When Sangster flew the flag

Matthew Slater looks back to 1961 when a Briton last took the US by storm
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The Independent Online
When Greg Rusedski goes on court today for his US Open semi-final against Jonas Bjorkman he will be the first British man to appear in the last four at the championships for 36 years.

It was in 1961 that Mike Sangster was beaten in the semi-finals by Rod Laver. In those days the US Open was played on grass at Forest Hills; today the championships are staged on hard courts at Flushing Meadow.

Sport - and much else - has changed dramatically in the intervening years. In 1961 a bottle of beer cost two shillings (10p), a loaf of bread was 5p and John Leyton's "Johnny Remember Me" was No 1 in the pop charts.

It was a great year for British tennis, with Angela Mortimer winning at Wimbledon and Sangster also flying the flag. No signs of the long, cold winter that was to follow.

Elsewhere in sport, Tottenham's cockerel ruled the roost as the north London club won the first League and Cup double since 1897. The Home Nations competition was a popular part of the international scene, though perhaps more popular in England than Scotland; the Scots lost 9-3 at Wembley that year.

Arnold Palmer won the Open, Floyd Patterson reigned in the ring and Burnley were in Europe. These were the golden years for English cricket, but the Australians were still better than us, and won the Ashes under Richie Benaud. Marvellous effort, that.

Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister, assuring us that we had "never had it so good". The international scene was dominated by the Cold War. John F Kennedy was all smiles at the White House, and Khrushchev was growling at him from the Kremlin. With tensions high the East Germans decided to build the Berlin Wall.

Macmillan's response should be an inspiration to Greg Rusedski. As Berlin threatened to burn, the PM played golf, in what The Spectator called "a collector's piece of unflappability".

Another source for inspiration for Rusedski -as it has been for Christmas television schedule-makers ever since - should be the bumper crop of films from 1961. For heroics Rusedski should look no further than Spartacus or El Cid, and if he wants to iron out those North Americanisms for the press conference, Whistle Down the Wind is just champion.

In 1961 we bade farewell to George Formby, King Zog of Albania and Carl Jung, but perhaps the best role model for Rusedski is another who handed in his badge once and for all, Gary Cooper, who certainly knew a thing or two about a showdown.