Wimbledon 2013: As an event it has everything – apart from a decent crowd

The tournament is, for some, a kind of safari trip into the world of fandom

Share

It was, surely, Andy Murray’s greatest moment at Wimbledon: an ace past Roger Federer’s flailing backhand to win the final in straight sets, and an overjoyed, unashamedly partisan crowd on their feet to greet his triumph in exactly the spirit it deserved.

Except, of course, that this triumph was achieved in the colours of Team GB. This was not the Wimbledon Championships, but the Olympics. And, as Murray himself has acknowledged, this probably isn’t a coincidence. “I just find when [the crowd] is extremely noisy and vocal, that helps me,” he said recently. “The Olympics were always going to be different. There were so many flags and stuff and colours in the crowd… it just had a different feel to it.”

It’s hard to disagree. What Murray won’t add is that it took years for the harrumphingly English crowds of SW19 to recall their Britishness and give him even the support he enjoys today. (We have, one hopes, now heard the last titters of “Come on, Tim” as Murray prepares to serve, perhaps the snootiest and least amusing joke in sports, and emphatically absent from the Olympics.) Wimbledon is the tournament of Cliff Richard and white uniforms and strawberries and cream; it is not a tournament of flags and colours in the grandstand. Anyone who doubts the distinction should consider how the atmosphere changes on the rare occasions that walk-up fans comprise the majority of the crowd on Centre Court. In general, we can thank the rain. Think of the joys of “People’s Sunday”. Think of the Monday final of Pat Rafter and Goran Ivanisevic, surely the most thrilling conclusion to the tournament in recent times.

The sense that the tournament is, for some, a kind of safari trip into the exotic world of sports fandom is strengthened by the strange experience of Laura Robson. Robson’s ponytail and ready smile made her seem a ready repository for the hopes of the crowd, and yet even she might sometimes have wished for more forthright support. For the first few games of the match that earned her yesterday’s ill-fated fourth round tie, one journalist observed, she played in front of a “half empty grandstand”. If Roy Keane didn’t like the prawn sandwich brigade at Old Trafford, one dreads to think what he would have made of this lot.

Wimbledon remains, without any doubt, the greatest tennis tournament in the world. And tennis is the most gladiatorially thrilling of sports, at once pitiless and humane. So what is it about the denizens of Centre Court that so deadens the spirit? Maybe the ticket prices; maybe the grand traditions that surround it. Neither of these is easily fixed.

And so Andy Murray’s chances of sampling that atmosphere again are, one fears, about as good as his chances of playing his quarter-final in a shirt bearing the design of the Union Jack.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have a drink after agreeing a deal on carbon emissions  

Beijing must face down the perils of being big and powerful – or boom may turn to bust

Peter Popham
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook  

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Simon Kelner
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic