Stop the Presses! Hold the front page. Familiar cries from times gone by in the newspaper business when there was a scoop to be had. If this was one of the awful British tabloid newspapers the back page of sport...
Stop the Presses! Hold the front page. Familiar cries from times gone by in the newspaper business when there was a scoop to be had. If this was one of the awful British tabloid newspapers the back page of sport would probably be branded “World Exclusive *** Andy Murray Cleans Mouth”. You see Andy has said he is going to clean up his act and stop swearing during matches. That’s a good thing because the sport certainly does not need obscene language wafting through the airwaves or echoing through a stadium. To use a very clichéd term relating to another so-called gentlemanly sport, “it’s just not cricket”. We will give him the benefit but it is not just Andy who has been caught swearing during the match. This has been an on-going issue and really it is never going to change. For decades the chair umpires have been provided with a list of unsavoury words in different languages because all too often it was the English speaking players who were getting pulled up because they didn’t know how to say &%^$ or $!^%*!# or &%#* in a different language. The French, the Germans, the Spanish etc were getting away with blue murder … well blue language anyway. Jimmy Connors had things down pat. He was notorious with the words he used. He often got away with things because he’d wait for the crowd to roar and then get his towel and scream the words into his towel. The late Vitas Gerulaitis was among the worst – so much so that when he was playing an indoor event in Melbourne in the mid-80’s the linespeople went on strike and refused to call any match he was playing. Reason eventually prevailed. Then there was that famous incident at the US Open when Hana Mandlikova was defaulted for abusive language. At the press conference which followed, the delightful and very proper supervisor Georgina Clarke, who is sadly no longer with us, was asked if “Mandlikova was swearing in English or Czech”. Georgina, in her wonderful upper crust English voice, paused for a split second and responded: “Eng ... Er … American.” At the tournament in Miami quite some time ago on two side-by-side outside courts, one court had a match with an Australian woman and the other had a match involving Britain’s Annabel Croft. The Australian player had missed a couple of easy points and that was too much for her: “&^%$, @#*% and that $%*&^(@ sucks” could be heard. Barely a minute later Annabel misses a shot and commented: “Oh my Godfather.” The contrast was hysterical and not missed by the fans watching both matches. Lleyton Hewitt has let fly with some very choice words and one close friend had some priceless expressions during a match. And at the Davis Cup final in 1986 Pat Cash was losing so badly to Mikael Pernfors that he abused the Swede with some pretty vivid language; it so shocked Pernfors that he lost the last three sets and Australia won the Davis Cup. These things happen in the heat of battle and while that is not necessarily an excuse, it is a fact. A player is concentrating and focusing and working so hard that they get caught up in the situation and often forget where there are. Often, also, a player tends to relax once they have let off that steam. Swearing in sport is certainly not confined to tennis. In cricket they call it sledging, it runs across the board in football, you name the sport and swearing is there. It’s just that in tennis there are so many microphones dotted around and the fans are so close to the action that it is all picked up easily. So after all that Andy is working to turn over new leaf in 2013.  Good for him to try and set an example. We can see how long it goes, especially at crucial times. Maybe instead of &%#* we will hear: “Oh gosh” or maybe “Haggis”. Now that really would stop the presses.