Is There Really a British Curse at Wimbledon?

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Is There Really a British Curse at Wimbledon?

The year was 1936: President Franklin Roosevelt was re-elected for a second term, the BBC had its first public television broadcast and the book Gone with the Wind was published.

It was also the year that the famous Brit Fred Perry took out Gottfried von Cramm 6-1, 6-1, 6-0 in the Wimbledon final to win the prestigious trophy in front of his hometown crowd.

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The Fred Perry statue at Wimbledon

Seventy-seven long years later, the feat still hasn't been replicated.

Every year at Wimbledon, it's the same story. The British media take center stage, and the outside world watches with amusement as their hopes and dreams hyperbolically rise and fall with every win and loss accrued by a British player.

We watch with bated breath as Andy Murray swings from British to Scottish in the middle of matches, unwanted attention is heaped on undeserving players and, inevitably, the entire nation ends the fortnight in a familiar and formidable state of despair.

The saga is often referred to as the "Wimbledon curse," and seeing it play out in real time is always must-see TV. But is it really a curse, or just manufactured media manipulation?

Yes, it's been 77 years since a British male singles player won Wimbledon, but that is a lot of adjectives. Brit Virginia Wade won the women's title in 1977, Andy Murray's brother Jamie won the mixed doubles crown in 2007 and hometown boy Jonathan Marray won the Wimbledon men's doubles title in Cinderella fashion just last year.

If there is a curse, it's a very specific one.

It's also necessary to look beyond the tabloid curtain of drama and see how the other Grand Slams are faring with their home-grown champions.

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
Brit Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen with their 2012 Wimbledon doubles trophies.

The Australians haven’t had a male champion at the Australian Open since Mark Edmondson in 1976 or a female champion since Chris O’Neil in 1978. The French have done a bit better. It’s been 30 years since Yannick Noah took the French Open men's title and only 13 since Mary Pierce took the women's.

Meanwhile, in the United States, where we are equally as doom-and-gloom about the state of our tennis stars, we look downright blessed in comparison. Andy Roddick won the U.S. Open a measly 10 years ago, and Serena Williams is the reigning champion.

So the Brits do indeed have it way worse than the other Slams in this regard, though nobody is really turning out champions at a record pace these days.

However, a "curse" implies that this is a Wimbledon-specific drought, which simply is not the case. The fact is that the Brits have not churned out many legitimate Grand Slam contenders in the past few decades.

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Sure, Tim Henman delighted the crowd, made four Wimbledon semifinals and couldn't get any further, but that was more a case of Henman overachieving than underachieving. Of course Greg Rusedski made the U.S. Open final, but he didn't make it past the quarterfinals of any other major in his career.

And yes, Andy Murray has come up short at Wimbledon the past few years. But that is simply the curse of being Andy Murray and playing in one of the greatest generations of tennis ever. It is not a Wimbledon-specific curse. (Perhaps if he goes through his career without a Wimbledon title, then we can reassess.)

Still, no matter how many facts disprove it, the curse is in the eye of the beholder.

There are some who believe in the Wimbledon curse no matter what.

For those people, there is reason enough to believe that it will end this year. With Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer out of his section, the floodgates of possibilities have opened up wide for Murray. He's playing great tennis and is more relaxed than ever with an Olympic medal and U.S. Open trophy in his back pocket, and the draw and schedule are breaking heavily in his favor.

There are reasons to be excited about the women's draw as well. Nineteen-year-old Laura Robson has made waves as she triumphed to the third round, taking out No. 10 seed Maria Kirilenko along the way. She's a star of the future, capable of playing her best tennis on the biggest stages.

But Robson's best years are still far off. Plus, she only has 36 years of pressure on her shoulders. That's nothing.

Seventy-seven years, however, is a painfully embarrassing amount of time.

Imaginary or not, it's up to Andy Murray to lift the British curse at Wimbledon. This looks like a good year to do it.

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