Centre Court at Wimbledon. Photo: Getty
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Thrilling in the name: Wimbledon on BBC Radio 5 Live

Is it just me or is everyone enjoying saying the word “Kukushkin” rather a lot?

It’s the start of the third round of the gentleman’s singles at Wimbledon – Mikhail Kukushkin v Rafael Nadal – and BBC Radio 5 Live is doggedly still reporting on Serena Williams and Alizé Cornet over on No 1 Court (28 June, 12pm). What are fans of Nadal to do but switch grumpily to 5 Live Sports Extra, where games are often shunted? But it’s just transmitting an eerie looped message confirming that rain has stopped the cricket. Forgive me, reader, but I turned on the box.

The cheerful Sue Barker is at Centre Court on BBC1, flannelling like crazy. “This roof is nice. It’s interesting – they’re going to be playing outside but the roof is on.” Tim Henman nods sagely. Yes, it is interesting. Just as the two players start to crouch with intent, 5 Live finally picks up the commentary. “Look at Kukushkin!” cries Mark Woodforde. “All that tape on Kukushkin’s leg. I’m worried.” “Kukushkin is fresh as a daisy!” scoffs Pat Cash. Moments later, Tracy Austin whoops, “Ooh, my word, Kukushkin! Fortunately for Kukushkin, it’s out – but is Kukushkin all right? Kukushkin has gone up the line so many times . . .”

Is it just me or is everyone enjoying saying the word “Kukushkin” rather a lot? It is, after all, a nice word to say. Like a pet name for the youngest and most beloved but somewhat sickly child in a Chekhov play, for whom the extended family wanders the birch forest looking for pretty flowers or tasty mushrooms. Kukushkin and Rafa: animal characters in a melancholy 1970s Soviet animation by Yuriy Norshteyn.

As 5 Live goes to a typically maddeningly timed news update, followed by a lingering preview of forthcoming football and a stretch of enthusiastic coverage of the women’s high jump at today’s athletics, over on BBC1 the camera pans to Phil Tufnell, his head lodged inside the bosom of a friendly blonde. Sachin Tendulkar boredly flicks through his programme. The umpire taps away at his Hawk-Eye screen, like a maître-d’ doubtfully checking your dinner reservation.

“Having a bit of a lull on court,” Woodforde pipes up eventually. “Inevitable in a game of this quality. Still awaiting a break point. Kukushkin! Such aggressive forehand direction Kukushkin has! Kukushkin . . .”

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 02 July 2014 issue of the New Statesman, After God Again

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Tony Blair won't endorse the Labour leader - Jeremy Corbyn's fans are celebrating

The thrice-elected Prime Minister is no fan of the new Labour leader. 

Labour heavyweights usually support each other - at least in public. But the former Prime Minister Tony Blair couldn't bring himself to do so when asked on Sky News.

He dodged the question of whether the current Labour leader was the best person to lead the country, instead urging voters not to give Theresa May a "blank cheque". 

If this seems shocking, it's worth remembering that Corbyn refused to say whether he would pick "Trotskyism or Blairism" during the Labour leadership campaign. Corbyn was after all behind the Stop the War Coalition, which opposed Blair's decision to join the invasion of Iraq. 

For some Corbyn supporters, it seems that there couldn't be a greater boon than the thrice-elected PM witholding his endorsement in a critical general election. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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