It can cost an awful lot of money to watch professional tennis. You can save money at tournaments, such as the pre-Wimbledon WTA tournament in Birmingham, by going to see the early rounds or you can even watch the pre-qualifying for free. However, I am going to deal with the July Davis Cup clash with France.
One way to save some money is to go to see the doubles match on the Saturday. They charge less for this as there is only match. On the plus side, with Andy Murray expected to win both of his singles and the No.2 Brit expected to lose his matches, this is probably the crunch event of the tie. On the down side, the rallies are shorter. Another way to save money on attending the event is to become very good at tennis and get into Team GB. Then, if your name is not Murray, you can sit back and watch Mrs. Murray’s boys win the tie for Scotland. Sorry, Great Britain.
However, if your tennis abilities are never going to reach those heights, then the cheapest way of watching three days of Davis Cup tennis is to be allowed in for nothing and to be paid while you are there. This can be made even sweeter by working for FranceTVSport, so that they pay for the privilege of you seeing their team beaten.
Less than ten days before the tie, I received an e-mail asking me if I was available for four days work in London. I hate working in London and the travel and hotel expenses takes a lot out of the fee but four days is a lot of work to turn down. So, I made a tentative enquiry, asking what was the job. When the reply came back that it was the Davis Cup tie at Queen’s Club, I had smoke rising from my computer keyboard as I rapidly replied to accept the job.
I was working for French television and I began work at eight o’clock on the Thursday before the event started, though I was able to see the teams knocking up on the show court as they acclimatized to the conditions on the court. A very hot and hard day, humping in all of the heavy broadcast gear in and getting it working. However, after that I had very little to do but watch the tennis and hope that nothing went wrong, as FranceTVSport was live on-air for all of the matches. I began watching the tennis by the main camera position. The perfect spot to view the match but it gives you very little idea of the speed of the shots. I briefly went down to the balcony area by the side of the court. All of a sudden those second serves, which had appeared to be so slow, were suddenly shooting through.
As more stills cameramen turned up, I was squeezed out of my viewing position but, as I was looking after the French commentary team, I was able to slip into their commentary hut and watch from in there. The hut was right next to the camera position, so I still had a perfect view and I now had the benefit of air-conditioning. Remarkably, the BBC commentators were positioned at the back of the BBC studio hut, looking away from the court and just working from television screens. Of course, being in with the French commentators meant that my celebrations had to be muted as Team GB took control of the tie but I had the satisfaction of seeing them banging the table with exasperation as the Murray brothers took control of the doubles and put Team GB into the lead.
The French broadcast team were very pleasant to work with but we rapidly came off-air once the tie had been lost after the first singles on the Sunday. The weather for the four days that I was there was absolutely idyllic. My second favourite job of all time. And unlike an earlier Davis Cup tie that I worked on, I did not end up calling a line in the deciding rubber but then that was another century.