger Federer showed us why he has won quite so many tournaments to date. Both were incredibly impressive. But it was a little like viewing a painting from an undoubtedly talented painter which you wouldn’t hang in your home; you can appreciate the skill but you’re seeing it with your eyes and not your heart.

Then came Novak Djokovic and Marcos Baghdatis. Although a fan of Djokovic (largely, and I apologise to tennis purists, because he always signs autographs and smiles when his opponent hits an unassailable winner), I found myself cheering for another seemingly nice guy, Baghdatis. Djokovic had won the first set and I didn’t want my day at Wimbledon to end any sooner than it had to.

When Baghdatis won the second, I flung my arms in the air like it was my child out there. I’d lived that second set with him, my heart pumping harder, willing the stunning rallies to continue and for Baghdatis to finally outwit Djokovic. I found myself thinking positive thoughts on his behalf.  Ranked 30 places behind Djokovic, I willed Baghdatis to tell himself that he was his equal.

And when they sat down at the end of the third set and Baghdatis was trailing two sets to one, I thought to myself that winning tennis matches at this level is a little like the battle to publication. It’s understood that tennis players have talent, it’s also true that without the self-belief and determination to go with it, they will not succeed. Assuming a writing competence, this is the same of writers who are not yet published.
‘What’s the difference between a published and an unpublished writer?’, thriller writer and witty man, JR Ellory, asked us at a writers’ conference. ‘The unpublished author gave up,’ he said.

Djokovic crashed out of Wimbledon in 2010 and vowed he’d come back better.  He changed his diet and the way he trained and an amazing year followed. I’m not sure all writers will get published who continue to submit the same rejected material - but have a re-read, act on some new feedback and chances must surely be higher.

It is hard to receive that stinging slap to the face when your baby is rejected, without rubbing the sore patch for a while. But tennis players don’t take months off.  They take a day, perhaps, but then they’re back out training, tweaking their game.

Baghdatis’ submission for the ultimate prize in tennis was rejected yesterday. He’s never yet won a Grand Slam. Many, even some close to him, will think he never will.  But nobody can influence the outcome more than Baghdatis and come the next major tournament, I know he’ll be back out there trying again.
Will Baghdatis win a Grand Slam tennis tournament? Will I get published? Marcos, the race is on.


  1. What a fabulous blog, I was right there with you for the whole amazing experience! Good thing as owing to a recording malfunction I wasn't actually able to see it myself. Aaagh. "Go Baghdatis go" or should I say "Go Buxton go", good luck and keep going to both of you.

  2. Thank you :) But that's a travesty you didn't get to watch that match, you being a proper tennis fan and Wimbledon guru! Hope all malfunctions are sorted out now. Thanks for reading!

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  4. First spam received on my blog. Have deleted the comment. Do they really think a random link is going to make us buy? Although I guess I'm not altogether immune, I even wrote a post about it...!


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