Why do Wimbledon tennis players demand of their audience the silence of a requiem mass?

It seems to have become a tradition: every Wimbledon, I whine about how the men should be allowed only the single serve that they have in other racket games, such as squash and badminton. The double serve is a hangover from when the game was played by drunken Victorian gentlemen who had difficulty getting the ball anywhere near that rectangle on the other side of the net.

In fact I'm becoming more radical with age. I now believe that the players should be allowed to bounce the ball only once before serving (a number of male players spend more time bouncing the ball with their hand than hitting it with their racket). And this year I'm toying with the idea that the players should not only be restricted to one serve but also be given just one ball to last them for the entire match.

Is tennis the only game in which you get so irritated by the players' repetitious habits? In soccer there's too much actual play for the players to have time to rap their feet, lift the shoulder of their shirt, blow on their fingers, perform the same little gesture over and over and over again. In golf, on the other hand, there's almost no play at all, but it's somehow difficult to get irritated by looking at lots of people going for a walk.

High in the top ten most irritating habits of male tennis players is their finnickiness about the balls. Have you seen when they ask for a couple of balls, examine them and then throw one of them back as if there could possibly be any difference between them? And if they hit a first serve long and the other player hits it back to them, I have never, in all my years of watching tennis, seen a male player use that same ball for the second serve. It's as if that ball has lost its purity, its virginity if you will, and will no longer soar with the same intensity of purpose.

Let them be restricted to one ball only for their one serve, and let it get more and more worn so that by the end of the fifth set it looks like that ball you keep at the back of the cupboard to throw for the dog.

And why do they sit down so often? Most players of sport run non-stop for 40 or 45 minutes before being allowed a ten-minute sit-down before doing the same again. In an average five-set tennis match, the players will have rested about 25 times. The most absurd of those is the rest that they take after a grand total of one game, when they slink to their chairs and do those irritating things like putting their towel over their head.

On the subject of towels, have you seen that the new form of gamesmanship for the receiver is to take your towel out with you on to the court and hand it to a ballboy at the back of the court? That enables you to towel yourself down between each point, in order to disrupt your opponent's concentration. It is all to do with the fatuous coach's maxim that you shouldn't let your opponent dictate the rhythm of the game.

Hence French's proposed rule change number two. The server should be allowed to serve whenever he wants. If the receiver happens to be at the back of the court rubbing his calves or staring at a line judge or engaging in supposedly amusing banter with a ballgirl, then tough.

And why is there all this ridiculous insistence on silence during points? Other sportsmen manage to compete without demanding the atmosphere of a requiem mass. Not that the audience at Wimbledon deserves any consideration.

The commentators talk of the supposed knowledgeableness of the crowd, which seems to manifest itself mainly in cheering double faults by opponents of Tim Henman and doing Mexican waves.

As for the commentators, I'm impressed by Barry Davies as a football commentator, if only because he remembers all those foreign names. But what's he doing at Wimbledon? It's not as if we need to be reminded who's playing, especially now that they have the names and scores displayed up at the top of the screen, in the perfect place to obscure certain crucial balls hitting the line. All that tennis commentators do is wait until the point ends and say the sort of things that we say sitting on our sofa: "Oh, that was amazing," or, "That was a nervous- looking volley."

And where do I stand on equal pay for women tennis players? Solidly in favour. Any woman seeking equal pay should be allowed to play in the men's tournament.

And so another happy fortnight draws to a close. Here's to next year.

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