Yes, the time has finally arrived. Get out your brollies (unless you have tickets for Centre Court) and prepare to eat lots of strawberries and cream. Wimbledon is just around the corner!
Even those of you who are not British have got to admit that this is "the one slam to rule them all."
It is the most prestigious.
It is drenched in history.
It reeks of tradition.
It is attended by Royals.
It even has a dress code for its players...and if that doesn’t tell you that this is something special, then I don’t know what will!
As this time of year approaches, anticipation fills the air. Even those residents of the UK who do not follow tennis all the year round start to ask those that do, “Has Wimbledon started yet?”
And in addition to that, there's another change to the residents of this small island at this time of year: We suddenly become unwaveringly patriotic.
In recent years, cries of “come on Tim!” could be heard blasting from practically every house with their TV tuned in to the tennis.
Every time we switched on our television sets, we were guaranteed a Sue Barker interview with either Boris Becker, John McEnroe, or John Lloyd on Tim Henman’s chances of becoming Wimbledon champion.
Credit has to go to Becker and McEnroe for putting up with the endless questioning on the nation’s only hope without screaming, "He's not going to win it, you crazy Brits!"
Of course, not all of the time on the BBC was dedicated to Tim. Roger Federer’s latest outfit has always been a highlight over the last couple of years. We've seen the jacket-trouser combination, the cardigan...where can he go next?! My guess is that it is probably not going to be in the tank top direction.
But to my point: This year has a chance to be even more special over here. We don’t only have hope. We actually have belief, true belief.
Now, cheering on “Tiger” Tim was always fun, but I don’t know whether any of us really thought he was actually going to win it. Don’t get me wrong, he was a great tennis player. He reached a ranking of world No. 4 and made it to the semifinals of Wimbledon four times (four must have been his lucky number). Undoubtedly, the guy was good.
But with Andy Murray, there is something else. The guy is not just good, he is very good.
I’ll put it into perspective: Murray has only just turned 22 years old and has already won eleven titles. That is the same number that Henman won in his entire career.
Murray is also world No. 3 and the first British man to be ranked inside the world’s top three. He is behind only Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, arguably two of the best tennis players ever to have existed. Only two men, a pair that have won twenty Slams between them, are considered better. What’s more, he even has a winning head-to-head against record Roger Federer (6-2).
The boy from Dunblane ain't done too bad, and he probably hasn't even peaked yet.
It was about this time last year when Murray really started to fly up the rankings and make his mark in the tennis world. He made the quarterfinals of Wimbledon (losing to the eventual champion, Rafael Nadal) and the finals of the US Open (losing to the eventual champion, Roger Federer).
This year he made it to the fourth round of the Australian Open, losing to an awesome Fernando Verdasco, a man who went on to give Rafael Nadal a few headaches in the semis. Murray soon got his revenge by beating Verdasco in Miami and going on to win the title.
And even more recently, at the French Open, Andy produced better results than the king of clay, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic (a guy who is pretty good on the red stuff himself) by reaching the quarterfinals. Nobody could have seen that coming; I’m sure not even Andy could have predicted such a thing happening! Murray’s results at the French were excellent considering that he had only made it to the third round in 2008.
What is even more exciting about Murray is the kind of tennis he plays: He is clever, he uses his brain, and he outsmarts the opponent.
He also has a wonderful variety of shots at his disposal. The backhand and drop shot may well be his favourites, but this week at the Queen’s Club tournament he has shown just how well he can return serve, and he is second only to Nadal in this department so far this year.
He has also displayed some Federer-esque lobs, and as usual, his outstanding fitness has not passed unnoticed. The guy seems to be able to run down every ball.
It has taken Murray less than four and a half hours to reach the Queen’s finals. He will have to beat James Blake tomorrow to win his first grass court title.
The last British man to win at the Queen’s Club tennis championships was called Henry "Bunny" Austin and he won in 1938. Nope, I hadn't heard of him either.
So no pressure then, Andy!
Luckily, that sort of thing doesn’t seem to affect Andy. He always has time to have a little chat with the British media, who fawn over him. What's more, he doesn’t appear fussed about the fuss at all! Having lots of supporters wherever he goes, Andy must be getting used to the adoration.
Tomorrow will be a great day for British tennis if the world No. 3 walks away the winner. And over the next few weeks, it could get even better.
The hopes of a nation are pinned to one man.
Andy Murray better prepare himself—"Murraymania" is coming to town!!
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