Monday, 10 December 2012

Masters Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall

Fellow tennis fans will commiserate with the long wait for January; rejoice, then, in the Masters Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall. Not only can you get to see real legends of the game such as John McEnroe, Mats Wilander and Pat Cash but more recent retirees Henman, Ivanisevic, Moya and Enquist will also be holding court. Tickets vary dramatically in price but start from a measly £17.50 so even if you're feeling mugged by the festive season, you can beg an early Christmas pressie and get yourself down to one of the most stunning tennis venues ever. Speaking of which, I feel a slight historical diversion coming on . . .

The Royal Albert Hall is a Grade 1 listed building, a distinctive London landmark, truly gorgeous inside and out, and literally majestic. Opened in 1871 as a place for the public to discover and appreciate art and science, it was championed by Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Albert, and paid for by the profits of The Great Exhibition of 1851. Albert was passionate about social reform as well as art and science and saw promoting their understanding as a way of both celebrating and continuing England's industrial success (are you listening, Prime Minister?).

Londoners have much to thank him for (Albert, not the Prime Minister); the entire complex of South Kensington museums - and the ethos that museums are places of self-education and should be free to the public - are down to his influence. Albert was also responsible for bringing the traditional Christmas tree to England; he had a tree brought to Windsor Castle in 1841 and decorated it with glass ornaments, candles, fruits and sweets. A published engraving picturing the Royal family around the tree soon made it a popular yuletide tradition. Albert died suddenly of typhoid in 1861, at the age of just 42. Queen Victoria never recovered and remained in mourning for the next forty years, until her own death. At the official opening of the Royal Albert Hall she was so overcome with emotion that her son had to speak for her. The Hall was named in his memory and has been in continuous use since that day; one of London's grandest music venues, it has hosted performances from Wagner to Sinatra and Hendrix to Jay-Z.

Transformed from concert hall to tennis arena, the Hall retains its grandeur but makes for an intimate setting. This is a very relaxed event where players have fun and interact with the audience, but there is steel beneath the showboating; these guys can still really play, and the sight of Ivanisevic thundering down a trademark serve at 128mph is pretty impressive. We saw Moya vs. Santoro and Britain's Jeremy Bates against Guy Forget (standing in for an injured Ivan Lendl) but for me the highlight was seeing self-styled court jester and indisputable genius Mansour Bahrami.

If you're not familiar with Bahrami's exhibition doubles play, get on YouTube now; it's not a patch on seeing him live, but it will give you an idea of his natural comic talent and his ridiculously skilful tennis. Amongst his many skills he can serve holding six tennis balls in one hand, rally with an opponent on the opposite side of the net whilst facing his own doubles partner and teach Federer a thing or two about the hot-dog. Make a note in your new diary for the first week of December 2013; I'll see you there.

Yours, realising that to tennis players love means nothing,

Girl About Town xx

No comments:

Post a Comment