Science fiction is a dialogue, a tennis match, in which the Idea is volleyed from one side of the net to the other. Ridiculous to say that someone 'stole' an idea: no, no, a thousand times no. The point is the volley, and how it's carried, and what statement is made by the answering 'statement.' In other words ? if Burroughs initiates a time-gate and says it works randomly, and then Norton has time gates confounded with the Perilous Seat, the Siege Perilous of the Round Table, and locates it in a bar on a rainy night ? do you see both the humor and the volley in the tennis match?
It's no accident, I think, that tennis uses the language of life. Advantage, service, fault, break, love, the basic elements of tennis are those of everyday existence, because every match is a life in miniature. Even the structure of tennis, the way the pieces fit inside one another like Russian nesting dolls, mimics the structure of our days. Points become games become sets become tournaments, and it's all so tightly connected that any point can become the turning point. It reminds me of the way seconds become minutes become hours, and any hour can be our finest. Or darkest. It's our choice.
Only boxers can understand the loneliness of tennis players - and yet boxers have their corner men and managers. Even a boxer's opponent provides a kind of companionship, someone he can grapple with and grunt at. In tennis you stand face-to-face with the enemy, trade blows with him, but never touch him or talk to him, or anyone else. The rules forbid a tennis player from even talking to his coach while on the court. People sometimes mention the track-and-field runner as a comparably lonely figure, but I have to laugh. At least the runner can feel and smell his opponents. They're inches away. In tennis you're on an island. Of all the games men and women play, tennis is the closest to solitary confinement....
We made a successful, last-minute effort to get the French Open many years ago, when the USA network bailed on it. I remember, four of us jumped on a plane on the spur of the moment to cover it. I think we had someone draw up a sign (by hand) that we could hold up in front of the camera to tell viewers that it was ESPN coverage.
I sometimes rented a car and drove from event to event in Europe; a road trip was a great escape from the day-to-day anxieties of playing, and it kept me from getting too lost in the tournament fun house with its courtesy cars, caterers, locker room attendants, and such ? all amenities that create a firewall between players and what you might call the 'real' world ? you know, where you may have to read a map, ask a question in a foreign tongue, find a restaurant and read the menu posted in the window to make sure you're not about to walk into a joint that serves only exotic reptile cuisine.
The public never appears to tire of endless courses of strawberries and cream, and the theory that you run the risk of boring people with endless photo montages of the Chelsea Pensioners in their dress reds, or close-ups of a Pimm's Cup sprouting all kinda of flora, has yet to be proven. People like Wimbledon in the same way they like blue jeans or even their own spouses: for the pleasure yielded by their reliable sameness.
Archie Henderson has won no awards, written no books and never played any representative sport. He was an under-11 tournament-winning tennis player as a boy, but left the game when he discovered rugby where he was one of the worst flyhalves he can remember. This did not prevent him from having opinions on most things in sport.His moment of glory came in 1970 when he predicted correctly as it turned out that Griquas would beat the Blue Bulls (then still the meekly named Noord-Transvaal) in the Currie Cup final. It is something for which he has never been forgiven by the powers-that-be at Loftus. Archie has played cricket in South Africa and India and gave the bowling term military medium a new and more pacifist interpretation. His greatest ambition was to score a century on Llandudno beach before the tide came in.