Thirty years ago: Beckermania and a rude then arid Anders Järryd

It’s almost exactly thirty years since Boris Becker became the youngest player to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon. Having been in my final year of primary school at the time (and in my final days of childhood in London as we prepared to move to Somerset) I still have a pretty heady cocktail of memories of that time. We were shunting our worldly possessions down the much-feted M3/A303 route from the capital to South-West England every weekend, and we were relying on a decidedly dated black-and-white television to heroically summon up coverage from SW19 when in Somerset – if we weren’t making use of the radio in our Volkswagen camper van to follow Becker’s irresistible rise into the fame and fortune honeypot.

He knew we were in the Volkswagen listening

He knew we were in the Volkswagen listening

Irresistible is certainly how it felt at the time: like a few other Wimbledons since (in particular, Andre Agassi’s title triumph in 1992 and Roger Federer’s second title in 2004), there was a sense even at the time that Becker was completely dictating the narrative of the fortnight and therefore destined to win. Like just about everyone else in modern times, however, he actually had to win the seven matches to get there first, and this wasn’t some unimpeachable formality: it was probably the exact opposite when he twice had to break Joachim Nyström to stay in his third-round encounter and then made the walk to the net when injured (and therefore apparently ready to retire) in the next round against Tim Mayotte (Becker’s manager and coach both shouted and exhorted him to carry on; they got their way and Becker got his victory).

On a note of exacting Scandiness, one thing that stands from a distance is my memory of how the commentariat and purveyors of punditry on the BBC pronounced the name of Becker’s Swedish semi-final opponent, who again had Becker in trouble before failing to convert some points for a two-set lead and then coming out far less inspired after a rain-break took the match into the final Saturday. Anders Järryd was (I am convinced) Anders Yah-RUDE as far as they were concerned. In years to come, the RUDEness subsided and instead a rather flat aridity came to the fore as Yar-RUDE became YARID.

Why the change? I pondered this at the time, and then realised this week (for the first time ever) that in any case there is an omljod/umlaut/double dot/call it what you will over the a in Järryd. So therefore it seems to me that JAIR-ryd (not quite rude and not quite rid) is the optimum pronunciation, at least if around 1:10 on this YouTube clip is anything to go by.

My fetishistic desire for complete verbal and oral perfection when essaying accents notwithstanding (we know we’re culpable on this blog a lot of the time, so we don’t push the matter), what stands out looking at some old footage of the 1985 final between Becker and Kevin Curren is how restrained the crowd are at match point for Boris (see from about 2:49:00 onwards here). Key matches at Wimbledon nowadays seem to unfold in a permanent cauldron of noise, articulated spectator nerves and emoting (not that this is a bad thing; it has heightened the raw and sharp immediacy of proceedings). Certainly when we are fortunate (as we have been over the last decade or so) to have a succession of frankly absorbing and see-sawing confrontations at all levels in the men’s game, it rather deftly complements the niceties of whether you say Jar-RUDE or JARID or, in actual fact, neither.

Järryd for his part was a fine player, one of the last of the (now almost extinct) brigade to excel in both singles and doubles. In spite of that semi-final loss to Becker, he was in peak form in 1985, reaching a career-high number 5 in the singles list and number 1 in the doubles rankings. He won eight Grand Slam doubles titles in his career, three of them with Stefan Edberg, who may well resume his modern rivalry with Boris Becker, in a coaching format at least, should they respectively guide Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic to the men’s final on Sunday week. (Or Novak Đoković if you’re purist to a fault or double fault about that kind of thing.)

Not forever defined by Becker and the rain: Anders Järryd cutting a dash at Wimbledon 2011, where he got to the senior men's doubles final with Jeremy Bates

Not forever defined by Becker and the rain: Anders Järryd cutting a dash at Wimbledon 2011, where he got to the senior men’s doubles final with Jeremy Bates

Our thanks to the BBC

We’ve been both taken aback and delighted by the sheer amount of traffic on the blog recently – much of it related to our post below about flourishing Anglo-Danish relations, Shakespeare, tennis and the role of the BBC therein.

We were trying to work out what exactly was driving this spike in numbers and the arrival of new readers in new locations that have made Worldly Scandifriend even worldlier. Hello to you in Nepal. In Oman. In Bosnia-Herzegovina. In Saudi Arabia. Truly do you lend credence to our internationalist ethos.

