Murray ignites hopes for a British ‘golden era’

Paeans of praise: ‘A Colossus led British tennis out of the darkness’. © Getty Images

To some it was only a tennis game. To others the first male British winner at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936 represents a wider resurgence of national confidence and success.

Today for the sports writers there are no holds barred. ‘Kisstory!’ yells The Sun‘s ghastly page one pun. ’Murray’s smacker on Wimbledon trophy ends 77 years of hurt’. ‘Now it’ll be arise Sir Andy!’ says The Mail, predicting a knighthood for the tennis star.

The quality papers are just as excited. ‘Arise Sir Andrew, knight of the holy grail’ says The Times. ‘One of the outstanding omissions in British sport’s modern history has been filled,’ says The Guardian. ‘A Colossus led British tennis out of the darkness and achieved his own immortality,’ says The Telegraph. And James Lawton of The Independent soars on poetic wings: ‘Of all the days he will know, and all the prizes he will win, these were the ones bathed in golden sunshine that Andy Murray will always have with him – and for which he will always be revered.’

Miracles happened on Centre Court yesterday. Not only did a Briton win the £1.6m top prize in world tennis, but Ivan Lendl was seen to smile. The stony-faced Czech, who has coached Murray for 18 months, won eight major titles but never Wimbledon. Murray said that his coach would take his win as the next best thing to winning it himself.

And yesterday? Yes, Murray was the first British tennis player to win Wimbledon in shorts (Fred Perry had worn long flannels). Yes, it was just about as perfect an English summer’s day as you could imagine. Yes, the date was 7/7, it was 77 years since the last victory, and Murray broke serve on the seventh game of each set. Yes, just about every celebrity and politician in the land has had their say and the Queen has sent the kid from Dunblane a private telegram.

Last summer, Wiggo won the Tour de France, Rory McIlroy captured his second major and a team of Olympians catapulted Britain to third in the medal table. In two days, England’s cricketers begin their campaign to win a third successive Ashes. Perhaps Britain’s broader place in the world has been rediscovered.

But what does it all mean?

Simply a private victory for one man, say some. You thought he was a player with a monotone mumble, a stroppy face and a list of near-misses in big events. You knew he was traumatised by the terrible day when a gunman murdered 16 children and one teacher at his junior school. Yet Murray has now been anointed Olympic, US Open and Wimbledon champion.

To others there is a much bigger story. For years the British were too genteel and equivocal. The preoccupation with class and social etiquette had blunted the nation’s competitive edge. Yet now, The Lions‘ huge victory on Saturday, Chris Froome’s lead in the Tour de France and Justin Rose’s triumph in the US Open last month are part of a glorious renaissance of British confidence.

You Decide

  1. Is Murray’s triumph great for Scotland or for Britain?
  2. Why is Britain now so dominant at nearly every major sport except one – the national game, football?

Activities

  1. Make a victory poster using your favourite photo of Andy Murray and your favourite quote from this story or from today’s media.
  2. Divide into pairs. Each pair should research and prepare a short presentation about Britain’s five greatest sporting moments ever in history. Make sure you think of a reason why you have included each one. Present your ideas to the rest of the class. Take a class vote to decide the top three.

Some People Say...

“For your life to be worth anything you must sooner or later face the possibility of terrible, searing regret.’ Richard Ford, The Sportswriter”

What do you think?

Q & A

Why are we all so obsessed with sport?
Point taken. Anyone would assume that we had discovered a cure for cancer or found fertile valleys of waving corn on Mars. And there are others writing today who argue that we desperately need to extend our public awareness of success beyond sport to the worlds of the arts, academe and science. (See the Become An Expert section).
So what makes sport so dominant in the media?
As with so many things, the answer is often terribly mundane: the pictures. Photographs and film of sporting action are exciting. The finely-honed human body straining, stretching, leaping and bounding is a powerful lure. Added to which, the metaphor of sport as a simple version of life’s struggle has a deep psychological power for most of us.

Word Watch

The holy grail
the legend has complex roots but usually the holy grail is considered to be the cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper when he bids farewell to his disciples and asks them to drink his blood in remembrance. Many quests were led in later years to try and find this cup: hence the idea of a search for something incredibly difficult to attain.
A Colossus
in other words a giant. The word usually refers to the Colossus of Rhodes, which was a statue of the Greek Titan Helios, erected on the Greek island of Rhodes and destroyed shortly afterwards by an earthquake. It is considered one of the ‘seven wonders of the ancient world’.
Dunblane
the town in Scotland where Andy Murray was born and went to school; and where on 13 March 1996 Thomas Watt Hamilton, aged 43, who had briefly been Scout Leader, shot dead 16 children and their teacher, Gwen Mayor, in Dunblane Primary School's gymnasium before killing himself.
The Lions
The British and Irish Lions, formerly known as the British Isles or the British Lions, is a rugby union team selected from players eligible for any of the Home Unions – the national sides of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.