Watching Roger Federer’s narrow win over Julien Benneteau, I was struck by how much of the crowd supported Federer. After the match, commentator Boris Becker pretty much admitted he was on the side of the Swiss man as well. I struggle to understand how tennis fans support players. In tennis, you often support a player, but not in the same way other fans support teams. Whoever you support you respect all the players and you want to see a good game more than a win for your preferred player. This more measured support is given more to the big players. In last night’s match for example, there were fans adorned with the RF branded caps, and shouts like ‘come on Roger’ were much more common than those in support of his adversary.
As well as this, Wimbledon fans don’t have the same ‘anyone but’ mentality either. In other sports, we love to see upsets and Goliaths losing. I remember hearing it is an English/British thing to support the underdog, yet at Wimbledon, that most self-regarding of British events, there is no sign of this. Federer has been a brilliant player at Wimbledon, and undoubtedly has a special relationship with fans and Centre Court, yet wouldn’t it have been nice to see a plucky no-hoper win against Federer, especially after getting so close? Somehow it seems fairer for a smaller player to have a shot in the limelight, at a time where the men’s game is so hierarchical and dominated by a few players.
Perhaps, and this is a big perhaps, the traditional nature of Wimbledon, with its arcane rules, strict dress code and middle-class fanbase demands a preference for the conservative over the new; the familiar face over the newcomer; those at the top over those at the bottom.