Like the maelstrom of love shown for ’Fifty Shades of Gray’, a quintessentially British moment was gifted to the World. Andy Murray had just lost the Wimbledon final to, arguably, the greatest tennis player of the open era, Roger Federer, and was overcome with emotion.
There were moving elements of Murray’s tearful speech, punctuated with guttural yelps, but the metaphorical significance of his downfall was that of acceptance and welcoming to an elite club. Murray had, by opening up on international television, finally won acceptance from the British public.
Throughout the tournament he had cut a figure of derision from those with only a passing interest in tennis. He was portrayed as the grumpy, sometimes bellicose Scotsman who could not perform in front of the cameras the way everyone wanted a true superstar to.
Then he made the final, raising his hands to high heaven, and a crack appeared in his veneer. The nation sat forward.
Then he won the first set against Federer in the final and the nation threw their collective limbs apart; quizzical looks on their faces; wondering if they could take victory as a down payment for acceptance?
Federer eventually triumphed under a closed roof, albeit under pesky returns from the exhaustive Murray, and consigned himself to a seventeenth Grand Slam title. Murray, free from expectation and the burden of carrying an entire island, trudged towards the television cameras.
All it took was for Murray to break down and then suddenly a moment of sporting mastery by Roger Federer was repackaged as a beautifully brave display by such a special young man. The transformational power of televised tears was witnessed.
However, this, like nothing else, shows the contrivance and mawkishness of modern sport, as well as highlighting the fickle and mercenary nature of the British public. Murray is roundly accepted by those who follow the ATP tour as being a fiercely driven competitor (no doubt due to his mother, the unfaltering, if sometimes severe, Judy Murray), but an entirely pleasant and dryly funny professional athlete.
That is not enough for a nation who only cares of home victories and who will happily forgive rule and enormous, even ever widening, differences in lifestyle between the elite and the struggling, if only because more bunting is rolled out and a barge proclaims the Jubilee magnificent. The London Olympics is already the most expensive of all time and is cause for a few examples of frivolous wastes of public expenses (one glance at the Olympic rings dangling from Tower Bridge tells you that). Britain marches on to the outdated beat of ‘Rule Britania’, nonetheless.
Now Murray is welcomed in on the back of a little cry. It is not how Murray will have wanted to win favor –nor is it the way a professionally intentioned and wildly ambitious tennis player who belongs in the top four of his sport deserves to be accepted –but he will take it. He has fought so hard to be wanted that he will grasp this opportunity.
It is the hypocrisy that is most insulting. As the competitive compassion littered Twitter and the word ‘brave’ was unflinchingly abused, Murray was bathed in adulation.
Later on he will squeal with a different kind of anguish. He has now lost four major finals, three of which have been to Federer, and he knows he still has a lot of ground to make up.
He can do it, if he continues to improve and continues to work on his on-court mindset and positional play. He can win one, as Federer said. It is unlikely that Federer was just appeasing a noticeably emotionally charged crowd. Murray just needs more, and perhaps less vocal, support. He needs to be supported for the player he is; not what the nation want him to be.
Oh, and by the by, this is a video of Andy Murray in 2010 after losing the Australian Open to Roger Federer. He cried then, but no one in Britain was falling about, whelping about how brave he was or how human he seemed to be. No, he just got on with it, without the support of his soon-to-be countrymen. This was perhaps because he was in a different time zone and because there was no bunting out…
Welcome to Britain!