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Thursday 28 January 2010 by

I reckon I’m about as grown up as I’m going to get. I own my home and I seem to be able to keep my daughter fed and watered. I read a grown up newspaper, I don’t understand what N’Dubz say in their songs  and I struggle with iTunes. I do my own washing. I even tie my own shoes. There is however one thing guaranteed to reduce me to throwing a childish wobbly. I still can’t stand it when Watford lose

Granted, I have mellowed slightly and am now less likely to hurl whatever is in my hand when the bad news breaks against the wall, but let us be clear – following a Hornets defeat, I still get the raging hump. The thing is, there is a knock on effect. After a Watford defeat I can’t tolerate any football. I forego The Football league Show (not a massive sacrifice I grant you) and can’t even bring myself to watch Match of the Day. Sky Sports News is out of bounds, and so are the sports sections of the bulging Sunday papers. Irrational I know, but there you have it.

Anyway, as the majority of you will know, having seemingly dodged a bullet off the pitch, Watford are now enduring a painful time on it – the most recent illustration being the last minute transformation of three points into none at Bloomfield Road. So, with Watford doing their level best to keep me off football, I have had to seek solace elsewhere

Melbourne to be exact.

Home to TV’s” Neighbours”, the world’s first walk through lion enclosure and the birthplace of Ozzie staple vegemite, for two weeks each January Melbourne also plays host to the Australian Open tennis, one of the four “Grand Slams” on the ATP tour. I, like most Brits enjoy Wimbledon every summer, watching on with a familiar resigned sense of amusement as the British entrants invariably fail to make it past the first round. I’ll keep an eye on the grand slams and various other tournaments that Sky Sports deem worthy of screening, but rarely do I afford tennis anything but a fleeting glance. Until now.

Whilst I try to divert my attention from where on this earth Watford are going to get a decent centre back from, I can’t think about football. It’s too painful. I do however need my sporting fix, and tennis has rather unexpectedly proved to fit that bill. The cynics amongst you will already be pointing to the relative success of Andy Murray as the reason for my conversion to tennis fan. Well, not so. As the tournament enters its second week, there have been some great matches, but it is the coverage of these matches that has really captivated me.

I’m lucky enough to be able to receive DAB digital radio in my car and last week, unexcited by any of my usual morning listening (Apologies to Messrs Moyles, Campbell and Ms Fogherty) I flicked over onto Radio 5 Live Sports Xtra. I knew the tennis would be on and was intrigued as to how such a fast moving sport would come across on the radio.

In truth I expected to be moving on through the dial pretty quickly. As it happened, I was late for work as I didn’t want to turn it off…

The commentary team of Jonathan Overend, Vassos Alexander and Alastair Eykyn, backed up my summariser Pat Cash were brilliant. It was pre-match and they were discussing a huge range of interesting subjects – the types of racquet used, training techniques, bits and bobs each of them had picked up from around the tournament. Fascinating stuff, for both the uneducated casual tennis fan and (I assume) those with a more year round commitment to tennis

The conversation was jovial and relaxed, a large dollop humour mixed  with truly insightful comment. I couldn’t help but think of the hours and hours of banal comment I have endured from some so called expert football summarisers, blithely stating the obvious, spewing forth what sadly can only be described as cliché ridden rot.

Back in Melbourne (not me, I was almost in Milton Keynes by now) the commentators were preparing to begin their commentary on Andy Murray’s third round match with Frenchman Florent Serra. Whilst I had enjoyed the build up, I was dubious as to how the team were going to verbally portray such a fast moving game in such a short amount of time.

I needn’t have worried. Jonathan Overend launched into commentary and instantly hit his stride, describing each movement, shot and close call with expert precision. As with a good book, the commentary was able to transport me into the thick of the action, my minds eye seeing each point as clear as if I was watching at home on TV.

As it was, Murray won the game at a canter, having to perform at no more than 60% of his undoubted ability to progress in three sets. The commentary team however were most definitely at 100% and as I clambered out of my car into the cold Milton Keynes morning, my mind was very much still in Melbourne, full of the vivid images so expertly described by Overend et al

As a British sports fan, I have since enjoyed Murray’s subsequent matches on Sports Xtra, but the biggest compliment I can pay to the BBC team in Australia is that I have also tuned in listened to matches featuring players that I had previously had no any interest in whatsoever.

The tennis finishes this weekend, and Watford have a home tie with Swansea. If they win that, my brief dalliance with tennis will be over and I’ll find myself once more submerged in the blanket coverage that the beautiful game enjoys. Nevertheless, if you’re sat next to me at Vicarage Road don’t be surprised to catch me checking for the ATP Tour news.

It’s rare for me to want to spend longer in the car in the morning, but over the past fortnight, with Sports Xtra and my new friends on the wireless there really was nowhere I would rather be. Apart from Melbourne perhaps…

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