Dunblane ready to cheer favourite son to Grand Slam

Andy Murray's home town hoping for victory in Australian Open final
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The Independent Online

Face painting and bacon butties at the Dunblane Centre, a special licence to open the bar of the Dunblane Hotel; Scotland's smallest city is preparing for an early start tomorrow morning to follow their favourite son's attempt to end one of the longest droughts in British sporting history.

It was in 1936 that Fred Perry, this country's greatest-ever tennis player, won the last of his eight Grand Slams and no Briton has triumphed in one of the sport's four major tournaments since.

At breakfast time tomorrow morning Andy Murray takes on Roger Federer, arguably the best player the world has seen, in the final of the Australian Open in Melbourne.

More than 10,000 miles away in the town where he first picked up a racket at the age of two, pubs, hotels, the local sports centre and the tennis club are all opening their doors on a cold, dark Sunday morning in January.

"It's been bedlam," said Stewart Prodger, one of the trustees of the Dunblane. "We have been absolutely inundated with interest. There will be massive local support."

Among them will be Roy and Shirley Erskine, his grandparents. They watched the semi-final at their home in the town, but will disappear to a friend's house tomorrow in an attempt to avoid the clamour

This will be Murray's second Grand Slam final, he was beaten by Federer in the 2008 US Open, and the third time in all that Dunblane and its population of around 8,000 has geared up for mass celebration. Last summer, Murray reached the semi-final at Wimbledon which saw the shops along the High Street decked out with flags, banners and posters and pubs serving up Murray burgers. Then he lost.

"This has been a shorter time span but there are banners appearing around town," said Mr Prodger. "There is a feeling this time..."

Tom McLean, the owner of the Dunblane Hotel, had a feeling. It was two weeks ago that Mr McLean applied for a special licence to open early tomorrow. "I had a hunch," he said yesterday.

Mr McLean expects around 80 people to squeeze into the two bars in the hotel, which is also fully booked. The bar will be open from 8.15am, but will drinkers be taking advantage?

"It's Scotland remember," said Mr McLean. "No hard stuff, but we'll be pulling pints from the off. The champagne is on ice."

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