Tennis: Murray looks set to break Brit curse

By Paul Hayward

Murray looks set to break Brit curse.

Andy Murray is looking good. Photo /AP
Andy Murray is looking good. Photo /AP

British No1 Andy Murray is beginning to rule the home of tennis not seen since the days of Fred Perry 77 years ago.

Putting on a show is not really Andy Murray's style. He leaves the flamboyance to others. But even he is finding it hard to resist the temptation to make Centre Court his own, to give the crowd what they desire: a dominant British hero to wipe away old fears.

Heaven knows this crowd have suffered enough down the years. They are sick of having to put the kettle on for beaten British challengers; tired of the false hopes and let-downs. The strain of being terribly nice about everything tells in the end. They want someone to burst from that locker room and claim this patch of grass as a place that belongs to British sport. No more deferring to overseas guests, no more prime-time TV torture.

A swaggering brute is what they want to see out there. One that still talks nicely to Sue Barker on the BBC and holds doors open for the elderly, but a swaggering brute nonetheless.

Sport in sacred places demands a proprietorial element. Lord's must be owned by the mighty English opener and the demon bowler. Twickenham can only be the home of the English rugby monster. Wimbledon has never had this, in men's tennis: or not since Fred Perry in 1936. The story of the men's game here is one of gracious hosting and institutionalised failure.

Murray is the game's best hope in 77 years of breaking that cycle, and he would not be an Olympic and US Open champion if he failed to recognise this chance to add a Wimbledon title to his record.

The falls of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on his side of the draw were a gift he could hardly fail to be inspired by. Nobody expects him to say that publicly, because he, too, could run into a bandit before next week. But the unusual dynamics of this year's tournament are an invitation to him to weep in victory rather than defeat when the pots are handed out.

He is starting to look less like a regular visitor to Centre Court than the man who holds its keys.

Murray is on the road to being the kind of player opponents have to forcibly remove. Centre Court is no longer a place to manage expectations, muddle through the rounds and hope to still be in the tournament on the final Sunday.

Even his cries of "yes" and "come on" have dropped a couple of notes.

Before, they made him sound like a faintly vulnerable lad. Now they are barked. The journey we are witnessing is the familiar one from boy to man.

Removed from his half of the draw by the time he confronted Robredo were Federer, Nadal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. A striking win for Poland's Jerzy Janowicz also cleared out the No15 seed Nicolas Almagro. Janowicz, 22, could be dangerous down the line. He rose 195 places in the rankings last year but surely Murray cannot fear him.

This was a straight-sets victory of real authority: his third of the week, following a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Benjamin Becker on Monday and a 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 win over Yen Hsun Lu. So Murray glides into the second week with 14 straight wins on grass and nine winning sets in a row on Centre Court, where a livelier than usual crowd quickly recognised the new assured mood in their idol.

Centre Court will never be a cauldron. It will take a while to raise the buzz from garden centre level. But Murray and his followers do now have a chance to up the stakes together, closer to London Olympic heights, especially as his transformation from nearly man to champion was effected on this court, back in August, with Olympic victory over Federer.

The change in him is startling. And the crowd see it. He is composed, consistent through his matches and less troubled by his own mistakes. A tennis match is no longer a stormy sea. Implanted in his brain no doubt is the sense that average players cannot live with him. Even in press conferences he is different. His voice is stronger, his head and shoulders straighter.

To fall short now would be crushing. "There's a lot more pressure on me now with them [Nadal and Federer] being out," he said. He says he ignores newspapers but sees headlines strewn across the tables in relaxation areas.

They are all pointing him to a final against Novak Djokovic, but not in the old edgy way. Guess what: next week's crowd can enjoy this now. Their man is a growing force, in full command of his abilities, with his best chance yet of joining Nadal, Federer and Djokovic on the scroll of Wimbledon champions. Centre Court is not fully his yet, but he looks like he belongs.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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