Good riddance to graceless Greg

I KNOW Britain struggles to produce even half-decent tennis players of its own, but why on earth are we expected to care about Greg Rusedski?

I KNOW Britain struggles to produce even half-decent tennis players of its own, but why on earth are we expected to care about Greg Rusedski?

Henmania I just about understand. The boy Tim is in many ways the perfect home favourite for Wimbledon – presentable, well-groomed, polite, nearly upper-class and nearly good enough to win something.

He is an elegant, hard-working trier and his style of play is varied, attractive, intelligent and entertaining – right down to his Agassi-like tendency to do nothing the easy way.

Rusedski, on the other hand, is a classic specimen of all that is wrong with modern tennis.

His game is all about power, height and speed. Not speed around the court – just how hard he hits the ball.

There is nothing elegant or inventive about him, nothing that even looks athletic. His appearance, movement and behaviour all cry out for the word "graceless".

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The best the media could do to hype his match against Andy Roddick was to predict a possible breaking of the serving speed record. As if that was something to be proud or glad of. I thought we were all agreed that speed of serve was the thing threatening to kill tennis as a spectacle.

There was no record this time – but our Greg did achieve two remarkable things in the match.

He made the famously dull Roddick look like an interesting and entertaining player by comparison.

And he made the long-ago tirades of one JP McEnroe seem tame and polite.

The one thing we can be glad of is that Rusedski upset himself so much over the bizarre incident of a line-call that came from the crowd that he raced from there to a speedy defeat.

We will therefore be spared any more of the misplaced jingoism that accompanies his every match and the preposterous dubbing of Wimbledon's famous "hill" as Rusedski Ridge.

I suppose if Rusedski wishes to consider himself British, that's up to him.

But all the lunatic flag-waving that comes to the fore in SW19 for the last week of June each year is deeply dumb.

It's not as if these guys are actually competing for Britain. They're competing purely for themselves as individuals.

Where they were born, or where they choose to say they belong, is surely irrelevant.

Personally, I am rooting for Andre Agassi and Justine Henin-Hardenne – not because I have any particular interest in Nevada or Belgium, but because I like watching them play. And because a victory for either of them will be a victory for skill, finesse and guts over sheer power.

THE word "tragedy" hardly seems appropriate when an 88-year-old dies quietly in a hospital bed. And if I can't mourn the loss of Denis Thatcher, I can't really celebrate his life, either.

Many of the stories about the former prime ministerial consort are quite entertaining, in a cringeworthy sort of way.

His occasionally outrageous racist and sexist remarks seemed less offensive than those of his royal opposite number, the Duke of Edinburgh, probably because of the old duffer act he so skilfully presented.

I always felt Thatcher was far more astute, and probably far nastier, than his public image suggested.

He had already made millions before his wife ascended to the throne of No.10 – and he quietly made more millions on the back of her rise.

He was, I suspect, a true power behind the throne. He was more able to act in pure self-interest than his missis could be seen to do.

Bizarrely, some people still seem to think Mrs T was a good thing. The current prime minister in many ways continues to carry her torch, if not her handbag.

I still believe the Thatchers were a pernicious influence on Britain and the world.

I couldn't say they were responsible for making greed and bigotry the supposed virtues of the 1980s. But if they didn't create the spirit of the age, they certainly made it respectable. And for that, as much as anything, I will not forgive them.