Clip Joint: Tennis

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Film-makers have often struggled to capture the finesse, tension and thrills of the nation’s favourite sport (during those two weeks in late June/early July, at least) on the big screen. But although great movies about tennis are about as rare as a riveting Andy Murray interview, there are plenty of great one-off scenes involving a racquet and a ball. Here are five aces – what would your choice be to join the list? The Royal Tenenbaums Very nearly stealing Wes Anderson’s depressive comedy from Gene Hackman’s last great performance, Luke Wilson’s turn as the Bloody Mary-drinking, headband-clad tennis prodigy Richie Tenenbaum was reportedly inspired by Björn Borg. However, it is the Swede’s rival John McEnroe he most closely resembles when he suffers one almighty on-court breakdown. The meltdown is brought on by unrequited love for his adopted sister (Gwyneth Paltrow) and her new marriage to Bill Murray’s befuddled neurologist – both of whom are in the crowd to watch every single one of his 72 unforced errors. Strangers on a Train Released three years before Dial M For Murder, this 1951 thriller was the first time the Master of Suspense looked to the world of break points and backhand volleys for his protagonist. With the help of Dimitri Tiomkin’s dramatic score, Hitchcock expertly ramps up the tension here, cutting the back-and-forth action of Guy’s (Farley Granger) singles match with psychopath Bruno’s (Robert Walker) desperate struggle to recover an engraved cigarette lighter which will frame the tennis pro for a crime he didn’t commit. Bridesmaids Forget Evert v Navratilova, Graf v Seles, or Serena v Venus; when it comes to rivalry in women’s tennis, nothing can match Bridesmaids’ brutal battle between Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Helen (Rose Byrne). Tired of being constantly upstaged by prissy Helen during the build up to their mutual friend’s (Maya Rudolph) wedding, Annie vents her frustrations with an array of shots aimed at Helen's perfectly coiffed head, only to receive a wince-inducing blow to the body in return. Annie Hall Notable more for the post-match small talk than the actual match itself, this charming scene from the Academy Award-winning Annie Hall shows how Diane Keaton’s titular character and Woody Allen’s Alvy Singer first meet as opponents in a doubles game. But following an awkward yet flirtatious exchange in the lobby, they leave the Wall Street tennis club together, having struck up a friendship which will lead to cinema’s ultimate nervous romance. School for Scoundrels Likeable loser Palfrey (Ian Carmichael) eventually gets one over on caddish Delauney (Terry-Thomas) in the original and superior adaptation of Stephen Potter’s Gamesmanship books. But it’s his first crushing defeat on the tennis court which remains the film’s most memorable set-piece. With the object of their affections looking on, an anxious Palfrey is tormented by his love rival with various distraction techniques and a string of ‘hard cheese’ commiserations which are as comical as they are insincere.


Jon O.

Freelance Entertainment Writer/Music Curator. Journalism Graduate from University of Central Lancashire. Have written thousands of reviews, biographies and features for Allmusic, Metro Online, Attitude, Hollywood.com, Napster, Pressparty, Artist Direct, The Guardian, TiqIQ and...

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