So, it has finally happened. A Brit has lifted the silver trophy so ardently desired but so out of reach of his fellow countrymen. Andy Murray, perennial bridesmaid to the Federer, Nadal and Djokovic trinity, has nabbed the big one for himself and laid to rest the ghosts of the Great British Hopes, from Tim Henman to Greg Rusedski. Murray, much like Greg, who at the start of his tennis career represented Canada before making the leap across the Atlantic, is not exactly cut from the Union Jack like Henman, and while he is probably happier in the Scottish highlands than the vales of merry old England, only the meanest curmudgeon would deny the British this sporting achievement.
Wimbledon is the world’s premier tennis tournament but for 77 years, the crowds there have seen only Germans, Swedes, Americans, Australians Spaniards, etc. lifting the trophy. Seeing the pandemonium for the 2005 Ashes win or the gold medals at last year’s London Olympics only highlights the fact that the Englishman is starved of two things — the sun and sporting prowess. Until now.
Even though Murray has courted controversy in the past for his less-than-patriotic demeanour towards England, it came to a head when he was asked before the 2006 football World Cup of who he wanted to win. His response, “Anyone but England” showcases the historic baggage that exists between England and Scotland.
So, how did he win Wimbledon? The ingredients were always there for Murray. He had the bullet-like shots, the long reach and the serve and volley game so suited for grass, but always seemed to be on fringes of the winner’s circle. Murray did things incrementally; appointing Ivan Lendl as coach was a master stroke as the eight-time champion knew what he wanted out of his temperamental ward. Lendl brought his calm to the play and ever since then, Murray’s angry young man persona has made fewer appearances. He is a lot fitter and does an annual ‘boot camp’ in Miami in the off-season. His superb fitness was evident in the five-set comeback victory against Fernando Verdasco in the quarter finals and the way Murray shrugged off any lingering fatigue from that gruelling match. His emotional “I am getting there” statement in last year’s Wimbledon final got hearts fluttering and his patriotic credentials were cast in iron when he won the Olympic Gold for Britain at the 2012 London Olympics and thrashed Roger Federer in the final, the man who had brought him and England to tears a few months back.
The joy of the nation is a sight to be seen and they now have a genuine, died in the wool champion. Honours will flow in, a knighthood (he already has an OBE), endorsements, perhaps, even a road or two named after him. Toasts will be raised to him and we may see a scowling Andy statue at Murray Hill. Elton John will write a ballad and for a few days, the English will forget about the Beckhams and the ovarian lottery winner due in a few months. But nothing will capture the moment of his win in the world’s premier tournament, the thundering applause and the non-stop shouts of “Come on Andy!”. They say the English summer is three events — the Lord’s Test, Royal Ascot and Wimbledon. This year the summer is complete.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2013.
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