With victory over djokovic, murray climbed britain&’s last sporting everest
When the gates to Wimbledon opened yesterday morning the crowd came tumbling in, carrying hampers, sporting patriotic apparel and coated, if they had any sense, in liberal quantities of sun cream. As they scurried for a prime vantage spot on Murray Mound one looked in vain for anyone aged 85 or older.
That is the minimum age any of them would have had to have been to remember Fred Perry becoming the last British male to win a Wimbledon singles title in 1936. Every year since, a cluster of Britons has taken to the courts in London SW19 and departed early, mostly very early.
From Bunny Austin, through Tony Mottram, Mike Sangster, Roger Taylor and John Lloyd, Canadian import Greg Rusedski and serial semi-finalist Tin Henman, generations of British sports fans have hoped in vain.
Year in, year out, the All England Club has handed over a huge surplus, now exceeding £30m, to the Lawn Tennis Association. Year in, year out, the LTA has wasted it on initiative after initiative. The highest-placed English male is Jamie Ward, ranked 219 in the world. There are 20 Frenchmen, 20 Spaniards, 19 Germans, 18 Americans, nine Russians, even nine Australians ranked above him. Somehow Andy Murray emerged through the thickets of mismanagement and swamps of mediocrity to take his place yesterday as the standard-bearer of the sun-burnt masses on his eponymous mound and the millions watching on televisions across the land. To their collective delight and half-disbelief he then took that final step to climb Britain’s last sporting Everest.
Wimbledon represents a unique challenge to a British sportsman, made more difficult with every passing year. A Lions rugby tour is a huge event and a demanding challenge, but it is quadrennial and shared with 30-odd team-mates. England’s footballers have spoken of the pressure they feel under when representing their country, but tournaments are biennial, they have team-mates to share the burden with and, for most, their club careers offer similar opportunities for glory.
All the other sporting peaks have been accomplished within middle-aged memory, albeit those who recall 1966 and all that are mostly now thick of waist and thin of hair. More recently UK sportsmen and women have had a golden Olympics, regained the Ashes — and held them in Australia, won the Rugby World Cup and the Tour de France. Lennox Lewis’s reign as world heavyweight champion is fresh in the memory, the exploits of Darren Clarke, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy fresher still and, if Augusta has eluded the golfers of the British Isles since the Millennium, Nick Faldo’s last triumph was only 17 years ago, not 77.