Tramlines

British women’s moment of glory

Tramlines

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For one brief, glorious moment around 20 past two, we could dream of two women in the third round of Wimbledon for the first time since... well, Tramlines doesn't know but it is pretty sure the Bay City Rollers were number one when it last happened.

We had world number 68 Elena Baltacha giving it the full gun in the third set against 20th seed Shuai Peng, while over on court one Laura Robson and a partisan crowd had Maria Sharapova well and truly rattled.

It looked like the most significant moment in British women's tennis for years.

But two decades of near-misses told Tramlines what was going to happen next, and within minutes Baltacha and Robson had slipped to defeat.

And the criticism began - some people blamed the media for the defeat (Tramlines would maintain it was Baltacha who hit those unforced errors, not the press corps), while others rounded viciously on the players.

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One comment on this website's match report described Robson and Baltacha as 'overweight', 'lazy', 'talentless', 'useless' and 'overpaid'.

Tramlines somehow doubts whether the poster of that comment is the 68th best in the world at anything other than picking his or her backside in front of Deal Or No Deal.

And if anyone thinks Baltacha's total career earnings of £542,000, an average £45,000 per annum since 1999, is excessive for the very best female tennis player in the country, Tramlines would point them to the mediocre Premier League full-backs who make as much in a week.

More well-meaning, though equally unhelpful, is the theory that our players only need to keep their heads down and their time will come - that Robson in particular is a champion in waiting.

This is the kind of thinking that insisted on calling Jamie Ward's Queen's semi-final a great breakthrough, when it was merely a player enjoying the best tournament of his career.

Robson has talent, and with luck she could be a top player, but there is no inevitability about her rise to the top.

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Ultimately, Andy Murray aside, Briton's tennis players are what they are - good but not elite, and in no present danger of winning a significant tournament.

Why can't we just say 'well done' when they reach the second round of Wimbledon? It doesn't have to be a crushing failure or the start of something big - it is just a pretty good tennis player punching slightly above their weight. Stop looking for profound significance when there isn't any.

What makes us think we have a duty or a right to be good at tennis, anyway? This is a sport in which Britain has a mild interest for six weeks of the year, and an oddly fanatical devotion for two.

You can't be good at everything, and when it has to compete with football, cricket, rugby, cycling, golf and the myriad sports at which Britons are halfway decent, tennis is bound to get crowded out.

The national gene pool only spits out so many talented sportsmen and women - it is unrealistic to expect to excel at everything- and British tennis has been hugely fortunate to be sustained by Tim Henman and Murray.

It would be nice to see more kids down the park with rackets in their hands (instead of the baseball bats wielded by the youths round Tramlines' way), but does it really matter that the world's best players are Spanish, Swiss, Danish or Chinese?

As long as they were graceful, powerful and entertaining, Tramlines wouldn't care if they had surfaced from a military compound just outside Abbottabad.

And as for Robson and Baltacha - it might only have been for a few fleeting seconds, but at least they had us dreaming.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "You may never get your favourite job either - no offence to your current employer." Andy Roddick cuts down a reporter suggesting the American's Wimbledon dream may never be fulfilled.

Tramlines will miss the honest, perceptive and funny Roddick, and it will miss his glorious wife Brooklyn Decker. It hasn't decided in what order yet.

PHOTO OF THE DAY: Tramlines doesn't know how Francesca Schiavone does this, but the whole mind control thing might explain her meteoric rise to prominence in the last two years.

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