James Lawton: Forget the Olympics, Andy Murray's legacy is real... one a child in the street can touch
The Murray way is tough but promises generous returns
Still, over 24 hours on, it is good Murray morning, still a lift in the stride and a refreshed belief in some of life’s better possibilities. Yet there are some hard reflections, too.
Forget, for instance, what the politicians like to tell you. The Olympic legacy is substantially a joke. The owners of West Ham United were given a hugely favourable deal on the stadium but elsewhere there is little evidence of an enduring feel-good factor. Such a phenomenon might have provoked the promised increased sports participation by young people so shamefully neglected for so long.
We can only hope, then, that the one bequeathed by Andy Murray fulfils its most thrilling promise.
There is some reason to believe it might just do so because it is born out of something that a kid in the street can touch and feel and get from it enormous inspiration. It is the example of someone who has achieved all his dreams almost entirely on his own terms.
Murray stepped outside of the futilities of the Lawn Tennis Association’s version of youth development, which had given us generations of players who collected their Wimbledon wild cards, brazened out their lowly world ranking for the day of ritual first-round slaughter, and then disappeared into the Home Counties ether.
He went to Spain to learn his trade and now he is a superbly solid member of the ultimate hierarchy of a tough tennis society. A youngster of natural ability discouraged by the channels of advancement in the British game – despite the annual £30m dole-out from Wimbledon profits – can see another way now. He can see the Murray way, tough, unyielding and no doubt sometimes extremely lonely, but which promises generous returns on the most serious of commitment.
Of course, there will still be formidable obstacles. He may not have a mother as ambitious for her son, and aware of the nature of the barriers facing him, as Judy Murray. He may not announce quite the level of unfulfilled talent that made him such a fascinating challenge for the great former player-turned-coach Ivan Lendl. But he can see now that you can be born as far away from the tennis establishment as Dunblane, Scotland, and still find a way to the heart of the greatest competition.
You can compete with a growing army of young Eastern Europeans, you can seek to elect yourself to the company of the Djokovics and Nadals and Federers as Murray has now done so triumphantly.
You can see that if you want something badly enough it might just be possible.
As Murray was feted at Wimbledon, as the thousands jammed beneath the balcony to see him lift the fabled trophy, it was not so hard to see the link between the new British Wimbledon champion and the last one, Fred Perry, who beat the German Gottfried von Cramm in 1936 for his third title in straight years.
Neither were automatic darlings of the Centre Court. Perry was a thrusting character in those genteel days, son of a Labour MP, for heaven’s sake, and there were more than a few frowns when he swaggered on to the courts. Murray wasn’t always so beguiling as when he faced down Novak Djokovic on Sunday afternoon. He snarled and raged, at his entourage, himself, at the world in general, and there were times when he seemed to be walking the most hazardous line.
But you could always be sure that Murray, like Perry, was committed to the most serious business. Both had an aversion to finishing second. They were reluctant to take a backward step in any company.
Now, when you think of the levels of their talent and the degree of their commitment, it is astonishing to consider all over again that their success was separated by 77 years. So many different nations, including the infant Croatia with the brilliant Goran Ivanisevic, stepped in to take the prize when it was not being won by an Australian or an American, and then a Swede or a German, and of course on one occasion the native Czech flying under the flag of Egypt, Jaroslav Drobny, who in 1954 beat the 19-year-old Australian Ken Rosewall.
Imagine all those years, of Borg and McEnroe and Sampras and then the Swiss empire of Federer and not a sniff of a Brit until Murray came thrashing into view, fighting his temper, refining his skills and, in a way reminiscent of the young Tiger Woods taking control of golf, bringing his fitness to the most formidable level.
Britain staged Wimbledon and so often filled the Centre Court with arguably the soppiest, most sentimental support in all of high-level sport, without ever getting too angry that when it came to settling the important issue our contenders might have been playing croquet on the vicarage lawn.
Perhaps Murray has changed all of that. Maybe he has created new ambitions, new possibilities. Perhaps he has said that if you are good enough, and care enough, you can find your way to the top of the world.
That, anyway, has to be the wider hope in the wake of his brilliant victory. The sweetness of it was that a young man had declared that he wanted to win Wimbledon and then had the nerve and the staying power to make it happen. It is the kind of thing that might just linger in a young boy’s mind – a British boy’s mind – and if it should happen at more frequent intervals than 77 years we will have a better idea of what truly constitutes a sporting legacy.
Can Rooney fight for his career like his hair?
We could see from his appearance at the Centre Court that Wayne Rooney has had some more expensive work done on the topography of his head. Much more encouraging, though, will be some early evidence that he is equally concerned about what is happening beneath that dwindling hairline.
Certainly, it was a little haunting to remember that not so long ago Rooney’s chances of winning the kind of regard achieved by Murray were high indeed.
In the European Championship of 2004 many hard judges believed they had seen the emergence of one of England’s great footballers. He showed all the quality that once persuaded Arsène Wenger, not always then the greatest fan of home-grown talent, to proclaim: “He is the best young English player I have ever seen.”
Three years ago he went to the World Cup potentially one of the great tournament’s most influential players. He came home a sad and hugely diminished figure.
Now, with his future at Manchester United so problematic, the best hope is that he will understand that the time he has left to prove he can still be a great player is disappearing faster than the follicles.
The best hope is that Murray’s superb demolition of Djokovic will serve as a kind of 11th-hour inspiration. Rooney’s hair is maybe a somewhat desperate cause but his career doesn’t have to be so – at least if he appears to give it something like the same care.
Team-man Froome let down... by his team
All that controversy over who would be the vital factor in the Sky team’s attempt to win a second yellow jersey has been put in sharp perspective by the currently lonely brilliance of Chris Froome.
The man who was so crucial to last year’s Tour triumph by Sir Bradley Wiggins can only pray for sharply improved team support.
His survival as an impressive leader – and prodigious man in the mountains – was no gift from his embattled team-mates. It is a potentially cruel situation for a man widely believed to have sacrificed his own chances in the Wiggins cause. However, we can be sure that his reputation for superb team spirit, and competitive character, is unlikely to be compromised.
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