Middle England be damned: life at the top is a serious business at Wimbledon

 

Wimbledon

The darling of Middle
England was on Centre Court yesterday, but for once Kate Windsor was not the
focus of attention. Most of the spectators were there to see someone who is
more likely to win Wimbledon than earn that soubriquet.

Murray is the nation's best tennis player since Fred Perry and the fourth best player in the world. The degree of commitment and sacrifice to get to this level should not be underestimated. He is also a multidimensional player whose work on court can be both exhilarating and beautiful, at times touching on genius. Yet for many he is still "Dour Scot" rather than "Our Andy".

His Scottishness has something to do with this. As demands for independence have grown there has been a reaction south of the border. However, there is more to it than that and the misreported, misunderstood gag Murray made about hoping "anyone but England" would win a football match. It is also about the scowl, the stubble, the refusal to deliver one-liners to camera. Tim Henman was the son-in-law mothers dream of; Murray's image is more akin to the boyfriend fathers have nightmares about. It is as if he leaves SW19 each night on a Harley, heading for the nearest Hell's Angels chapter. None of this is fair. Away from the cameras and crowds Murray is personable and polite, but reputations are hard to shake.

Perhaps Murray should have asked advice from the Duchess of Cambridge – or even the England manager, Roy Hodgson, another attendee yesterday – but does it matter if a player smiles or not? Not much. Sponsors prefer a popular athlete but Murray has gone long beyond the stage when he plays for the financial rewards. He plays to win titles and it is a serious business.

Top-level sport usually is. A fond memory is of Jose Luis Caminero pausing before taking a corner deep into extra time in Spain's Euro 96 quarter-final against England at Wembley, to ruffle the hair of a nearby photographer and exchange a joke. "It's just a game," the gesture indicated.

This sticks in the memory because it so rare. Marcos Baghdatis, the world No 42, smiled in his third-round match with Murray but as Murray has pointed out, his rivals at the top do not wisecrack through matches.

For a long time yesterday Murray did not have much to smile about. Having missed an early chance to break he let his own serve slip. Ivan Lendl sank his chin on to his hands, expressionless. Whatever the Czech adds to Murray's game it won't be laughs. When Murray broke back he clenched a fist, glanced towards Lendl and his mother, and strode to his chair. But the tie-break was lost and Murray's look was darker than the skies.

It was Murray's resurrection from two-down in the second tie-break which changed the mood on Centre Court, which had grown so tense it felt like an agonisingly elongated penalty shoot-out. The momentum had shifted and Murray kept it to take the third set. Murray seemed freer, more expansive and less reactive, suggesting he could do with some levity in his approach. Not for Middle England, not for the media, but for his tennis.

Suggested Topics
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
and  

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

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
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