James Lawton: Summon the fury, Andy – and you can banish all those years of dismal British failure

Around about that time yesterday morning when it looked as if it could be at least another 75 years before a male British tennis player won a major tournament something both remarkable and encouraging happened.

Andy Murray became extremely angry. Not with the umpire or a ball girl or the inexactitudes of a line judge or the vagaries of life. But his own self.

He was indignant about the failure of his nerve and self-control at arguably the most important and pivotal moment of a career which for some years now has offered an amazing possibility. This is the powerful suggestion that it might redeem one of the most dysfunctional aspects of British sport.

Murray is supposed to be the home-grown tennis player whose essential hunger is to win things, the really big things, and put an end to all the tragicomic yearnings of Wimbledon's Centre Court and Henman Hill. He is supposed to be the player utterly detached from some of the feeblest psychology in middle England, the one who understands most clearly that the whole point is not luxurious mediocrity as reward for turning up but being, pure and simple, a winner.

For more than a teetering hour yesterday he wasn't that. Then he was.

It was as though a message burning on the lips of his stern and stoic mother and his various coaches and advisers and despairing supporters had finally arrived.

The content had, of course, for many been self-evident from the moments Rafa Nadal hobbled out of the Australian Open that offered him the chance to become only the third holder of all the Grand Slam titles at the same time – and Roger Federer provided still more evidence that he may indeed have been finally ambushed by time, the old and implacable enemy.

It was the message that Murray, at 23, is unlikely to ever get a better chance to step into the tennis shoes of Fred Perry, the last Brit to claim a major when he beat American Donald Budge for the US Open, and his eighth Grand Slam title, in 1936.

Novak Djokovic, also 23, is not exactly a push-over, we know. The Serbian has an impressively fiery streak, a superior sense of humour and three years ago lifted the title now in dispute.

However, the following year he earned criticism from Federer, no less, for quitting in his defence of the trophy, ostensibly for a combination of heat exhaustion and cramp but according to the Swiss master, who pointed out that it had happened twice before in big tournaments, also possibly because of a certain shortfall in what might be described as intestinal fortitude.

Federer may have reaped some of that harvest the other day when Djokovic dismantled him in three straight sets but then there is another source of encouragement for Murray now that he has survived the menacing resilience of world No 7 Spaniard David Ferrer, conqueror of the wounded Nadal.

Whatever else he is or isn't, Djokovic is neither Nadal nor Federer, who twice overwhelmed Murray in his two previous Grand Slam finals.

This uplifting fact is powerfully augmented by the recent playing record of the two. Djokovic, at No 3, is two places ahead of Murray in the world rankings and has a head-to-head lead of 4-3. However, Murray has emerged the winner from their last three meetings and, the suspicion must be that this is another reason to believe he can confound the bookmakers who have made Djokovic a short-priced favourite.

Most encouraging of all, though, surely is that mood that overtook Murray when he seemed on the point of surrendering a two-set lead to a Ferrer who looked hell-bent on generating an impression of inexhaustible combativeness.

It was marked by a dramatic change of body language. The beseeching looks to the heavens and the entourage all but ceased. There was, it is true, a sudden spate of errors in the fourth set which had promised to be a formal march into the final by Murray but they too gave way to a decisive burst of authority.

In the end it was the sheer quality of Murray's game that separated him from the tough and able Spaniard.

He played shots of such brilliance they would have flummoxed some of the greatest men to hold a racket and, indeed, they might have persuaded even the admirably professional, white-flannelled Perry, that he was witnessing another game devised on another planet.

A couple of cross-court backhands had some experts bemoaning all over again the fact that Murray too often keeps such a staggering weapon concealed deep in his armoury. The shot of the match, a withering forehand that left Ferrer cast in stone on the baseline, was no less than breathtaking.

These were the most luminous reminders of the central criticism that has so doggedly attached itself to his impressive journey beyond the achievements of so many generations of male British tennis players.

It is that Murray too often holds back the best of himself; that he seeks to wear down and subdue when he has the power to, well, obliterate. He plays too far within himself and thus manufactures as many problems as those created by his most talented opponents.

Some of the tennis cognoscenti say that the classic example came two Wimbledons ago when he waged a superb campaign that mocked the relatively subdued reactions of the crowd that used to swoon over the gallant Tim Henman – right up to the semi-final against the inspired American Andy Roddick.

Too often Murray yielded Roddick the net, too often he seemed to think that attrition would do.

There was an element of that in Melbourne yesterday until some of the best of Murray's game was unfurled as the pressure reached its highest. Another case of subsidence was avoided – and the reward is a third chance to burst upon British sports history.

Murray should take it this time. He doesn't owe it to the nation as much as himself for his hard work – and the full reach of an extraordinary talent.

Brady's behaviour towards Grant is enough to shame any man or woman

Sexism in football, it may be news to her, is not the issue regarding West Ham's high profile vice-chairman and Sun columnist Karren Brady.

It is the credibility and decency of football.

This is Ms Brady in her own words: "A friend rings to tell me that the BBC are running a story saying that Martin O'Neill is the new manager of West Ham. Everyone, it appears is categoric on this one : the media, the supporters and the staff. The only ones not sure, it appears, are the board.

"What I can tell you categorically is that the name Martin O'Neill was not mentioned, not once, in the board meeting we had on the previous Wednesday.

"My feelings will be nothing like as bruised as Avram Grant's. I respect him for holding his head high in such a situation."

What situation precisely you wouldn't really know, would you, from the foregoing assertion.

We do all know, of course, the operating conditions the West Ham manager faced before the critical game with Arsenal. They were dominated by the fact that the world at large, and plainly also the players and supporters of the club, had seen him for some days as the game's ultimate dead manager walking.

However, he behaved with immense dignity in all the circumstances, even throwing his scarf to some sympathetic fans in what was reasonably taken as a farewell gesture of some poignancy. Against this the coy meanderings of Brady, who at no point in her elevated capacity at the club saw fit to issue a brief denial that O'Neill had been approached, are surely an invitation to reach for the sick bucket.

Before the beleaguered Richard Keyes left office, and Brady jumped so jubilantly on his demise, he asserted that football had gone mad. Unfortunately his claim was impossible to detach from the charge of sexism, so closely linked was it with disparaging remarks about a female assistant referee and Brady.

But he was right about the madness of football. For some of us it is most sickeningly represented by the kind of conduct which we saw at Upton Park, and which surely disgraced any man – or woman – who had any part in it.

News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links