By Samuel Peace
It’s finally a great year for British tennis as Andy Murray wins both Olympic Gold and his first Grand Slam at the US Open. It’s been 76 years since Britain last tasted any kind of tennis triumph. Fred Perry, a hero among many, was the last person from this country to deliver Grand Slam success. It was all the way back in 1936 before WWII when he lifted the coveted trophies at both Wimbledon and the US Open. A master of the game, he continually fought out victories against veteran rivals Jack Crawford & Gottfried Von Cramm of Australia & Germany, respectively. It was similar to the modern day domination of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. It was a great period for our players; most have become sporting legends and inspired generations of people. Unfortunately no one could have predicted that it would take this long to see another winner and the making of a new icon.
There are many likely theories as to why this country hasn’t produced any more high quality tennis players; or as to why the few we have, have not performed to the level we would have hoped. Some will argue that it’s down to lack of funding and public awareness; while others might say that other nations have just been better. Either way there has obviously been a major problem if after 70 odd years we’ve only had ‘nearly, but not quite there’ scenarios. Murray’s win however, ends decades of an agonizing wait after we had continually seen this young Scot fall short like many others before him. His epic battle against renowned comeback king Novak Djokovic (7-6, 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2) proved to many that no matter how many setbacks you get over the years, there is always a chance so long as you work hard for it.
There is no doubt this achievement of his won’t go unnoticed. Hopefully it will help raise awareness and funding alike throughout the whole of the UK. Perhaps kids will find they have an interest in a sport they never knew much about. But there’s one main question surrounding his win: Is one US Open Grand Slam, and an Olympic Gold Medal significant enough to create the impact we hope for? Whatever the answer might be, it is still a great time for British tennis, and we can’t take anything away from Murray’s valiant performance to help reach an all important milestone in UK tennis history. But neither the Olympic Tennis nor the US Open have as much importance as the home grown Wimbledon Grand Slam.
Now before you send me angry comments, yes I do know the Olympics were held in London this year. However tennis is only a small (and new) addition to the lineup of sporting activities held during the event. Therefore the publicity of his accomplishment is shared (and quickly over shadowed) by fellow Olympians in their events. As for the US, Australian, and French Opens, they do not get the same treatment from the media as Wimbledon does. For example while Wimbledon gets a priority television slot on BBC1 & 2, which are two of the most watched TV channels in the UK. The other three Open tournaments have to put up with being on paid channels such as Sky Sports or Eurosport.
It’s understandable why Wimbledon is of greater importance though, not just because it’s British, but also due to the long standing history that it was the first ever big Grand Slam introduced to the sport. The ultimate feat for any athlete is to win on home turf and to inspire a new generation is down to how the media portrays significant victories. Yes the Olympic and US Open successes are significant, however nothing will get the media buzzing like a Wimbledon triumph. While Murray’s two new dust gatherers will surely make kids sit up and take notice, surely it’ll be a Wimbledon Game, Set & Match which will get those kids going outside and picking up a racket. With Murray reaching his first ever Wimbledon final this year, surely it’s only a matter of time.