Sunday 4 December 2016

What the deuce is going on?

US Open winner Djokovic entitled to question RTE's call, says Declan Lynch

Published 18/09/2011 | 05:00

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IT'S a remarkable thing, really, how they keep getting it wrong. Remarkable too, how they're always finding new ways of getting it wrong. This time, the RTE sports department chose the US Open tennis semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to display this talent of theirs, even a sort of genius, for wrongness.

It was the Nine O'clock News and Anne Doyle handed over to the sports presenter, who was doing quite well until it came to the tennis. Now I hasten to add that I don't hold this particular presenter personally culpable, as he or she was not necessarily the person in charge of the getting-the-results-right department that day. Indeed, on a broader level I don't regard this malaise as a matter of individual error -- it's a "systemic" issue, as they say, which goes to the very root of the culture.

And they were right about one thing. Djokovic had indeed beaten Federer. But they were wondrously wrong about the way that "the Serb" had done it. They had him winning the first set, with Federer taking the second, only for the Serb to prevail in the third and fourth sets.

Except the Serb hadn't won the first set. The Fed had won the first set, and the second set, which meant that the Serb had to stage an extraordinary comeback in what turned out to be a classic five-setter.

The structure of the match, the whole story, was that it was one of those Grand Slam epics, in which Djokovic was dead, but came back to life again for what he described as his greatest victory. But in Montrose, they didn't see it like that.

Indeed on the screen you could see highlights from the match with the scoreboard in the bottom left-hand corner clearly stating that The Fed had won the first set 7-6.

Yet RTE, somehow, gave that one to Djokovic, and missed the fifth set entirely. How could this be?

Well, it may partly be explained by the fact that the match had just finished, and they are busy people after all, with deadlines. Yet that doesn't quite work for me. These five-set tennis matches go on for a very long time. So even if the match had just finished, the first set would have finished a few hours before the News went on air. And maybe I'm being naive here, but would it be beyond the bounds of possibility that RTE sports people might actually be watching the semi-final of the US Open live on Sky, not just as a professional duty, but for their personal enjoyment?

Do these people actually like sport enough to make that commitment? Do they like sport at all? Do they like anything that they do?

THESE things may fascinate us and entertain us, but there is also a note of tragedy, what with investors these days betting great sums of money on precisely such matters as the winner of the first set, or the number of sets, and so forth. Then again, such investors probably know better at this stage than to be hearing the bad news, or maybe the good news that turns out to be bad news, or vice versa, from RTE.

Here, we have moved beyond all that, and are prepared to tell you the results of things that haven't even happened yet. But even we can be wrong. For example, we were sure that Barry from Dundalk was going to win MasterChef Ireland.

This was a hunch based on my knowledge of the human condition, and in particular on my knowledge of people from Dundalk, and while there are some who would have dismissed what I was saying as mere crystal-ball gazing, wiser folk would have taken note, and taken it to the bank.

I may not know much about cookery, but I know an artist when I see him at work, and Barry from Dundalk is an artist. He seems at once to be laid-back and yet burning with intensity. Which gave him a certain charisma, a star quality which, I felt, would surely not go unnoticed by judge Dylan McGrath.

I have a theory, too, about Dundalk people in general, having spent a significant part of my youth around those parts. I believe that they have a historical advantage conferred upon them by the availability of BBC and ITV and the British culture thus imparted, which of course was superior to anything on offer to their counterparts in towns of a similar size, who had only RTE.

Barry would have that too, somewhere in his bones. I didn't think he would win, I knew he would win.

On Thursday night he went home.

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