For ages we couldn’t quite twig why one of the referrers in our stats list was the BBC. Surely this meant that people were clicking on a link on our story to access the BBC site?

Nope. It was the other way round.

So thanks to the BBC for deeming our blog interesting enough to include within its Shakespeare coverage (see the piece entitled ‘buzz about this programme’). The chief purpose of this blog is to discuss Scandi stuff – as in the case of the Jonny Marray and Frederik Nielsen doubles win at Wimbledon, there was some relevant Nordic association.

But given that we once again ended up talking about The Killing, we have to highlight the corporation’s wherewithal in both making new quality programmes (such as those within its Shakespeare season) and in serving as a conduit for first-rate overseas broadcasting that might otherwise fall off our radar – just as the Beeb has done in the case of Lund and Meyer and with so much Nordic television afterwards.

(In this respect, we’re rather wary of those people who complain that the BBC didn’t initially publicise The Killing enough – just as it gave its iconic early 21st-century offering The Office a relatively low billing early on. Those people seem to be missing the point a little – which is that the BBC did commission, did schedule and did persist. Ask yourself who else would.)

On a separate note, we suggested in our previous post that it would be great to have an exhibition of very Shakespearean-era real tennis (now perchance with Marray and Nielsen at Hampton Court, former residence of Anne of Denmark?) and see Sofie Gråbøl and Søren Malling reunited for some classic Shakespeare on the British stage.

Hampton Court's link to Denmark - Anne, the consort to James I

Hampton Court’s link to Denmark – Anne, the consort to James I

We’re aware these are adventurous ideas and that museums and theatres are always pushed for time and money (and have numerous punters telling them what it’s all about). But if anyone reading this broadly agrees that it’s OK to dare to dream and that it would be nice to see Anglo-Danish links bolstered in an imaginative fashion, well, hey, cool. Make your feelings known.

In the meantime though, thanks once again to the Beeb for its support on this occasion. Often the corporation infuriates us – even more often we have nothing but good to say of it. That’s probably indicative of the sheer diversity and comprehensiveness of its output and outreach.

We remember seeing a BBC Worldwide advertisement in a residential (and far from busy) area of Rio de Janeiro seven years ago and feeling inspired. Who else would have bothered? As such, we agree with the notion that the BBC often is biased – in favour of human beings.

Still the best public service organisation in the world

Still the best public service organisation in the world

Update July 23rd 2012: The BBC clearly has been doing its bit for Anglo-Danish relations, and for Søren Malling’s career, in the wake of The Killing and Borgen; Malling featured in a recent episode of the English-language Wallander. We feel Malling deserves his big break on a truly global stage; we await further developments with interest..

Anglo-Danish relations pt II: why the BBC (mostly) got the tennis/Shakespeare scheduling right

It’s not so long since we were discussing the notion that Anglo-Danish cultural relations were at a high-water mark; in a sporting context at least, it’s difficult on this Sunday morning to think how they could be bettered following the victory of wildcards Jonny Marray and Freddie Nielsen in the men’s doubles tournament at Wimbledon. For tennis fans and suitably partisan Brits (the two are not mutually exclusive) that’s an extraordinary aperitif to today’s men’s singles final between Andy Murray and Roger Federer, and an aperitif that landed out of nowhere – although it would have probably taken Shakespeare to script the improbable drama that has unfolded at SW19 in the last two weeks.

Marray and Nielsen: star-crossed forty-lovers?

Marray and Nielsen: star-crossed forty-lovers?

Which takes us to some understandable concerns that the BBC had to shift some programming in its Shakespeare season (this season in itself a shrewd piece of scheduling and cultural reasoning as Britain gets ready for the Summer Olympics) in order to (partially) accommodate the Marray-Nielsen triumph. From a Worldly Scandifriend perspective, we’d like to offer some perspective on this one:

1) It’s 76 years since a Briton won in the men’s doubles at SW19. In other words, just before BBC television (and therefore, to all intents and purposes, public service television worldwide full stop) started. In that time there’s been plenty of Shakespeare on the box. We don’t think it’s too much to ask that the denouement of a very live and unpredictable drama on Centre Court takes precedence here. Worldly Scandifriend doesn’t have a television and would happily watch Shakespeare on iPlayer; that option does exist for everyone else.

