Sunday, June 12, 2011


In the end, there was no play, and also no re-enactment of that day at the All England Club in 1996 when Richard sang acappella in the rain. So this smart bit of west London will today come as close to a People’s Monday as it has done since the 1980s.
Though Murray and Tsonga did compete against each other, it was only backstage with a game of table tennis in the players’ lounge, a match which the Frenchman won by two sets to one. The hoped-for ‘windows’ in the weather kept on shutting, either with skinny drizzle or with fat, engorged raindrops, and it was just after 5.30pm that the title match, which was supposed to start at noon, was postponed for the day.
Anyone who had bought a ticket for the expected Sunday conclusion to the Aegon Championships will be given a full refund. Admission will be just £10 for Monday's scheduled 12.30pm start, with the 2009 champion attempting to become the first British man to win multiple titles at the Queen’s Club tournament since Sir Francis Gordon Lowe, a second baronet and the son of an MP.
Those were the days when a pre-tournament form guide and a copy of Debrett’s were one and the same thing. Lowe won his first two titles in 1913 and 1914, and his third in 1925. Tsonga, a former Australian Open finalist, and tennis’s best Muhammad Ali lookalike, will be trying to become the first French champion since this tournament began in 1890.
The All England Club installed a retractable roof over Centre Court to avoid this kind of tedium. Some spent this soggy Sunday looking through the Queen’s history books, to discover that the only two previous finals to have been played on a Monday were John McEnroe’s victory over the Paraguayan Victor Pecci in 1979, and Boris Becker’s defeat of Jimmy Connors in 1987. Others stood on the drinking terrace looking out at the British summer.
In the players’ lounge, Murray passed an afternoon eating strawberries, discussing which brand of British car should be considered the greatest, and also contemplating whether the players should be signing autographs, doing on-court interviews or perhaps even leading a singing session.
The absent Novak Djokovic, who withdrew from this tournament, responded to Murray over Twitter by putting forward the idea of a putting contest on the grass or perhaps a ’chipping-into-the-flower beds’ competition. It was that sort of day.
Tsonga, who will be hoping to achieve the British one-two of beating James Ward and Murray in successive rounds, was playing Jenga. And then he was playing ping-pong.
“It has been a very frustrating day,” said the tournament director Chris Kermode. “But the weather for Monday looks promising.”
Promising, but not great. So long as the British summer does not hijack another day, Murray will this afternoon have a rematch of last summer’s meeting with Tsonga in the quarter-finals of the Wimbledon Championships.
Murray won that match, but Lady Luck was wearing something tartan that day. Tsonga took the first set and at 5-5 in the second set tie-break, when he had the chance to smash an overhead, he instead let the ball drop and it landed in the court. Murray went on to win the match in four sets.
Tsonga has played some decent tennis at Queen’s, though it has to be said that Rafael Nadal was looking tired in their quarter-final, and in the semi-final the player from Le Mans came within a point of being taken to a third set. Should Murray on Monday play anything like he did in obliterating Andy Roddick 6-3, 6-1 inside an hour on Saturday afternoon, it will be the Scot who will hold up what must be the largest trophy in tennis.
Murray needs this final to finish this afternoon, as he is taking part in a go-karting competition this evening.

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