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Watching Wimbledon through the eyes of a four-year-old
07 Jul 2015
by Simon Alton

Like most people in the UK, I become a huge tennis fan for the duration of Wimbledon and try to catch as much of the tournament as possible.

As proud parents to two boys aged four and two, our TV is mostly dominated by Cbeebies, so I was pleased as punch when I managed to convince them that tennis was a “really exciting game which Mr Tumble plays sometimes”.

As Heather Watson and Serena Williams replaced Tree-Fu Tom on the screen, I settled back, ready to teach my children about the wonder of one of our country’s greatest sporting traditions.

All was quiet for a minute as the ball flew back and forth over the net, and the cheering erupted as Heather Watson broke the Williams serve.

I then made the fatal error of opening my mouth.

Me: “Yes! She’s broken her serve.”

Son: “What’s she broken daddy?”

Me: “Her serve. Erm, it means when one player wins a game even though the other player started the game.”

Son: “What game?”

Me: “Tennis. They’re playing tennis, and the match is divided up into lots of little games.”

Son: “Oh. What’s a serve?”

Me: “When a player starts the game. They have to hit the ball over the net to start.”

There’s a short period of silence as he takes this in. Then Watson wins the second set to square the match.

Me: “Brilliant! Watson’s won the set!”

Son: “Who’s Watson?”

Me: “Her name’s Heather Watson. She’s the one in the white dress. Actually, they both have white dresses on. Er, she’s got a white cap on. That one there.”

Son: “Do we want her to win?”

Me: “Yes.”

Son: “Why?”

Me: “Erm, because she’s British and she’s never won before so it would be nice for her to win.”

Son: “What’s British?”

Me: “It means she lives near us, so we want her to win.”

Son: “Does she live in Shrewsbury?”

Me: “No, she lives in a place called Guernsey… which is actually quite far away… Anyway, it would just be nice for her to win so we want her to win.”

Son: “What’s a set?”

Me: “A set is part of the match. There are three sets and whichever player wins the most sets wins the match.”

Son: “How does she win?”

Me: “She needs to win more games than the other player.”

Son: “How many games?”

Me: “You win a set by being the first to win six games. Although they have to be two games ahead. Actually, don’t worry about that. It’s the first to six.”

Son: “How does she win a game?”

Me: “By hitting the ball over the net more times than the other lady. The idea is to get the ball in between those white lines but try to make it so the other player can’t hit it back.”

This satisfies him for a fraction of a minute until a crucial game goes to deuce.

Me: “Oh no, it’s gone to deuce!”

Son: “Why are they having juice?”

Me: “They don’t drink juice, it’s just what it’s called when the game gets really close.”

Son: “Why?”

Me: “I don’t know.”

Son: “Who’s winning?”

Me: “Well, Heather Watson is winning at the moment but if she loses this game, the other player, Serena Williams, will probably win.”

Son: “Why?”

Me: “Because she’s better than Heather Watson and will have the momentum now.”

Son: “What’s mon-ment-mum?”

Me: “When you keep doing something really well so it sort of gets easier to keep doing it.”

Son: “Oh. Can we watch Cbeebies now?”

Me: “Yes, good idea.”