'Murray Mania' swept Wimbledon as the rain failed to dampen spirits


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The Independent Online

Historic, special, spectacular. You could speak to anyone at Wimbledon today - from the great and good of British sport and society to the punters sitting on soggy picnic mats on Murray Mount - and hear the same unrestrained excitement.

David Cameron, the Duchess of Cambridge, Steve Redgrave, David Beckham - everyone looked and sounded a little bit giddy.

Amid reports that one anonymous fan had spent £45,000 on a pair of Centre Court tickets, those with a little less disposable income flocked to Murray Mount.

There were initial doubts over whether the crowds would be allowed on the iconic hill. Torrential rain through the night and on the morning of the final had turned the slope into a potential mudslide.

Ahead of the match, the crew from Wimbledon TV weren't risking it.

“We've been asked not to go up on the hill for health and safety reasons,” said presenter Ben Walker. “But if I were a punter I'd be right up there in the middle of it.”

In the end there was no official attempt to stop people taking the hill, and so they did, in their hundreds. Then, as if to vindicate them, the sun came out.

The message certainly hadn't got through to Andy Walker and his fiancé Davina Brown from Burton-on-Trent: “We heard some people are planning a spot of cheese-rolling at the end,” said Andy.

“It is just immense,” said Rob Walker, whose role also involves acting as the All England Club's cheerleader-in-chief. “Look out on that hill. You have the full spectrum of people,” he said before stirring up the crowd into another rousing cheer.

He wasn't wrong. From reluctant babies in Union Jack sun hats, to the elderly stalwarts of the nation's village tennis clubs, people in the crowd seemed almost disbelieving that their man had come so far.

“It's fantastic to be here,” said Andy Walker. “We set out at 5.30 in the morning to claim our spot. It could be 74 years before the next one so we thought we should come to have something to tell the grandkids.”

Not everyone seemed confident of a win. Wimbledon crowds know tennis and no-one was underestimating the mountain Murray had to climb to beat Roger Federer, veteran of seven such occasions. There were even one or two hardy souls in Swiss colours shouting “Come on Roger!”

One man who certainly did have faith in Murray was an anonymous punter from Cardiff who, according to betting website Coral, staked £10,000 the Scot winning the tournament, way back at the start of the Championships when Murray was a rather favourable 10-1 chance. Rough estimates said that a late wave of patriotic flutters on Murray could cost the betting industry £5m if he won.

Thinking of slightly smaller sums, on the corner of a street outside the All England Club, a lone piper Alistair Gordon was in full tartan blasting out tunes on the bagpipes, in the hope of a little spare change, but also to pay tribute to the man about to take to the greatest stage of all on Centre Court.

“He would be a British champion,” he said. “But it is great for Scotland too. We haven't had a sporting hero since Archie Gemmill.”