Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Andy Murray - UK's Latest Last Great Hope

Andy Murray's comeback victory at Wimbledon over 8th ranked Richard Gasquet of France (Murray is ranked 14th) was as inspirational and exciting a victory as British tennis fans have seen in years. Murray, who is of course Scottish, rallied from two sets down to defeat the Frenchman in a match lasting nearly four hours. The victory propels Murray into the Quarterfinals where he will face two-time defending runner-up Rafael Nadal.

The last British player to reach the Semifinals at Wimbledon was Tim Henman, England's former last great tennis hope. Henman last made the Wimbledon semis in 2002 (and also reached the final four in 2001, 1999 and 1998). While Murray is not English as Henman is, he is a citizen of the UK. Murray makes it very clear that he is Scottish, but he still represents a homegrown talent that would thrill the fans at Centre Court were he to advance further in the tournament. Nadal is a formidable opponent, though perhaps on grass and with the 'home' crowd behind him, Murray can keep his momentum going.

No Englishman (or Brit, for that matter) has won England's crown jewel since Fred Perry's three consecutive titles in 1934, 1935 and 1936. The run of over seventy years (though slightly fewer tournaments, as none were held during the war years of 1940-1945) weighs heavily on the British fans who long for a champion of native birth to celebrate.

Will this be the year? Doubtful, as Nadal has been increasingly stronger on grass over the past three years. But with record crowds cheering him on, perhaps Andy Murray can summon some other-worldly abilities for what would be a match for the ages for the British tennis fans.

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