I’m not entering into this blog post lightly. I had to create a whole new category (Tennis) and it’s not one I’m likely to use that often. As we Brits had to sit out Euro 2008 (well done Spain by the way) we really need some other sporting success to lift our spirits. We might be doing okay at cricket at the moment, I can’t really say, but as it’s about as interesting as reciting Pi to a million places it doesn’t count. What else can we rely for success? Ah yes, it’s Wimbledon fortnight… tennis… hmmm…

Basically the state of British tennis is like this… we have one good player (Andy Murray) and everyone else is ranked lower than a one-legged bloke from Western Samoa. So when commentators make superlative remarks like “Britain’s hopes rest on Andy Murray’s shoulders” they really aren’t kidding. Back in the days when they said the same thing but replaced the words “Andy Murray” with “Tim Henman” it seemed that disappointment was never far away.

Andy MurrayAndy cruised through his opening three matches – not “cruised through” in that “wipe the floor with them” kind of way that Roger Federer does, but by British standards Andy did brush them aside and dropped only one set (and that was on a tie-break). But the problem with an extended stay (i.e. into the second week) at Wimbledon is that sooner or later some unreasonable official is going to insist that you play one of the seeded players. This was usually Henman’s downfall. And so it came to pass that Britain’s great hope had to meet the #8 seed, a French fella by the name of Richard Gasquet. That’s probably French for gasket. Do you think he’s got a ‘tete gasquet’ in the engine of his Renault Clio? Anyway, I digress, this was to be Andy’s first big test of the tournament.

After ninety-two minutes Dickie Gasket found himself two sets up and it was all looking a bit Henman. “That’s him out” commented the wife. Then something amazing happened and Andy knew it was his time. We’re British… we don’t want to see our heroes cruise through life, we want to see them hanging by their fingernails, seconds from their demise and then clawing their way back to victory. Not for us the walk in the park that wimps like Federer seem to favour.

Wasn’t it great to see a British tennis player gritting his teeth, clenching his fist, celebrating every point won, keeping his composure on points lost? A tight third set and then in the fourth set Andy came back better than Rocky ever did after he’d staggered to his feet on the count of nine. By then Dickie Gasket was on the ropes, and Andy finished him off in the fading light. Marvellous.

Okay, Andy meets Rafael Nadal in the quarter finals. Young Rafa, the #2 seed, is no slouch (even if he does have girl’s hair). It’ll be a tough match, but if Andy shows that spirit again he’ll do us proud. I may even use the ‘Tennis’ category again.