The highs and lows of a British tennis player

Is today the day?

Oh how we wept watching Tim Henman; so close yet so far. Watching him became an annual, masochistic ritual. We all knew very well that Tiger Tim wasn't going to make it, but we watched, prayed and named a hill after him in the hope that he would end the drought. Every year we got drawn in only to have our hearts broken, and yet we came back for more. Such was the life of a British tennis fan.

June arrived and once again our attention turned to the green courts of Wimbledon, the stats were rolled out and yet again we all dared to ponder whether this was our year. In the first week the Euro's offered distraction for some but as ever England went out at the quarter finals, so to Murray we turned. Murray unlike Henman, in both play and manner, seemed to offer us some hope. A Scotsman on a mission to win a grandslam, rather than merely reaching the final hurdle as he had done so before.

At the beginning of Wimbledon who would have dared thought Rafa would go out in the second round, to an effective unknown? Such is the charm of tennis; you can't win a grand slam in the first week, but you can lose it. Rafa went out and in doing so he paved the way for Murray to reach his first Wimbledon final creating a moral dilemma: who to support in the final? On the one hand, many want Federer to win one more slam, and to prove that whatever Nadal and Djokovic have done he can still do it better. On the other, 76 years is a too long for the British public to wait.

Not since 1938 has Britain had a man in the Wimbledon final, but for Murray to win he will have to overcome the formidable force that is Roger Federer. Is it possible? The stats say yes. In 2006 Roger Federer reigned supreme; winning 92 matches and losing just four, three to Nadal and one to Andy Murray. Murray leads on the heads to heads winning eight out of 15, but he has never beaten Federer in a grand slam. In fact, he is yet to even win a set against him in a grandslam final. All of that was before Ivan Lendl became his coach at the end of last year, though. Murray seems a different player now, showing real strength of character to beat David "the roadrunner" Ferrer in the quarterfinals.

Federer, the indisputable greatest player of all time, has 16 grand slams standing in his favour, to Murray’s zero. Federer oozes style, grace and composure and is loved by tennis fans world-wide, whereas Murray lacks charm and has yet to win a grandslam (or really the hearts of the nation, although a victory would secure that). But one gets the feeling that luck and indeed fate is on Murray's side. When London hosted its first Olympics in 1908, Arthur Gore was Wimbledon champion and became Olympic champion. But maybe we should settle for just Wimbledon.

This is one Scotsman who could be about to make history. Come on Tim Andy Murray!

Andy Murray serves in a practice session. Photograph: Getty Images
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#Match4Lara: Lara has found her match, but the search for mixed-race donors isn't over

A UK blood cancer charity has seen an "unprecedented spike" in donors from mixed race and ethnic minority backgrounds since the campaign started. 

Lara Casalotti, the 24-year-old known round the world for her family's race to find her a stem cell donor, has found her match. As long as all goes ahead as planned, she will undergo a transplant in March.

Casalotti was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in December, and doctors predicted that she would need a stem cell transplant by April. As I wrote a few weeks ago, her Thai-Italian heritage was a stumbling block, both thanks to biology (successful donors tend to fit your racial profile), and the fact that mixed-race people only make up around 3 per cent of international stem cell registries. The number of non-mixed minorities is also relatively low. 

That's why Casalotti's family launched a high profile campaign in the US, Thailand, Italy and the US to encourage more people - especially those from mixed or minority backgrounds - to register. It worked: the family estimates that upwards of 20,000 people have signed up through the campaign in less than a month.

Anthony Nolan, the blood cancer charity, also reported an "unprecedented spike" of donors from black, Asian, ethcnic minority or mixed race backgrounds. At certain points in the campaign over half of those signing up were from these groups, the highest proportion ever seen by the charity. 

Interestingly, it's not particularly likely that the campaign found Casalotti her match. Patient confidentiality regulations protect the nationality and identity of the donor, but Emily Rosselli from Anthony Nolan tells me that most patients don't find their donors through individual campaigns: 

 It’s usually unlikely that an individual finds their own match through their own campaign purely because there are tens of thousands of tissue types out there and hundreds of people around the world joining donor registers every day (which currently stand at 26 million).

Though we can't know for sure, it's more likely that Casalotti's campaign will help scores of people from these backgrounds in future, as it has (and may continue to) increased donations from much-needed groups. To that end, the Match4Lara campaign is continuing: the family has said that drives and events over the next few weeks will go ahead. 

You can sign up to the registry in your country via the Match4Lara website here.

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.