Who would ever guess that the All England Lawn Tennis Club was so multi-functional? Not only is great tennis played there, it has also been the venue for an impromptu Cliff Richard concert, on Tuesday we were treated to the magic act of Santoro v Murray; and now it has played host to a pantomime set during the Cold War, only this time, the Russians won.
Six months ago, a British tennis player named Chris Eaton, ranked in the low 600s, began a journey in my home city which would take him all the way to Wimbledon. SR3 to SW19: talk about a good career move. After despatching Boris Pashanski of Serbia, Eaton then met Dmitry Tursunov, the straight faced, business-like 25th seed.
Although the crowd was not so cruel as to boo and hiss the bad guy, they simply transferred the energy they would have used to do that into encouraging their hero. Eaton’s (predominantly female) fan club and his newly acquired supporters were there to cheer on their man with huge smiles on their faces, regardless of the result.
Alas, the fairytale ending was not to be. After a closely-run first set which went to a tiebreaker, Tursunov took it 7-2, and once the first set was over with, the gap between them began to elongate. Tursunov won in straight sets, taking the second and third 6-2, 6-4 respectively.
Nonetheless, from the first point to the last, every Eaton winner, every Tursunov unforced error and double fault was met with such applause and yells of delight that one would think Eaton had already won the Championship. Any impressive Tursunov winners were greeted with respectful, yet somewhat disgruntled clapping.
In the first few games, the occasion of the event seemed to overwhelm Eaton, but he soon found his rhythm and began matching Tursunov point for point. While he still seemed in awe of his surroundings, now he has had a taste of what awaits him, surely he will be more determined than ever to play the show courts of Wimbledon again in the near future.