Sometimes it's that simple: the better guy won
TIPPING POINT:Not winning has become a sign of personal deficiency instead of the more prosaic yet straight forward reality, writes BRIAN O'CONNOR
THE CENTRE Court roof means those old time-filler chats between Sue Barker and an assortment of ex-professionals during rain delays are no more. But much of Wimbledon will remain reassuringly constant over the coming fortnight. Like plucky first-round exits for most of the home players; expensively modulated shouts of “Come on Tim” generating unlikely hysterics; the queues; the strawberries; Cliff Richard; and tabloid pictures of the latest Russian “stunna”. But most of all there will be Andy Murray.
It’s supposed to be easy to dislike Murray. He is, after all, possessed of a surliness that is lingering far too long for adolescent angst to be used as an excuse any more. And he has a playing method long on efficacy but short on style. He also sported a hairstyle that quite frankly was an affront to civilisation but is at last being tidied up a bit. His popular persona is, it is fair to say, a mite humourless, something not uncommon among natives of Scotland’s dour lowlands.
But there’s also something immensely appealing about Murray’s disdain for tweaking that public image. He clearly doesn’t give much thought to what people think of him and if he has someone attempting to give him a coat of PR sheen, it doesn’t seem to be taking to that pale Caledonian skin. In itself, this is enough to retain a fondness for the fourth-best player on the plant.
But then there’s Wimbledon: the one time in the year when this part of the world suddenly pays attention to tennis and even ventures out in the rain with rackets only to find access to most courts available only through a hefty membership fee.
Murray has been at the epicentre of this temporary frenzy across the water for more than half a decade now, learning to cope with the expectations of a public and media desperate for success in the world’s most famous tournament and unable to cope with the lack thereof – unless you count torrents of mockery and ridicule.
It is the way of the world for hacks whose greatest athletic achievement is lurching from the pub without falling down to pen insightful and penetrative pieces on the inadequacies of elite athletes, a reality Murray apparently has yet to come to grips with.
Tim Henman manfully faced up to the double standard. While any reasonable analysis would conclude that Henman squeezed every last drop out of his talent, and rose to become one of the top handful of players in the world, the man has popularly become a punchline in terms of anodyne harmlessness and irrelevance. Thus Nick Clegg is “the Tim Henman of British politics”.