2) Shakespeare is the most eclectic writer of all time; without even needing to Google it, we recalled the line from Much Ado About Nothing about how the ‘ornament of (Benedick’s) cheek hath stuffed tennis balls’ (and then remembered Henry V shortly afterwards). We find it difficult to believe that a man with such an open mind would have thrown a star wobbler if he had known that one of his dramas had been trumped by the goings-on in south-west London yesterday. Amid the dreadful English weather, the roof on Centre Court has fatefully enhanced the awesome sense of drama and brought late-night tennis to the masses coming home from their day jobs. Rosol v Nadal and Murray v Baghdatis are just two extraordinary matches that served as a prelude to yesterday. The noise of the crowd after Marray and Nielsen sealed victory yesterday was like a flood of uncaged delirium ‘neath the sealed firmament that detained crazy, marsh’d summer England-turned-Floodland itself. We hope Shakespeare would appreciate our attempts at poetic tribute; we feel he would have loved the tennis.

Something is service returning in the state of Denmark

Something is service returning in the state of Denmark

3) At least Brits have occasionally picked up a singles and doubles title at SW19 since the Challenge Round was abolished in the 1920s. No Dane had ever won a senior title there before yesterday. Nope, not ever. And Wimbledon started in 1877, only thirteen years after the Second Schleswig War. Short of showing Hamlet live from Elsinore Castle (which, again, has happened before), we don’t know what would have deterred Danske Radio and its fellow broadcasters from putting this pretty high up the broadcasting agenda (we’d love to know in case we’re missing out on a belter of a programme as good as The Killing or The Bridge). Berlingske Tidende is leading with this story in Denmark today; it’s not just Brits thrilled by this accomplishment.

4) The fact that very few people had any idea who Marray and Nielsen were a fortnight ago takes the dramatic biscuit. Goran Ivanisevic won Wimbledon as a wildcard in 2001, but was very familiar to the public after his harrowing losses in three previous finals. This story eleven years later is such stuff as dreams are made of (and we are consciously quoting Shakespeare there). I for one am tired of overpaid, over-exposed, over-hubristic footballers hoovering up the public limelight when there must be a plethora of human interest sports stories at grass-roots level and in other sporting disciplines. Let’s hear it for Marray and Nielsen for giving us a breath of fresh air and restoring a little bit of balance on this occasion.

5) It is possible to like Shakespeare and tennis. We can’t think of a better writer in history; we can’t think of any era in any men’s sport that is obviously better than the one which has unfolded in men’s tennis since Roger Federer first won Wimbledon in 2003 (and yes, we are aware of the achievements of Muhammad Ali in the 1960s and 1970s and Don Bradman in the 1930s and 1940s, to name but two others). We suggest that if Andy Murray prevails today, there should be an exhibition of real tennis (presumably the kind of tennis Shakespeare was referring to) on a suitably-tailored Centre Court (or failing that, Hampton Court) to mark the occasion. And, to mark the achievements of Marray and Nielsen, let’s have Sofie Gråbøl and Søren Malling from The Killing reunited and put alongside a British supporting cast for some Shakespeare as the main event. Benedick and Beatrice? Claudius and Gertrude? Isabella and Angelo? We’re getting excited thinking about it right now. As if today’s Murray v Federer showdown wasn’t exciting enough.

What we'd give to see them appear in Shakespeare together

What we’d give to see them appear in Shakespeare together

PS 6) BUT – with the above point in mind (that it’s possible to like Shakespeare and tennis), we have to be fair to those people who realised the significance of the Marray/Nielsen match but who were not best pleased that Henry IV Part One was completely shifted to a later date in order to accommodate the women’s doubles finals (with Casualty apparently throwing a spanner in the scheduling works too). We don’t belittle the achievements of the Williams sisters for one moment; nor do we underestimate the pulling power of Casualty after nearly thirty years. Shakespeare isn’t on the box that often compared to Casualty. We don’t see what was wrong with showing Jeremy Irons on one channel and Venus and Serena on the other. The BBC got the scheduling mostly right; maybe it needs to show Federeresque fleet of foot and stop scheduling Casualty against the sport so often?