Murray has designs on Perry's winning ways
Retro kit shows British No 1 is happy to court comparisons with 1936 champion
Tuesday 16 June 2009
Andy Murray was not looking like someone trying to get away from the hype surrounding his attempt to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936. Less than 24 hours after his victory in the Aegon Championships at Queen's Club – the first by a Briton at the traditional pre-Wimbledon event for 71 years – Murray was standing yesterday on a London stage in front of a phalanx of photographers in the kit he will wear at the All England Club next week.
And the inspiration for the retro style outfit, which Murray himself helped to design? It was Perry himself, the winner of three Wimbledon titles, one of only six men to win all four Grand Slam crowns and the greatest player in British history. No pressure there, then, for the 22-year-old who will carry the country's hopes on his shoulders when Wimbledon starts on Monday.
Murray has played in Fred Perry gear ever since the company founded by the former Wimbledon champion signed him five years ago. As part of the celebrations of the 100th year since Perry was born, the firm's designers have come up with an outfit comprising tailored shorts and a shirt with a collar.
The shorts are not as long as those he is used to wearing. "I'll need to work on my tan over the next week to get rid of the white bit at the top of my legs," he smiled.
When Perry set up his sportswear company in the late 1940s he successfully sought the All England Club's permission to use their traditional laurel wreath emblem, which has been the firm's logo ever since. In the early days, Perry promoted his shirts by giving them to players at Wimbledon.
The more famous among them had their initials stitched on to their shirts, an idea that has been revived this year. Murray's shirt and sweater both have the letters "AM" beneath the Perry logo.
To complete the look, Fred Perry have produced a white cotton tennis bomber jacket, a white kit bag and a cream sweater reminiscent of the cardigan Roger Federer wore at Wimbledon last year.
Federer, the king of tennis style, was probably the only man in sport who could have walked out on to Centre Court wearing that cardigan without making a fool of himself. Apart from the shirt and shorts, Murray would not say exactly what he will be wearing when he goes on court next week, but it is safe to say that he is not contemplating a career in modelling once his sporting days are over.
The Scot looked as ill at ease as a fashionista would in a rugby scrum as he posed for the photographers. "It's not really what I do," he admitted afterwards. "I play sport. It was a little bit uncomfortable for me."
Nevertheless, it was Murray himself who suggested the designers might look to the past when designing his kit for this summer. "Most years since I've been with Fred Perry we've sat down at the end of the previous year to look at what I would wear in the next year's Grand Slams," he said. "This year I said we could go for more of an old-school look."
Might he not have preferred to play down any comparisons with Perry? "For me it doesn't make any difference to my performance what the press or media say," he said. "I think it's a nice thing to do on his 100th birthday."
John Flynn, the managing director of Fred Perry Limited, recruited Murray in 2004 after watching him play John McEnroe in an exhibition match. "We had this dream that the next British guy to win Wimbledon should be wearing a Fred Perry shirt," he said yesterday. "It's been a long relationship."
Perry was always immaculately turned out, on and off the court. While Murray's current clean-shaven looks and shorter hair have no doubt earned the approval of many traditional British tennis fans, it would be hard to imagine him becoming a fashion icon. Nevertheless, there are plenty of parallels between two men whose births are separated by 78 years.
Neither were from traditional tennis backgrounds. Perry, who was never fully accepted by the British tennis establishment, was born in Stockport and was the son of a Labour MP. Murray is from a middle-class family, but was brought up in Scotland, which is hardly a hotbed of tennis, and for the most part developed as a player outside the Lawn Tennis Association's coaching regimes.
Like Perry, Murray has a hugely competitive streak. He also shares Perry's love of America. Murray has an apartment in Miami, though he has yet to go as far as the former Wimbledon champion, who became an American citizen after shocking British traditionalists by playing professionally in the United States, a move that cost him his membership of the All England Club.
"I don't know that much about Fred Perry as a person, but I do understand the history and what he did," Murray said. "I'd hardly ever seen any film clips of him playing until today."
Perry's feat in winning all four Grand Slam titles was emulated by Federer with his recent victory at the French Open. "Winning all four Grand Slams is very special and I'd be shocked if Nadal didn't do it in his career as well," Murray said.
