4 July 2009
Arrogance, moodiness, self-belief, an almost wanton disregard for others. These are all qualities I don't like in people. They are also qualities possessed by Andy Murray which I do like.
Yes, the debate has begun. Should *we* (ie, the British public with a stunning and typical sense of their own importance) be supporting Murray in his quest to win Wimbledon when he comes across as such a monotone, slightly spoilt, unsunny character?
None of Murray's alleged personality flaws were the reason why he was beaten in the semi-finals by Andy Roddick. He merely came up against a player whose serve was unreturnable and who simply was on top of his game. That happens. It's the predominant reason why Tim Henman never got to the final, only you substitute Roddick's name for that of Pete Sampras (twice) and Lleyton Hewitt.
But the fact that he lost solely because of his opponent and not because of himself seems to be lost on the usual brand of hateful, whingeing, courage-free moaners who anonymously go on forums or on nickname terms to radio stations to claim Murray deserved to lose for other reasons.
Such as? Well, he's anti-English. He's unpleasant. He's over-indulged. He lacks bottle. He doesn't smile enough. He crumbles under pressure. He is sponsored by a discredited financial company (the RBS). He is the wrong star sign. Etc.
None of these irrelevant things remotely apply. And even if they did, why should the views of some fat tosspot with an eight pack of special brew on his unpolished coffee table be awarded any credence whatsoever? It's one of the many reasons I like John McEnroe's annual involvement in the BBC coverage of the event - he is quick to not only rebuff the extreme claims of know-nowt cretins on the Five Live phone-in, but throw in a couple of insults of his own prior to dumping them. If McEnroe says Murray lost purely because his opponent was unplayable, I'd be inclined to accept his opinion. He is mildly more qualified than Bulldog from Clitheroe who believes Murray lost because he wouldn't support England in the forthcoming Ashes and the crowd turned on him as a result.
Some idiot journalist - a news journalist, not a sports journalist - asked Murray that very question during a press conference earlier in the tournament. What on earth is he supposed to say? You may as well ask him the "when did you stop beating your girlfriend up?" question as you incriminate yourself irrespective of your reply. Murray says he is supporting the Australians and he is anti-English. Murray says he is supporting England and he is accused of pandering, and will probably feel the wrath of his fellow Scots, the ones who publicly and proudly despise all things English. The nature of the question says more about the hack's views on Scots and a reliance on arcane stereotype than it ever would about Murray's stance on matters English. And I doubt a Scotsman, especially one embroiled in the biggest tennis tournament in existence, gives two figs about cricket as a whole, let alone its participants. Look back through the archives of Tim Henman's press conferences and see if there was ever a question aimed his way about Scotland v Italy in the Six Nations. There isn't? You do surprise me. I rather hope that the news hack in question has been severely bollocked by his colleagues on the sports desk.
I'm disappointed that Murray has gone out in the semi-final but it's simply never an excuse to pour vitriol on a chap who has achieved far more in his 22 meagre years than any single one of his detractors, especially when those airing the criticism are not even a third of the way to being sufficiently clued up about the issues. Murray lost a place in the final because Roddick was exceptional. Had Roddick played in the way recent encounters with Murray had gone, it would have been the Brit in the final and not the American. Simple as.
And all this guff about "the first finalist from Britain since 1938" irks me. First, it discounts the female players - Jones, Wade - who have reached their finals since that pre-war year of Bunny Austin. Wimbledon is dual-gender but it seems to be just the men that matter when the stats fly out. Secondly, Murray isn't aiming to be the "next" Brit, just the first Andy Murray, to get to the final. It's unhelpful and misguided, and basically wrong, to use historical stats to heap the pressure further on to his shoulders.
Thirdly, and most tellingly, Henman used to get the Fred Perry stat - the last British male to win Wimbledon. Murray has been on the end of the Austin stat - the last British male to reach the final. The reason for this is obvious - everyone knows that even if Murray had defeated Roddick in the semi, a certain chap from Switzerland would have done him, and probably in straight sets, in the final.