Middle England be damned: life at the top is a serious business at 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
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor