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14 July 2016

Andy Murray has stupendous steel and discipline – and yet…

Listening to the presenters discuss Wimbledon on Radio 5 Live, their admiration was clear. But where was the crackle?

By Antonia Quirke

“Andy Murray – obviously is a double Wimbledon champion. He’s one of the greatest in the world. Potentially one of the greatest British sportsmen of all time. But who’s next?” The 5 Live presenter Eleanor Oldroyd filled the long minutes after the short men’s singles final worrying about the future of British tennis. Like a lover certain they will be dumped, she needed constant reassurance and portents.

Her assorted guests, including Annabel Croft and Richard Krajicek, struggled to convince her that all might be well. “You’ve got a couple of pretty good players,” Krajicek croaked, with zero conviction, “but he is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.” (Gary Richardson had been equally anxious when speaking to Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker earlier. What next for Murray? How long might this possibly last? “I’ve no idea,” concluded Edberg, bemused. “I’m sure he’ll win more slams.”)

As the programme continued, there was plenty talk of Murray’s stupendous steel and discipline but always that stone in the shoe: here was great admiration, but not much . . . crackle. Still, it was an improvement on actually watching the match – those terrible close-ups of Kim Sears mouthing things like, “Yes. That was good.” And, when Murray won, a small and mechanised “wow”.

“What do you think he’ll do to celebrate tonight?” asked Eleanor. Humming and hawing. “He’s not a drinker, is he? They might try to force him to have a glass, but usually it’s quite an effort.”

One thought flickeringly of previous ­finalists revelling in the surprise of their own outlandish accomplishment. In 2001 Goran Ivanišević, sailing in to the harbour in Split, his home town, where thousands of ecstatic people were waiting, and stripping down to his underwear. Pat Rafter’s grinning cool when he admitted in the build-up to that year’s final that his eight brothers and sisters back in Australia didn’t give a toss whether he won or not. Agassi rolling off court to a snowdrift of crystal meth. “He’ll probably go home and sit on the couch with his baby daughter,” someone averred, weakly. In the event, Murray danced till dawn. As portents go, not bad. 

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This article appears in the 13 Jul 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit PM