For a nation weary of biting its nails to the quick watching Tim Henman teeter on the edge of defeat every year, his abrupt departure from Wimbledon was almost a relief.
Gone was the eternal nearly-man - and in a neat twist which provided balm for wounded fans on Henman Hill - he was replaced by a younger, more energetic and apparently reliable model. In a matter of hours Andrew Murray, a teenager from Dunblane in Scotland, found Henman's heavy burden of expectations placed on his young shoulders. Whether he will cope with such pressure is not yet clear, though, judging by his comments after his triumph on Court Number 1, the signs are good.
He said after his straight-sets victory over the Czech Radek Stepanek that he had done it for the fans. "I just wanted to keep the Brits going," he said. "I knew they would give us a bit of hassle in the press if we both lost."
And as Henman packed his bags and Murray powered his way to victory, the fans outside - on what is now to be known as Murray's Mount - welcomed the 18-year-old with open arms.
Pete Carver, from Southend, said: "It was an honour to watch that sort of performance. The atmosphere up on the hill was just amazing. At first we couldn't believe what we were watching." Kirsty Pratt, 26, of Wandsworth, added: "He's definitely going to take over from Tim Henman as the British hero at Wimbledon."
Word of Murray's progress had spread rapidly following Henman's departure and the crowd in front of the giant screen outside had swelled to several thousand. This victory was all the more astonishing because, on paper, Stepanek was a cert - seeded 14 and 299 places above him in the world rankings.
Murray's delighted capering after his 6-4 6-4 6-4 win reflected the joy of the fans on the hill, who roared as he swept into the third round. He punched the air and turned towards his mother and mentor, Judy, in the stands as she was wiping away tears.
Victory over the 14th seed represents one of the bigger upsets in Wimbledon history and his third-round match on Saturday guarantees Murray £25,000 - double his previous earnings and not bad for a player who has not been able to pay for his coach to follow him overseas.
Henman produced his worst performance in a decade by losing to the unfancied Russian Dmitry Tursunov and even the most one-eyed Henmaniac must now be forced to concede that, aged 30, the chance of winning the title has probably been lost for good. It was not only his professional reputation but his on-court image as the paragon of English reserve that was in tatters after he received an umpire's warning for "audible obscenities" during his defeat in five sets. One outburst appeared even to shock John McEnroe in the BBC commentary box.
"I feel really sad as this could have been his big year" said Irene Letchworth from Northampton, who has followed Henman around the world. "This is devastating. I hope he can pull himself together and be on form for next year. Wimbledon without him is unthinkable."Reuse content