25 JUNE 1994, Page 39

Low life

Axe sport

Jeffrey Bernard

There has been, and still is, a surfeit of sport at this time of year, and now, after Royal Ascot and the second Test Match, I fear that I am in for two weeks of televised

Wimbledon. I suppose that the main rea- son for my not being a great supporter of tennis is that I like so few of its stars.

I don't like the temperaments of most of them and although lunatics like Nastase and McEnroe have added a rather silly spice to the game I think that a few of the ladies who cry when they lose, or come close to tears, perhaps should give Wimbledon a miss as they would a kitchen if it were too hot. But I must say I was very impressed by Ms Navratilova last night when I saw her interviewed on television. I don't usually like her sort of woman but she is certainly a very human being, and not quite the Eastern bloc heavy tank that I thought her to be.

But I suppose my favourite woman to have had the Centre Court is still Billy Jean King, not only for the great tennis she played but because she has done so much to help women professionals and was once brave enough to admit that she had had an abortion.

It would be nice if some of the players at Wimbledon reacted with no reaction, like the likes of Graham Gooch when he is out for a duck. Mind you, I am pretty sure that Gooch, a born NCO like Mike Gatting, has so little imagination that he could keep a straight face while enduring the most terri- ble of tortures, i.e. listening to a play-back of his own efforts at conversation.

Royal Ascot did me no favours although

I hardly had a bet. The racing itself, as always, had oodles of class and as always I was irritated, almost infuriated, by the dreadful people who go there just to be seen, and whose hats get in the way of being able to see the horses. Mrs Shilling must be almost certifiable, and I wonder what on earth she does from one Royal Ascot to the next one. There is something about her that strangely reminds me of Barbara Cartland but thank God she confines her writing of nonsenses to the brevity of betting slips and not respectable love stories.

But in the middle of all this sport I am made horribly aware of the fact that my sporting days are over although I suppose I can still play chess badly and a few card games not quite so badly.

The last time I played tennis I partnered Steve Cauthen against Pat Eddery and his brother-in-law. To my horror, half way through the game I realised that we were playing for a pound a point and not a game. I must have been as white as the proverbial sheet as I whispered to Cauthen that I hadn't got any money. He said 'Don't worry, I'm American.' We relieved Eddery of quite a little wad after half an hour and then, shortly after, following Eddery the next week won £2,201 by backing three of his mounts in a treble. I still have enor- mous regard for Eddery's jockeyship and I have a framed race card of the day he won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe on Dancing Brave, not the greatest horse of all time, but my personal favourite. What a pity Dancing Brave couldn't have signed that programme as well.