It is a joke familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in tennis: Andy Murray is British when he wins and Scottish when he loses. The line has been repeated ad nauseum over the past five or six years, evolving into a tediously persistent cliché.
More irritating still, it is arguably an inaccurate representation of how the British media covers Andy Murray's career. Rather, the line’s ubiquity more accurately reflects the attitude of the British public, who have never quite taken to the Scot in the same way that they took to Tim Henman.
It is for this reason that one questions whether Murray can reasonably expect the support of a partisan Wimbledon crowd, even as he stands on the brink of history.
What is it about the British No. 1 that galls people so?
The answer to that question depends on whom you ask, given Murray’s countless alleged shortcomings in the eyes of the public. Some do not appreciate the Scot’s dry demeanour, as though Murray should be expected to boast a Tom Cruise-esque ear-to-ear grin while he competes in the most oppressive era in the game’s history.
Others dislike his working-class background, seemingly put off by the fact that he would rather drink a can of Irn-Bru than a glass of Pimms.
But perhaps the most notable obstacle to the British public's affections is the perpetuation of the myth that he is anti-English, a lie that has spread over the years and taken on a life of its own.
The reality is that this perception is the result of a joke Murray made during the 2006 World Cup. It was said during an interview in response to some good-natured ribbing from Tim Henman and Daily Mail journalist Des Kelly, who had decided to have some fun at the expense of the Scottish national football team.
Murray responded in kind, playfully suggesting that he would be supporting anyone but England during the World Cup. Naturally, the UK tabloids picked up the transcript of the interview, stripped it of its context and portrayed Murray as a dour xenophobe.
Unfortunately, this piece of irresponsible journalism has followed the British No. 1 throughout his career, despite being debunked at around the same time as Alchemy and Phrenology. And it is largely responsible for Murray’s rocky relationship with the general public.
That being said, there is perhaps an even greater impediment to the potential for home crowd support during this Sunday’s final: Roger Federer.
As uneven as Andy Murray’s relationship with the Wimbledon crowd has been in the past, the esteem with which Federer is held is perhaps even greater.
Wherever he goes, the Swiss maestro is almost universally adored both as a result of the way he plays the game and the perception that he is a bastion of humility. To anyone who reads post-match press conferences, the latter claim is at the very least debatable. Nevertheless, this unfortunate perspective is pervasive and will likely make Federer the crowd favourite on Sunday, even in light of the possibility that Murray could end Great Britain’s obscenely long wait for a men’s singles Major winner.
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