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8 July 2012

The highs and lows of a British tennis player

Is today the day?

By Rosalind Goates

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.

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