Wimbledon is heating up, and whether it’s Serena Williams powering through her opponents or Andy Murray slowly roasting under a closed Centre Court roof, it’s inspired us to think of some of the maddest tennis matches ever committed to celluloid…
So join us, won’t you, in Total Film’s cinematic court while we bat around a few lobs thrown by filmmakers over the years.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Players: Richie “The Baumer” Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson) and Sanjay Gandhi (Sanjay Matthew).
Who wins? While we don’t see the final score, the Baumer’s clearly not doing well, losing both previous sets and down in the current one.
His eventual meltdown leads to him retiring permanently from the game and investing himself in his real purpose – lusting after adopted sister Margo (Gwyneth Paltrow).
Fault! At one point, Richie takes off his shoes and one sock, and ends up sitting down on the court. That sort of thing would never pass muster at the All England Club.
The umpire would have shot him for his behaviour. Okay, not shot. But severely reprimanded the man.
Random racquet trivia: The commentators are voiced by Andrew Wilson and director Wes Anderson.
Next: School For Scoundrels
School For Scoundrels (1960)
Players: Raymond (Terry-Thomas) and Henry (Ian Carmichael) square off to win the affection of Alice (Janette Scott).
The men are so proper, they don’t even need to change for tennis – they’re already dressed in white casual clothes.
Who wins? The rotter Raymond thrashes Henry quite spectacularly using a combination of unfair shots, the sun (he has his back to it and it’s in Henry’s eyes) and slimy, smug satisfaction.
Fault! We’re pretty sure the “uneven court” excuse is against official rules and Raymond’s constant exclamation of “hard cheese” every time Henry screws up is surely unsportsmanlike.
Beats the grunting of today’s players, though.
Random racquet trivia: The movie was remade in 2006 by Todd Philips, this time starring Jon Heder and Billy Bob Thornton.
There’s a tennis scene in that movie, too – though we’re not sure Terry-Thomas would approve of the tennis-ball-to-nuts hit that wraps it up.
Or would he? Hard cheese!
Players: Peter Colt, the underdog British sensation ranked 119th in the world (Paul Bettany) takes on cocky American player Jake Hammond (Austin Nichols) for the championship.
Who wins? Against all the odds (and logic, since it’s a movie), Colt takes it with an amazing dive to return a seemingly impossible shot.
Fault! It’s littered with ‘em, from Hammond’s 144 mph serve (really? They needed it to be that impressive?) to the fact that the Brit actually wins.
Not to sound unpatriotic or anything, but this is why the film’s a fantasy.
Oh, and montages were banned at Wimbledon in 1975.
Random racquet trivia: This is the only movie to have actually been shot at Wimbledon while it was happening, during the 2003 tournament.
Next: The Squid And The Whale
The Squid And The Whale (2005)
Players: The Berkman family (Jeff Daniels’ Bernard, Laura Linney’s Joan, sons Frank and Walt, played by Owen Kline and Jesse Eisenberg) square off in a game of mixed family doubles that quickly turns fractious.
Who wins? Bernard and Walt are ahead when the game dissolves into an argument thanks to Bernard’s aggressive play. It’s not known who finally wins, though we’re going with Bernard.
Fault! Bernard’s language (“F**K!”) wouldn’t pass muster on Centre Court, though we’re sure John McEnroe used it in his time.
And using the game as metaphor for family issues probably isn’t in the rule book either, but that doesn’t stop the Williams sisters.
Random racquet trivia: While some of the movie is based on director Noah Baumbach’s life, he’s on record as saying the tennis match is entirely fictional.
Next: The Witches Of Eastwick
The Witches Of Eastwick (1987)
Players: Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson) and Jane Spofford (Susan Sarandon) face down Sukie Ridgemont (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Alexandra Medford (Cher) in a “friendly” doubles match.
Who wins? Rain – after a devilish intervention from Daryl – stops play. But Sukie and Alexandra were ahead. We think. We were distracted by Michelle Pfeiffer swatting the ball with her bum.
Fault! Wimbledon’s officials would not certify anal play on the court. Steady…
And the use of magic is right out, despite Pete Sampras once hiring a shaman to keep his winning streak intact.
Note to lawyers: this is a joke.
Random racquet trivia: The tennis skill on display is mostly thanks to ILM, which was called upon to double its workload when the cast were found to be rubbish players.
Next: Annie Hall
Annie Hall (1977)
Players: Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) and pal Rob (Tony Roberts) hook up with Rob’s wife Janet (Wendy Girard) and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) on the pretence of a game, but really so that Alvy and Annie can meet cute.
Who wins? We don’t see the outcome, but the love match that develops afterwards – complete with neurotic wittering from the pair - works out well. Mostly.
Fault! We have trouble believing as man as nerdy as Alvy plays tennis in the first place.
And while Annie’s coloured getup is okay for Noo Yoik, it wouldn’t be allowed in Ladies’ doubles at the big W.
Random racquet trivia: The scene was originally supposed to happen much earlier in the film, but after a disastrous first cut, Allen moved it later into the running time.
Next: Nobody's Perfect
Nobody’s Perfect (1989)
Players: Stephen (Chad Lowe), disguised as “Stephanie” (he likes a girl, you see, and this is the only way to be near her) plays Coach Harrison (Mariann Aalda, who, frankly, looks even more butch than Lowe ever could as a bloke).
Who wins? It’s more of a practice knockabout, and they’re not really keeping score. But Stephen definitely loses his dignity as one of his false breasts falls out during the game.
And Lowe dressed as a girl? Everyone loses!
Fault! No man has ever won Wimbledon pretending to be a woman.
Keep your Martina Navratilova jokes to yourself.
Random racquet trivia: Real-life Tennis Champ Vytautas Kevin Gerulaitis (he was from the US, despite that name) appears as himself.
He probably regrets it, but since he tragically died in 1995, so we’ll never know for sure.
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