Belfast Telegraph

Give us a break from pretend tennis

By Billy Weir

I have to confess that my knowledge of Vienna is somewhat limited - there's waltzing, wee biscuity things, Hitler lived there and I know it was the name of Rigsby's cat on Rising Damp. Oh, and there's something about dancing horses, I think.

Add to that the flogging of ex-equines in the form of Tie Break Ten - a new, exciting, edge-of-your-seat version of clearly broken game tennis that, as far as I was aware, didn't need fixed and which popped up in the Austrian capital on Sunday.

To the cynical this was a chance for six players to make a few quid/marks/euro (I need to check my grober Junge Buch von Österreich to see what the currency is) including Andy Murray, a man desperately in need of $250,000.

Suddenly two wide boys emerged out of the darkness with all the hallmarks of a country who desperately hadn't wanted to win Eurovision and ended up hosting it.

Wide Boy One spoke in English.

"To the thousands in attendance and the millions around the world, welcome to Tie Break Tennis," he said and was promptly followed by Wide Boy Two saying, presumably, the same but in German.

God help us if it ever comes to Belfast, we'd probably have Stephen Watson-Live in English, Mark Sidebottom in Irish and Jackie Fullerton reading it out in Ulster-Scots. We'd be there all night/oíche/nicht.

Our two wide boys were introduced as Ronny Leber and Philipp Hansa who, it transpires, are Austrian media chaps and, as nice as the bilingual proceedings were, you couldn't help thinking it would have been nicer had one of them made the effort to wear a lovely frock.

Ronny, or 'The Voice' as he was introduced, kept the Eurovision vibe going when he told us that 'the winner takes it all' but at least didn't say anything about Waterloo, though not for the only time that evening stressed that 'every point counts.' So, a bit like normal tennis.

One of Austria's favourite sons, Thomas Muster, was brought on to tell us all about it and when he spoke it was a real surprise as a broad Australian accent filled the court. Austrian, Australian, it can be confusing.

By this stage no-one could give a XXXX, they just wanted the tennis to start and basically it is a first to 10 points tie-break and that's it. So alongside Murray in one group we had Goran Ivanisevic (now aged 45) and Marcus Willis (world No 498) who was rather optimistically introduced as 'England and everyone's darling'.

The action started and there was a feel of those games at Wimbledon when the real tennis has finished and Henri Laconte came out and played against a ballboy.

The 45-year-old dealt with, Murray then took on Willis and it may as well have been the one from Diff'rent Strokes as he eased into the semi-finals while, in the other group, local boy Dominic Thiem had the Viennese in a whirl (that's the wee biscuit, isn't it?) by making it through.

He took on Ivanisevic in the first semi-final and it was all very jolly, but you couldn't help thinking this would be a lot better had all the players been of a similar standard, or can we expect Novak Djokovic to take on Cliff Richard next time?

"There's a certain electricity to the tennis right now," said commentator Annabel Croft, which was just as well as there had been all the spark of a three watt bulb up until the final, with Thiem racing into a 5-0 lead and going on to win 10-5.

"Is there anything you want to say to Dominic?" Ronny asked Murray afterwards. "Enjoy it, save it, don't spend it all at once," came the reply as he was called up for the trophy presentation, where he reached for silverware that looked like a badly modelled balloon dog and had it taken off him again as this was very much winner takes everything.

"It's been a fascinating contest," lied Croft, as the people of Vienna were left wondering what that was all about while Thiem and Muster cracked open a couple of tinnies before throwing another bratwurst on the barbie.

Will Tie Break Ten return? Probably. Will we all be watching? Probably not, I'll take a break from it next time.

Belfast Telegraph


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