One of the most popular sports quiz questions is ,”Who was the last British male player to win the singles trophy at Wimbledon?” Fred Perry wouldnt have imagined in 1936 that no British player would lift the crown for the rest of the century. In a nation ravaged by sport, sadly few great tennis stars have emerged since Perry’s exploits. Jamie Delgado, Andrew Castle , Jeremy Bates, John Lloyd, Buster Mottram, Mark Cox all managed to get into the top 100 rankings without threatening the top 100. Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski carried the British flag in the 1990s. Both of them had reached a career high ranking of 4. British fans would have endured many heartbreaks with Henman reaching four quarterfinals and four semifinals and faltering at that stage. Rusedski, for all his big serving exploits could manage only one quarterfinal. Where does Andy Murray stand then when compared to his predecessors?
For a start, Murray, despite not having won a Grand Slam has reached the Australian Open final. He has had a career-high ranking of 2 which is the highest achieved by a British player in the Open Era. He has broken the jinx to become the first British men’s finalist in the Open Era and the first since 1938. The euphoria around him is enormous. In 2009, I had tried getting into Wimbledon to watch Murray’s semifinal against Roddick, but the queues started forming 36 hours earlier and it was impossible to get in. The queue on Sunday for the finals cleared in 2 hours and I was fortunate to watch the finals from the Henman Hill now Murray Mound. Everyone realizes he is up against an in-form Roger Federer who is playing divine tennis on grass; the question is, can he do anything to stop Federer from winning his 7th title.
Murray has been returning amazingly well. He would have to chase down everything thrown at him. He shouldn’t let Federer get the lead. The best Murray can hope is to force some tie-breakers and hope Federer misses some first serves. He had won more than 90% of the points on Jo-Wilfred Tsonga’s 2nd serve in the first two sets. Federer’s serve is much more deceptive and difficult to judge.The whole of Britain would be behind him and he should use the crowd to motivate him to bring out his best. He has been lucky not having to face Nadal, Djokovic or Federer till the finals, so it will be the true test of his character. This, in many ways is the best chance to stop the clock that has kept the British public waiting for 76 years.