Riffing away on Rafa

To my delight, the airwaves are filled with admirers of a certain tennis hero

The Wimbledon coverage (Radio 5 Live, on a loop) continues to perk up your reviewer, particularly with regard to any swooning over Rafael Nadal, for three years round at mine known as Little Bull Rising. "A lot of people fancy Nadal, full stop," said Pat Cash to Clare Balding at the start of the Mallorcan's opener with Germany's Andreas Beck.

"So, how's he looking, Clare?" "He's looking pretty sharp," Clare replied, with the reliable tone of an Old Speckled Hen drinker. "He's unbelievably fit. He's in a piratical outfit and his tanned and muscular arms are revealed by a sleeveless vest. Seeing him in the flesh is some sight." (Hmm, best switch on the telly to check this out, I thought, but keep the commentary going . . .)

"His hair's still wet," Pat noted, fascinated. "He's obviously just stepped out of the shower and then tied that bandanna around it."

"He's kicking his heels behind him," murmured Clare. "He's crouching, he's crouching, he's crouching. He's out there and he's running and hopping from foot to foot and shadow boxing and there's a lot of physical domination going on."

"He's well pumped up!" burst Pat, suddenly reckless. "The world's number two is just dancing around! This is simply great tennis! I mean, what an aggressive way to save break point!" Silence; the sound of a ball whizzing through the space-time continuum and back into the present; the crowd exhales.

"Pat," said Clare, her voice awfully serious. "Andreas Beck. A hundred and twenty-two in the world. Kind of gawky-looking, I'd say. Big strong legs, but - nothing much on top. Unlike Rafa!"

"Yes," confirmed Pat. "Where Nadal is Crouching Tiger, Beck is so Germanic. But then Tony - that's Rafa's uncle - has always said his motto is Stay Humble. And that's one of the many reasons we like Rafa: he is humble."

"He's thumping the ball!" shrieked Clare, wild now. "He's really having a go! He's opening up! He's on a roll!"

Someone in the background made the point that Andy Murray was going to be on later so we must all stay tuned, but there was the overwhelming sense that however much, as a nation, we know we ought to focus on the values we share with the Spotty Jock Shaver, it's impossible to favour him over a man who possesses a bottom like an Edwardian lady's bustle and gets his Rs and Fs mixed up in the word "surface" during post-match interviews ("I be bery happy for a victory on this difficult soofrace").

A couple of days later, I shuffled into the kitchen at night only to find Boris Becker in the corner on 5 Live Extra, riffing away, rapt. "You know, people are always talking about his biceps and his shoulders like it's a kind of pose, but he's just naturally like that. He's always been like that. He's always been big. I saw him when he was just 15 and I'm telling you - he's just strong physically. It's simply the way he is. And he's such a nice guy, you know? He's just started a foundation which focuses on the spread of malaria in developing countries . . ."

Ah Boris, you, too. I flicked off the radio and looked out of the window: the orange city getting its rest. One man, one fortnight, one serious crush.

Pick of the week

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8 July, 10.30pm, Radio 2
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The Essay: Greek and Latin Voices
7-10 July, 11pm, Radio 3
Professor Chris Pelling presents four essays exploring the life and times of Plato.

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 07 July 2008 issue of the New Statesman, British childhood