"We have two guys right now who, in terms of their all-round games, are probably the two best ever. What Fred Perry and the other guys did back then was obviously great, but it was very different. Three of the four Slams were played on grass, whereas now all the surfaces play very differently. Now is a very good time for tennis."
Murray, who feels that Pete Sampras is the greatest grass-court player of all time in the light of his seven Wimbledon wins, is the bookmakers' second favourite to win Wimbledon but he stressed: "Roger and Rafa's results in the Slams are incredible – and they have been for the last few years.
"They've played the last three Wimbledon finals against each other. I would think the odds for them reaching the final and playing against each other would be very low."
How does the world No 3 rate his own chances? "I feel much more capable of winning a Grand Slam now than I did at Wimbledon last year. I just feel I can do it mentally. I feel like I'm ready. Whether it happens at Wimbledon or not I don't know, but in future Slams that I play I feel like I've got a great chance."
Murray has beaten Federer in their last four meetings and does not believe that playing on grass would give the Swiss a particular advantage. "I think a lot of times he's been very frustrated when he's played against me, which has shown that the game style that I play against him works and can frustrate him.
"I'll definitely take confidence if I play against him at Wimbledon from the matches that I've played against him in the past. If I play him on grass I think it's a good surface for both of us. I played very well at Queen's. He has a lot more experience of grass-court tennis and big matches on grass."
Murray lost to Nadal in straight sets in last year's quarter-finals and admitted that he had had trouble lifting himself after his remarkable victory from two sets down against Richard Gasquet in the previous round. "I wasn't really used to those sort of emotions after playing in a match like that. It was the first time I'd come back from two sets to love down in a Slam.
"Maybe I was a little bit flat, but Rafa was playing great all tournament. I think I'm playing much better now than I was back then. I feel like I could beat him now. I just wasn't used to that whole situation after what happened with Gasquet. I think this year I'll be much better prepared.
"That was the first time I'd played against Rafa where I felt like he'd changed his game a little bit. He was playing way more aggressively and closer to the baseline. I found it quite surprising, so if I play him at Wimbledon I'll take that into the match. I'll know exactly what to expect – and I'm playing much better and moving better on the grass than I was last year."
A Briton winning Wimbledon wearing a Fred Perry shirt in the 100th year since the birth of the last home winner? The only surprise is that a scriptwriter did not come up with the idea first.
In Perry's day Britain then and now
Comparison between 1936 (when Perry last won Wimbledon) and now:
Price of loaf of bread: 7.5d (£1.24 now)
Price of pint of milk: 2d (45p)
Price of newspaper: 1d-2d (20p-£1)
Most popular song of the year: "Pennies from Heaven" by Bing Crosby ("Poker Face" by Lady Gaga)
Wimbledon prizemoney: Introduced in 1968, when winner received £2,000 (£850,000)
Total spectators over two weeks: 220,000 (475,812 in 2008)
Material of tennis rackets: Laminated wood (Graphite, carbon, titanium)
Material of tennis strings: Fibres extracted from animal intestines (Mainly synthetic)
Tennis racket size: Approx 65 square inches (90 square inches)
Colour of tennis balls: white ("Optic" yellow introduced in 1972)
Prime Minister: Stanley Baldwin (Gordon Brown).
History boys: Advantage Murray in the knitwear stakes
There's a chance they will be going head-to-head on the final Sunday of Wimbledon, but Roger Federer and Andy Murray are also busy battling it out in the style stakes at the moment. Murray's new Fred Perry kit recalls the louche glamour and easy sophistication of the 1920s, but Federer was seen in similar garb at the tournament last year, sporting a cream cable-knit cardigan – with his initials embroidered on it in gold – and some dubious slacks. His look was more St Tropez than Centre Court.
Murray has done well for choosing Perry as a clothier; it's the sportswear of British champions, and its signature "victory laurels" could spur him on to similar success. His Fitzgeraldian whites tap into a sense of stiff upper lip, good breeding, strawberries and garden parties. Too English for a great Scot? Maybe, but by comparison, Rog, in his Nike version of retro tenniswear, just looks a bit like a fancy waiter.
Still, there's something quite alluring about a man dressed all in white – or cream, eggshell or ecru, as the designers see fit. It implies he's careful enough not to get it dirty, or rich enough not to care if he does.
......... Harriet Walker
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