Play is suspended: Murray loss defeats us all
A fantastic afternoon beckoned, with parties galore and a £150m boost to the economy. Now all that's left is that sinking feeling
Sunday 05 July 2009
The tennis posters have come down at the Dunblane Hotel in Andy Murray's home town in Perthshire, Scotland. The Pimm's has been put back in the cellar for another year, and the champagne taken off the ice.
It is a scene replicated across the UK. The sense of anticipation and planned celebrations during what would have been a historic Wimbledon final fell flat the moment Andy Murray's return hit the net on Friday afternoon and he did not, after all, become the first British man to contest a final since Bunny Austin in 1938.
Tom McLean, manager at the Dunblane Hotel, said the town felt "deflated" after Friday's defeat. "We're obviously still going to be showing the final," he said. "But the plans we had for celebrations if Andy had been there have been hit in the head. We were going to give out free strawberries and Pimm's during the match. Afterwards, win or lose, there would have been free champagne. We're not going to be doing any of that now. I've replaced the tennis posters with the British Lions rugby team. We were bursting at the seams during the semi-final. I sold more than 500 pints of beer, which is pretty incredible."
Brian Melville, Murray's one-time coach from Dunblane Sports Club, had been hoping to watch his former protégé on Sunday.
"There would've been added excitement this year with Andy in the final and doing so well," he said. "I'd be nervous for him and go through all the emotions. I'm disappointed about Friday, obviously. I'll still be watching the final, but it won't have the same excitement for me."
A spokesman for Wimbledon said that even with Murray Mound accommodating 4,000 and a further 4,000 seats in Court Number Two, plus 15,000 in Centre Court, fans would have had to be turned away had they arrived late to see Murray.
"If Murray was playing, it would've been packed," he said. "During the semi-final we opened up Court Number Two and that was full. I don't think we'll be doing that. It'll be busy on Sunday, but not packed."
It's not just the fans who are disappointed. Ticket touts hoping for a bumper payday will also be nursing their losses. Tickets for sale priced at up to £18,000 went unsold on eBay with nobody bidding.
Recession-hit retailers will also be feeling the loss. Murray mania could have put an extra £150m into their pockets, with fans buying wine, champagne and sausages and steaks for barbecues, according to the Centre for Economic and Business Research.
Murray himself will have to wait a little longer for the £100m sponsorship deals that becoming the first Briton since Fred Perry in 1936 to wear the Wimbledon crown would have brought him. The odds of his winning the BBC's coveted Sports Personality of the Year award have also plummeted from 9-4 to 7-1, although the 22-year-old is still second-favourite after the racing driver Jenson Button.
But one group of people are happy – the bookmakers. A spokesman for William Hill said the industry would have faced a £10m payout if Murray had prevailed in today's final.
"If Murray had won we would have been paying out more than we ever have before on any individual at a tennis tournament, and total payout for the betting industry would have been approaching £10m," the group's media director, Graham Sharpe, said.
There is always next year. "There's a lot of disappointment, but Andy has gone one round better every year he's been at Wimbledon," Mr McLean said in Dunblane. "So we're expecting him to be in the final next year."
One question still remains unanswered: was Andy Murray British or Scottish when he crashed out of Wimbledon? With almost painful inevitability a website entirely devoted to the subject of the No 3 seed's nationality – www.andymurrayometer.com – allows anyone to vote on where they think his loyalties lie. It has been plotting how British people think he is since January. When he got through to the third round of the Aussie Open, for example, 92 per cent thought him British, a figure that dropped to 13 per cent after his fourth- round loss in that competition.
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