By Dave De Winter – Sports Writer
Wimbledon – the two weeks of the year where it’s OK to be publicly middle-class; where quaffing copious amounts of Pimms and dressing in a polo shirt and chinos isn’t solely for the purposes of an ironic round of pub golf.
With all this Uruguayan biting and England being utter sh*t at footy, our second favourite Scot (behind Sean Connery since you ask) has gone into the third tennis Grand Slam of the year slightly under the radar. I say slightly. The BBC have done their best to milk the most from Murray’s victory last year showing a re-run of the final (fair play) and a rather cringe worthy documentary entitled ‘When Andy won Wimbledon,’ a rather misleading title given that it features the opinions of Joe Public and his pet dog instead of anyone remotely associated with Murray. In fairness it is practically the only sport the Beeb have the rights for these days (apart from the Snooker) so let’s forgive them just this once for overindulging.
When Novak Djokovic gloriously netted that backhand on that balmy afternoon in early July last year, the entire nation celebrated as if Murray had solved world peace, cured cancer and found the Holy Grail, and entirely befitting it was too if you ask me, given that the last British chap to do so was 77 years ago and happened to be a brand of clothing too. Anyway, since the country’s footballers, cricketers and rugby players have suddenly become devoid of any talent, our hopes once more rest firmly on the broad shoulders of Saint Andy. Unlike Tiger Tim in his day – who invariably reached the semis only to lose to the ape Pete Sampras, Muzza can and does beat the best in the world regularly. So the question on everyone’s lips is: can he do it again?
In a word, yes. Murray hasn’t yet got a title to his name this year but his form has been promising, if not spectacular. A semi-final appearance at Roland Garros is his most noteworthy achievement and despite being soundly thrashed by the imperious Rafa Nadal, he showed that he can still turn it on when it matters. His progress on grass was interrupted with a surprise loss at Queen’s to grizzled veteran Radek Stepanek in the third round, which could turn out to be a blessing in disguise as it gave Murray a further four days preparation for Wimbledon. He has looked impressive in the first two rounds thus far, dispatching David Goffin and the wonderfully named Blaz Rola with the minimum of fuss. So who will stand in his way in the latter rounds?
Grigor Dimitrov is a potential quarter-final opponent, and if he’s good enough to be stepping out with Maria Sharapova, he’s good enough to derail Murray’s challenge. The Bulgarian number 11 seed won Queen’s recently and has shot up the rankings in the past 12 months. He beat Murray in their most recent match in Acapulco earlier this year and took Nadal to four sets in the Australian Open quarter-finals. Certainly no mug with a racket in hand.
If Murray can surpass Dimitrov then the small matter of current world number two and top seed Novak Djokovic lies in wait. In what is a slightly worrying statistic, the grumpy Scot is yet to beat any of the world’s top 10 this year and one imagines that might have to change if he is to retain his Wimbledon title. Djokovic was not at his imperious best in his four set win against Murray’s conqueror at Queen’s, Stepanek in the 2nd round, and the 35 year-old Czech proved that the 2011 Champion does have some chinks in his armour.
After the Great Scot’s gruelling five-set win against Djokovic, Nadal could be the man who stands between Murray and tennis immortality. The Mallorcan has been in stupendous form this season, the culmination of which was an unprecedented ninth French Open title earlier this month. However his recent record on grass isn’t too clever, having been eliminated in the 2nd round of the Halle grass-court tournament two weeks ago, and having not been past the 2nd round at Wimbledon since 2011.
Even though Nadal has a 3-0 head-to-head record against Murray on grass, the Brit has improved significantly since their last meeting whereas the Spaniard has seemingly regressed. The first Wimbledon final with roof on, Murray, roared on by a home crowd, beats Nadal in four brutal sets of the highest quality tennis and in doing so, receives a knighthood on the spot from the Queen. You read it here first.
Of course the final the neutral wants to see is Murray take on the French maestro with the planet’s most sumptuous single-handed backhand, Richard Gasquet. If you are unfamiliar with Richard’s work, take a look at this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIpetCjBXZI.
There are 11 episodes of Gasquet’s backhand. It’s the tennis equivalent of watching Scarlett Johansson, Gemma Arteton and Rachael Leigh Cook (from She’s All That) copping off with each other in your bedroom. Yes.