Brian Viner: Sun, sweet dreams and a little sporting salvation on Henman Hill

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The Independent Online

In fierce late-afternoon sunshine on Henman Hill yesterday there were more red necks than in a Baton Rouge trailer park, but blue was also the colour, one or two saltires being waved enthusiastically as Andy Murray continued his seemingly inexorable progress towards another Grand Slam quarter-final. Not that, as far as most of the crowd were concerned, Murray was representing Scotland up there on the big screen. Tim Henman might have carried England's hopes at Wimbledon, but Murray is unequivocally a Brit, especially the day after our boys have been so humiliatingly dumped out of the World Cup by the vastly superior Germans.

It is mightily ironic, of course, that English football fans should look for sporting salvation from a man who quipped during the 2006 World Cup that he was supporting "anyone but England". But that lacerating post-Bloemfontein sense that maybe we're not nearly as good at ball games as we think we are needs healing swiftly, and what better man on whom to pin our patriotic hopes than Murray who, alone of the world's top four tennis players, has advanced through Wimbledon without dropping a set? In beating the huge Californian Sam Querrey his every winner was lustily cheered on Henman Hill, where normal Wimbledon protocol does not apply; Querrey's errors were cheered too, funnily enough in almost direct proportion to the trays laden with plastic glasses of Pimm's and beer being totteringly carried back to the hill.

Strangely, although Henman Hill remains largely as genteel as the solicitor's son from whom it takes its name (and, surely, no amount of alliterative efforts can ever change it to Mt Murray or Murray Mound), there are pockets of raucousness more redolent of the New Den, Millwall, than the All England Club, SW19. Shortly after Murray had secured the first set – having crowd-pleasingly saved three break points at five-all – a thunderous bellow of "oggy, oggy, oggy" rent the air. A moment or two later there was a discernible titter when the score in a boys' match – Marlon Fucsovics v Junior Ore – was posted at the bottom of the screen. That would never happen on Centre Court.

Also at the bottom of the screen came the advice "to drink plenty of water, wear a hat and apply sunscreen". Judging by the state of one bald man in an England football shirt snoring gently through Murray v Querrey, every part of that warning had been roundly ignored. He was by no means the only one enjoying a snooze, though, and on the steepest bits of the slope this wasn't an altogether good idea, since the combination of human traffic and warm sunshine had rendered it dangerously slippery, and you needed to be awake to hold on. More than one sleeping form spent the late afternoon edging slowly but perceptibly downhill.

Admirably alert from start to finish, however, were 10-year-old Joshua from Teddington, and his father Peter. They had arrived at 6.45am, queued for four hours to get in, and sitting on Henman Hill watching Murray was the highlight of their day. Joshua had taken the day off school and thought that he might cite a sore throat when he goes back today. Peter and Joshua, it should be added, are pseudonyms.

Whatever their names, they were both "massively disappointed" to have seen England ejected from the World Cup, and agreed that Murray's splendid performance was a timely antidote. Quite rightly, Peter pointed out that football could learn plenty from tennis, where the use of technology to determine whether a ball is in or out, far from detracting from the spectacle, has simply added to the fun. That is certainly the case up on Henman Hill, where every Hawk-Eye replay is accompanied by loud cheers.

"Mr Murray is challenging the call," intoned the umpire at one stage. "The ball was called out. The ball was clearly over the line. Mr Lampard has scored. It is now 2-2." That wasn't how the watching millions heard it, but an excited twitch from the bald man fast asleep in the England football shirt suggested that he was having a very satisfying dream. Meanwhile, the dream of a Brit winning a men's singles title at Wimbledon for the first time since 1936 lives on.

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