Dunblane hopes it's third time lucky for Andy Murray

As he is due to battle in Melbourne at 08.30 GMT, the tennis star's hometown is on tenterhooks
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The residents of Dunblane are not generally known for their superstitious nature, but yesterday the majority of the 9,000 or so population appeared to have their fingers and every other part of their body crossed in support of their most famous son.

The build-up to Andy Murray's appearance in today's final of the Australian Open has been a little subdued in Dunblane this time around, compared with previous Grand Slam finals, with many locals admitting they have not dared to tempt fate after last year's defeat by Roger Federer.

However, with his previous nemeses Federer and Rafael Nadal out of the tournament, optimism is high that, against the evenly matched Novak Djokovic, the omens are at last looking good that Murray may break his duck and reclaim a major title for British tennis after 75 years of nail-biting embarrassment.

"The champagne has been on ice for the past three years but this time we've gone out and bought fresh bottles," said Tom McLean, landlord of the Dunblane Hotel, who has obtained a special drinks licence to open at 8am so that everyone can watch the game with a beer and a bacon buttie.

"The build-up to the final this year has been a lot more low key because in the past people have felt that they've put too much pressure on him and he's failed because it got to him," Mr McLean said. "This time, however, I don't think they are expecting too much. He's got the game to beat anyone just now, whether that is Nadal, Federer or Djokovic. This year, third time lucky, is Andy's time."

Sunday breakfast at the Dunblane Hydro Hotel will be served in front of a widescreen TV so that none of the guests needs miss the match.

"I've got my fingers and toes crossed for him, as do all of our staff here," said David Kerr, duty manager of the luxury Victorian-style hotel. "Andy's on fire just now and he's beaten Djokovic in their last three meetings. That includes beating him in two Masters finals so I'd say it's the best chance he's ever had to win a Grand Slam. Hopefully he will win and the town can have a big party."

At R S Erskine Optometrists, which is owned by Andy Murray's uncle Niall Erskine, there's a big sign in the window wishing his nephew luck.

"This time around he's going to go all the way and beat Djokovic hands down," said Helen Nairn, a receptionist at the family firm. "The whole town is rooting for Andy. We've all got our fingers crossed that it's going to be a case of third time lucky."

For Murray's Grand Slam final against Federer in the Australian Open last year, the Scottish International Relief Charity shop in Dunblane High Street sold Murray masks on sticks. "Last year we had the Murray masks but we decided against it this time. Nobody wanted to tempt fate," said Jennifer Maggs, who works in the charity shop. "We are all willing him on to victory but we don't want to put too much weight on his shoulders."

Should Murray beat Djokovic, he will become the first British man to win a Grand Slam since Fred Perry took the Wimbledon and US championships in 1936. The significance isn't lost on Mr McLean, who has decorated the Dunblane Hotel bar with the Saltire and Union flag.

"We've stuck up some Saltires and a Union flag as well because you have to remember first and foremost he is British," Mr McLean said. "It's important to remember because tennis is the only game, apart from golf, where the whole nation gets behind the British player.

"It's just a bonus for us that he is a Scot and that he's from Dunblane."

The pretty, historic cathedral town still lives under the shadow of the tragic events of 13 March 1996 when Thomas Hamilton shot dead 16 children and their teacher in Dunblane Primary School's gymnasium before killing himself.

Murray, a pupil of the school at the time and contemporary of those who died, grew up as part of a generation of youngsters in the town whose lives have been clouded by the tragedy. However, Murray's success has helped to heal the pain and put Dunblane on the map for all the right reasons.

"Nobody is ever going to forget about the massacre but it's not something that we dwell on." Mr McLean said. "We have moved on but it is right that we don't forget. There's always a little ritual on the anniversary each year. However, I don't think that will be in people's heads tomorrow morning. They'll just be thinking about Andy and how he is going to overcome this challenge."

At the Dunblane Centre, a youth and sports centre which was built with donations after the 1996 tragedy, more than 100 people are expected to watch the match this morning.

"We'll get all ages from tots to grandparents down to watch the game," said David Spooner, trustee of the Dunblane Centre, which has St Andrew's flags outside emblazoned with messages. "Everybody is desperate for him to win. It's definitely not just us. Most of the shops and bars in town have Saltires wishing Andy well."

The fans cheering him on...

I wanted to get in touch in order to wish you the very best of luck on Sunday when you play in the final of the Australian Open. You have played incredibly well to reach the final for the second year running, and everyone back at home is very proud of you. We shall all be cheering you on.

Well done on getting this far, and I hope the volley drills we did in No 10 last year will come in useful!'

David Cameron, Prime Minister

'I'm very excited that he has made it through to the final. I think he is a fantastic little boy, very brave, great temperament. He reminds me of a hero in a novel.'

Jilly Cooper, Author

'I will be at home with a lovely cup of freshly ground coffee!'

David Suchet, Actor

'Most of the year I don't consider tennis at all. But when one of our sportsmen gets into a final, I feel the need to drag myself out of bed and watch. I will be watching at home on Sunday morning, cheering him on.'

Tony Robinson, TV presenter

'I imagine I will be watching it at home. I'm sure it's a very big day for him, not so much for me.'

Jo Brand, Comedian

'I join the rest of the country in wishing Andy Murray the best of luck in today's final. I'll be tuning in at home for some early-morning excitement. I hope it will encourage the next generation of Britons to pick up a tennis racket and try to emulate him.'

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister

'In my teens I was a waitress at Wimbledon serving strawberries and cream. I will be watching it at home with my kids, and I'm sure it will evoke fond memories.'

Sarah Beeny, TV presenter

'It's very exciting. We love Australia and the atmosphere. I lived in Melbourne for six months... It's very close to our hearts, and so are Andy Murray and Dunblane. We will certainly be supporting him. I'll have my tartan trews on.'

Ronnie Corbett, Comedian

'I am a patriot, even though he is Scottish, so I plan to watch. I was once reprimanded in the Wimbledon members' area for not wearing a tie, but I won't let that cloud my enjoyment.'

Sir Peter Blake, Artist

'My whole weekend is totally geared to it. I am a pretty serious tennis fan... I like things that go on for a nice long time – tournaments have quite a serious disruptiveness on my life. Will he win? I don't know. That's partly why it's so exciting; it's so evenly poised.'

Sir Andrew Motion, Poet

'I shall [be watching]. I have a wife who is an even greater fan... I shall keep nipping in every five minutes, keeping an eye on the score. Alison will be glued. I bring bad luck. Whenever I watch Tim Henman or Andy Murray they fall apart. It's better if I don't look!'

Alan Titchmarsh, Gardener and novelist

'I didn't know it was on. Now I do know, I don't think I'll be watching. I'm not a tennis person. In fact, I'm not really a sports person. I don't watch and I don't play. I'm just not interested in sport or Andy Murray.'

Jemima Goldsmith, Human rights activist

'We still haven't decided where we will watch the game. Last year, we went away to watch it with friends a few miles away. I think we want to be on our own, so we can scream and shriek out loud at the TV. The nerves won't be gone until lunchtime tomorrow when we will hopefully be celebrating a win.'

Roy and Shirley Erskine, Andy Murray's grandparents

'I taught Andy when he was seven years old and you knew he had something special. I knew he would play at Wimbledon, but never could I imagine his level of success. I live in Dunblane but I will be watching it at home to get some peace and quiet.'

Brian Melville, Andy Murray's former tennis coach

'The whole country is behind him and he really deserves a big win. Once you get knocked out, you don't get a second chance.'

Kyran Bracken, Rugby union player