x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

The outsiders club of England gets 'another Australian' in Brydan Klein

Klein, the UK's latest sporting spoil, snatched from a raid on our former colonies.

Brydan Klein of Australia has a British mother. Robert Prezioso / Getty Images
Brydan Klein of Australia has a British mother. Robert Prezioso / Getty Images

Say what you like about British tennis players - and we do, frequently - but at least they have been mainly relatable.

Not successful, for the most part, but recognisably and palpably "one of us".

Jeremy Bates, the great white hope of British tennis during my boyhood, with his pencil neck and pullovers, looked like a geography teacher in a minor public school. My minor public school.

In fact, they all looked like people I went to school with.

Andrew Castle, with his Sun-In highlights, could have been one of the cooler older kids in the top year, Tim Henman the mild-mannered head boy, Andy Murray the surprisingly strong geeky kid from the Dungeons and Dragons crowd.

Yes, until Murray stepped up a gear, they were a huge source of disappointment. But, if anything, that just made them seem even more British: every defeat an act of our trademark self-effacing, passive-aggressive dithering.

"No, no, old chap. After you, I insist. I wouldn't have anywhere to keep the trophy anyway ... "

Where did Greg Rusedski fit into all that? Well, he didn't. To continue the school analogy, he looked like an exchange student, fresh off the plane from Canada.

It was not the exotic name that flagged him up as unmistakably foreign. It was that face, as wide and open and honest as an Ottawa cornfield, incapable of irony or sneering.

Sorry, mate, we just don't build them like that round here.

All this leads us to Brydan - Brydan! - Klein, the UK's latest sporting spoil, snatched from a raid on our former colonies.

Klein, our new No 3 male tennis star, is an Australian. Not a pretend Australian, like Dame Edna or Nicole Kidman or their Prime Minister. I mean a proper Australian: a blonde-haired surfer dude, a Summer Bay refugee with a made-up name and a coarse tongue in his head.

Despite the British mother, he is a specimen so blatantly Australian that, in his mere presence, one can imagine shrimps (whatever they are) voluntarily leaping from the sea and flinging themselves onto the nearest barbeque.

He is a man so Australian that the British Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), on its own website, still carries a news article describing him as "another Australian".

And "another Australian" he would have remained, were it not for the fact he has fallen out with Tennis Australia for perceived lack of support after he was punished for using a racist term against a South African opponent in 2009.

So now we get him. Lucky old us.

This is not a rant against any British athlete of mixed heritage. That would be absurd. We are a mongrel nation, and all the richer for it.

Mo Farah, Lawrence Dallaglio, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Andrew Strauss all are immigrants or sons of them, yet all unmistakably are British heroes.

They all spent their formative years on this damp rock, absorbing the same culture, using the same institutions, sharing the same triumphs and disasters as the rest of us - not hooning around a giant desert, caked in zinc oxide.

When we cheer on a countryman, we cheer on the man we could have been, the man who had the same life chances we did - but actually made something of them.

When we cheer on guys who look like our old schoolmates, we are cheering our own system, for all its benefits and faults.

Do we really want to cheer the product of a different system who came here when things did not work out on the other side of the world?

I don't. But maybe I'm just a whinging pom, as they say in Australia.

And, it seems, at the British LTA.


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