Wimbledon 2013: Andy Murray could teach other players about coping with the burden of expectation

Middle England delighted as Scot climbs the final Everest for British sport

When the gates to Wimbledon opened on Sunday morning the crowd came tumbling in, carrying hampers, sporting patriotic apparel and coated, if they had any sense, in liberal quantities of sun cream. As they scurried for a prime vantage spot on Murray Mound one looked in vain for anyone aged 85 or older.

That is the minimum age any of them would have had to have been to remember Fred Perry becoming the last British male to win a Wimbledon singles title in 1936. Every year since, a cluster of Britons has taken to the courts in London SW19 and departed early, mostly very early. From Bunny Austin, through Tony Mottram, Mike Sangster, Roger Taylor and John Lloyd, Canadian import Greg Rusedski and serial semi-finalist Tin Henman, generations of British sports fans have hoped in vain.

Year in, year out, the All England Club has handed over a huge surplus, now exceeding £30m, to the Lawn Tennis Association. Year in, year out, the LTA has wasted it on initiative after initiative. The highest-placed English male is Jamie Ward, ranked 219 in the world. There are 20 Frenchmen, 20 Spaniards, 19 Germans, 18 Americans, nine Russians, even nine Australians ranked above him. Somehow Andy Murray emerged through the thickets of mismanagement and swamps of mediocrity to take his place yesterday as the standard-bearer of the sun-burnt masses on his eponymous mound and the millions watching on televisions across the land. To their collective delight and half-disbelief he then took that final step to climb Britain’s last sporting Everest.

Wimbledon represents a unique challenge to a British sportsman, made more difficult with every passing year. A Lions rugby tour is a huge event and a demanding challenge, but it is quadrennial and shared with 30-odd team-mates. England’s footballers have spoken of the pressure they feel under when representing their country, but tournaments are biennial, they have team-mates to share the burden with and, for most, their club careers offer similar opportunities for glory.

Murray is on his own at the net. Like all sportsmen, especially individuals, he competes primarily for himself. He is not unpatriotic, but the fire that burns within, that drives him on, is dressed in neither Saltire nor Union flag. Nevertheless, he finds himself carrying a nation’s hopes and fears with all the benefits and drawbacks that entails.

And he is very much in the spotlight. The tournament is on home territory, on terrestrial television, in the heart of medialand and, usually, the sole focus of sporting attention with Murray – until the recent emergence of Laura Robson and Heather Watson – the sole British hope. And there has been such a longing for success.

All the other sporting peaks have been accomplished within middle-aged memory, albeit those who recall 1966 and all that are mostly now thick of waist and thin of hair. More recently UK sportsmen and women have had a golden Olympics, regained the Ashes – and held them in Australia, won the Rugby World Cup and the Tour de France. Lennox Lewis’s reign as world heavyweight champion is fresh in the memory, the exploits of Darren Clarke, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy fresher still and, if Augusta has eluded the golfers of the British Isles since the Millennium, Nick Faldo’s last triumph was only 17 years ago, not 77.

Not all these victories unite everyone in the UK. Few in Cardiff and Edinburgh were cheering Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal 10 years ago, but now Middle England has, for the most part, taken Murray to its bosom the nation is largely behind the Scot. The guest list in the royal box – featuring David Cameron, Ed Miliband and a Saltire-waving Alex Salmond – showed the perceived political value to be gained in supporting Murray.

Votes in Tennis? Unlikely, but up on the Aorangi Terrace every available viewing position was occupied. The main bank was as jammed as Bournemouth beach on a sunny bank holiday; around it were people in the bushes, fans peering through gaps in the stonework at the rear, spectators teetering on the brink of falling into the water features.

This is not to say all the nation’s communities are in Murray’s thrall. Most of the black faces at Wimbledon are working here. The LTA has made attempts to take the game into the inner cities but on the evidence of this tournament it has a lot more to do. It is not just an issue of admission prices. Yesterday ground entry was £8 but ethnic minorities were very much a minority on the Mound.

And what of White Van Man? One Sunday tabloid back page had a tiny picture of Murray in the corner of a back page dominated by Wayne Rooney. There is no denying football remains the biggest event in town. Murray attracted a peak of 17 million viewers for his final last year and 13.2 million for Friday’s semi-final, the BBC’s highest figures of the year. But England’s penalty shoot -out defeat to Italy at Euro 2012 was watched by 23.2 million, a figure which does not include the pub audience.

Rooney was in the royal box yesterday, giving football’s seal of approval to Scotland’s tennis superstar. Roy Hodgson, the England manager, who was another royal box occupant last week, should call in Murray for a chat. If anyone can tell his dressing room how to overcome the burden of a  nation’s expectation Murray can.

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
Review: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
Charlotte Brontë, the English novelist, poet and the eldest of the three Bronte sisters who lived into adulthood, has been celebrated with a Google Doodle depicting her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.
arts + ents "Reader, they doodled her".

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
News
People
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players