James Lawton: Murray can finally win over critics by beating Roddick

British No 1 deserves the support of doubters that remain among the Centre Court crowds

It might be different if Andy Murray had been born in Bromley or Tunbridge Wells or his great grandmother was an innovative over-arm server in Victorian Wimbledon, like Tim Henman, or he had renounced his Scottish blood the first time he crossed Hadrian's Wall.

Then it would have been unthinkable that in his march to become the first British male tennis player to reach the final here since Henry "Bunny" Austin was slaughtered by American Donald Budge 71 years ago he would have felt the need to ask for the support of the Centre Court crowd.

Unfortunately Wimbledon is still in some ways a bit of a vicarage tea party, hierarchical in a bourgeois sort of way, and however brilliantly Murray has played this last week or so there has been an unbreakable certainty, whatever the effusions of Sue Barker and her colleagues in the broadcasting booth.

It is one that will almost certainly re-surface again if there is even a hint of crisis in his semi-final with Andy Roddick this afternoon.

If it should happen Murray will pump his fists and suggest that the Centre Court gets behind its man, as it did so warmly in the days of Henman.

The trouble is that the identity of the Centre Court's man was not totally obvious even in last Monday night's five-set spectacular against an opponent who as far as the non-tennis cognoscenti were concerned was the Swiss who came from nowhere, Stanislas Wawrinka.

It was then that Murray almost plaintively asked for support. It came, volubly enough in the end, but only after the kind of late-night excitement that a few years ago might have caused an avalanche on Henman Hill.

In these circumstances Henman, whose great grandmother was a Wimbledon pioneer and who played his first tennis on the family grass court in Oxfordshire, would have probably needed to do no more than roll his eyes to guarantee the required reaction.

Certain points need to be made on Murray's behalf as he seeks to press on in historic mode while so close to Sunday's likely final against the master Roger Federer. He didn't court ecstatic popular acclaim at the start of his crusade to become one of the world's most significant players – and nor is he prostrating himself in its pursuit now.

He is simply making the practical point that among all the intangibles of winning major sports events a body of strong support is an extremely valuable asset.

That he should have to more or less apply for such assistance almost certainly says more about his audience than himself.

We have already touched on one reason why Murray is running below Henman levels of support in SW19. He is not, frankly, quite the natural Wimbledon sort, if you know what is meant by that.

Not a Gorbals street kid, of course, not by any means, but then also demonstrably not a typical product of the middle-class society which, with the odd exception like Roger Taylor, the left-hander of Sheffield steel-working stock who reached three Wimbledon semi-finals, has generally produced what has passed for the cream of English men's tennis.

When you think that Henman, who so splendidly marshalled all of his available talent, represented with his run of semi-final appearances the most celebrated of this tradition since the war, it is maybe understandable that Murray is seen by many as a dramatic change in style and personality, someone perhaps not so easily assimilated by the Wimbledon crowd.

No more so, indeed, than Nick Faldo at Wentworth or Royal St George's when he came striding out of Welwyn Garden City so resolutely as a teenager.

Faldo had rough edges too – and nor did he bother to smooth them out in his pursuit of the highest success. Murray is now receiving expensive image counselling, but you also wonder about the value of this because if Murray has softened his approach since his first, somewhat tetchy arrival as a serious tennis player he is still plainly himself.

It is a persona which has filled this Wimbledon with a substance that so far has been rivalled only by the five-time champion Roger Federer. Now here is somebody who, but for his Swiss nationality, is very much Wimbledon's cup of Earl Grey. He is both an institution and something of a heart-throb and beside him there were times when Murray's spiky style inevitably suffered.

Now though Wimbledon has to make something of a commitment on the day when Federer faces the German veteran Tommy Haas and Murray seeks to contain the revived furies of the hard-serving, hard-running American Andy Roddick. Wimbledon has to say, unequivocally, that Murray is indeed the man and, furthermore, one better equipped to win the title here than anyone since the similarly blunt Fred Perry picked up the last of his three in 1936.

Murray, like Faldo, is above all a performer, a winner and his situation is known well enough by the man who won six major tournaments and was knighted in the last honours list. A fairly catastrophic Ryder Cup captain, about as clubbable as a wounded wolverine, Faldo was strongest in the business of beating the world rather than charm contests.

He said once: "The British people may understand how tough it is to fight your way to success but what they don't seem to understand is how it is staying there. You just have to go in a tunnel, you have to fight right up until the time you stop doing it. This doesn't always make you the most popular person on a golf course, but you can only tackle things the way you have decided will best help your career."

Murray made such a resolve some time ago and here today, and perhaps on Sunday afternoon, Wimbledon is able to examine quite what he has achieved up to now. What is it precisely? It is an unswerving presence in the top flight of world tennis. He has proved himself an achiever of rare quality, not just another lost British cause with a nice smile and bags of spirit.

What he is so clearly is the real thing. It means that what he deserves most today is a real cheer. Something spontaneous, something that indicates that the Centre Court really knows what has been going on these last few days.

Louis van Gaal
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own