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Andy Murray: step into the light

This would hardly be a self-respecting blog if it didn’t follow a zillion other bloggers and write about Andy Murray’s scintillating and nail-biting victory at Wimbledon today. I’ll keep it brief – you know the pack drill.

I have only ever warmed to four Wimbledon champions – Boris Becker is much better for me as a commentator, apart from when he adopts that husky Teutonic tone which reminds me only of the legend about a broom cupboard at Nobu and makes me wince. The champions I refer to then are: Bjorn Borg, Pat Cash, Goran Ivanisevic and, now, Andy Murray. In my mind the Swede with the crossed-eye will always carry all before him – that’s because I was young, it was the seventies, he wore a head band and it fitted with the ABBA zeigeist. Not to mention that he had that gripping rivalry with the American brat John McEnroe, who is an amazing commentator – better than Boris and very mellow now as well. Then the Australian: the hair, the good looks, the guitar. The first one to clamber into the crowd. Nuff said. Ivanisevic, the ninety foot Croatian was a man with a vision – and many years after he first dreamed the dream of Wimbledon he defied the odds to win. I stuck his picture up in the kitchen at the time, to remind me never to give up on dreams.

And now we have Andy. I have never been a Murray-knocker, so I may allow myself a moment of quiet satisfaction now.

I made a comment earlier elsewhere on tinternet, in praise of the Scottish one, and I don’t think I can say better than that here, so I will just replicate it. I can only add, of course, that I am a tiny bit Scottish too (quite a lot in fact on days like these) and I am, therefore, biased. Today, as it does once a decade, the bias worked out well.

Well, what a match. And it is today, of all days, that those who have always had Andy’s back can feel a momentary frisson of, dare I say it, smugness. It has been a pleasure to watch him mature and it has been of equal pleasure to note that he has not entirely lost that hint of gawk that people so criticised when he was younger. It is what makes him, him. Along with all that steely determination, persistence, hard graft and also, belief.

I have not enjoyed a Wimbledon winner so much as when Goran Ivanisevic won. He was a man with a dimming dream. Andy reminds me more of a man who has got there through sheer cussed conviction that there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. Today, he has stepped into it. Long may it shine.

The Saltire on horseback

Andy Murray: a word on monkeys & success

I wanted to say something about Andy Murray. About how he has not been generally liked. About how he has grown up in front of us from a callow and moody teen, to something approaching a net monster hulking over his opponent, when he is in the zone.

I wanted to say that he is, by his own admission, still beset with doubt about his ability, and that that, even last night at Flushing Meadow, rears its ugly head often enough to affect his game. But, not as much as before.

And I wondered why that was. Is it to do with his new coach, Ivan Lendl, someone whose disposition on court was not dissimilar to Murray’s. Someone who was not much of a favourite with the crowds, again like Murray over the years. Or is it something to do with Murray’s new maturity, both physically and mentally. There is no doubt that Andy Murray, a survivor of the Dunblane massacre as a primary school boy, has the mental toughness of a mahogany tree, but he is human and it is not inviolable. I like Murray for that, it makes him human.

I also wondered about Team GB. Did being part of something bigger than himself in the Olympics allow Murray the freedom to play without the incredible pressure that always comes around at Wimbledon. I can only think that it had a positive effect. Once the public monkey was off his back, it being too busy with track medal obsessions, Murray was able to start pushing his own, very stubborn clinging monkey off as well, and that was the breakthrough. It is the breakthrough we all need when we are struggling to get where we want to be. I am glad Murray has had his, finally. I think this is just the start for him.

It’s funny: the combination of his own dour Scottishness, a stony-faced former Czech player, and being part of a team that some Scots might long to be free from, Team GB, all of these things have acted as catalysts for Murray to finally achieve a dream that seems to have taken nearly forever. For the British public it is 76 years since our last Grand Slam winner, for Murray, well, who knows, but most of his 25 years one suspects. I hope he enjoys it. Something hard won is probably worth a little more to the person who suffered long and hard for it. I suspect the British public can identify with that too.

See Murray sharing something of how it has felt here.

No more monkey
Copyright The Guardian

Millions to One and a Visually Distressing Spectacle

Firstly, it came to my attention that the other week, down the road at Romford Dog Track, there was a triple dead heat in a greyhound race. This hardly ever happens, hence the millions to one quoted as the odds. Fortunately for the books this was not an offer they had chalked up on the boards and heavily promoted beforehand, because if they had, people like me might have thrown a quid at it and been happy to settle for the maximum payout quoted.

Before I got to write that paragraph though, I began watching the Australian Open Final: what a disaster that is and I don’t mean Murray’s tennis in the second set. The blue squeaky court, the discordant product placement all over the shop (the one that offends me most is the lurid pink mineral water sign behind the umpire’s chair), the yellow-to-tangerine colours the ball people and line officials wear, and their hats! Why hats? You aren’t outside you muppets, there’s no sun in your eyes. In a final humiliation, the kids fetching balls are forced to wear not just the baseball cap, but the cap with a flap, as if they were little desert rats. And I have observed the shame of their outfits has caused them to keep tripping over each other as they hurry out of the camera’s glare…

Then there is Andy; never the best dressed, but Andy, the green with the black and the black boots? He looks like he’s off to play 5-a-side football. Djokovic is giving a better account of himself sartorially, but again he is compromised by one of his legs hanging off below the knee and his need to tip great quantities of eye drops into his dry eyes with his gob hanging open as the camera does a close-up. I will say though he’s playing great tennis for someone who can’t see.

But the thing that has nearly made me switch off is Murray’s towel. A riot of colour that should only, if ever, be seen on a beach. The towel is so loud, you can’t just see it, you can hear it too. Anyway Murray has just broken his opponent’s serve for the first time, so I’m going to bear with it. If he loses, I’ll blame the towel.

Here is a much more aesthetically pleasing shot: Droopys Djokovic (centre) in the Romford triple dead heat. Spookily he wears the Djokovic blue like his Serbian namesake and went on to smash the other two dogs in a rematch the following week.

It also occurs to me as I watch this filthy game of tennis that, as a maths concept, tennis is on pretty shaky ground. 15, 30, 40 etc. Now what’s that about? They should score them geometrically if you ask me.

P.S. By the time I’d half-sorted out all the grammar and wotnot Murray’s riotous towel has slunk on its belly off the court…