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Beef Is Back

By Giri Nathan

I am not much of a carnivore, but I know (sports) beef is a staple of every healthy (media) diet. I have missed beef far more than, say, the moment of triumph. Most match points are dull. The moments that linger in my head are the anomalous, the extreme, those junctures when the game’s pneumatic pressure is just too much and somebody cracks. While commentators like to pretend these moments don’t happen, or actively apologize for the player’s behavior in that mystifying ritual, they are the exact moments many sports fans cherish: the messy, full-blooded, human texture of pro sports. That is something I can relate to. I do nothing on the court at a high level except holler into my string bed after a shanked shot, and it’s nice to see that I mirror the pros on that front. Among all sports, tennis in particular benefits from this occasional corrective, a disruption of the quiet decorum, a reminder that it’s being played by real people. A good chunk of my time at my old gig was spent entering such exotic moments into the historical record, with the aid of a handful of trusted tipsters and the all-seeing eye of Jack Dorsey’s demon-app. (I expect much of my time at my brand-new gig will be spent similarly, but that’s a conversation for another time.)

For obvious reasons, we’ve gone a long time without the messy human texture of sports, because we’ve gone without sports in general. It’s not at all clear to me that restarting sports is a good idea. But sports are back. And happily, I can report that players are finally spending enough time on court with each other to hate each other again. This is my main takeaway from this week’s action in Battle of the Brits. It’s a small-scale, responsibly run exhibition organized by Jamie Murray that pits big teams of men and women against each other over a week of events; brother Andy had to bow out to reduce injury risk before he plays the US Open next month. Tuesday’s singles matchup between Dan Evans and Kyle Edmund, the present British No. 1 and the recently unseated No. 1, ended on beefy terms. After winning the match in straights and celebrating a little too vigorously, Dan Evans dangled his frame over the net for that new custom—the racquet bump in lieu of handshake. Edmund whacked it, hard. “Be very careful, Kyle, be very careful, mate,” said Evans, with an air of menace. The Guardian’s Tumaini Carayol captured the incident for mass consumption:

The Daily Mail assures us that the two Brits settled their beef over dinner that night. They also note that Evans displayed a “combative attitude” all week, including a celebration of a net cord fluke, and a string of expletives, in a prior match versus Cameron Norrie. Something has come over Dan Evans. Perhaps it’s the thrill of being top dog after passing up Edmund in the rankings late last year. Perhaps he has been energized by the police-adjacent mustache he’s been sporting lately. Perhaps he’s been leaving his tablets in the wrong pocket of his wash bag again. Whatever the cause, he’s playing solid tennis again—and, more important, tennis is bringing us beef again.

Dan Evans at the Battle of the Brits. (Getty Images)

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