Whenever any of my family manages to get tickets to Wimbledon, the rest of us spend the entire day trying to spot them in the audience on television. “Who are you seeing?” is a less important question than “What are you wearing?” Why, a giant blue flag and a red plastic hat with ‘Murray’ painted on it, thanks for asking. Only, of course, we aren’t because then we’d look like everyone else.
The Other One and I have got tickets to this year’s men’s quarter finals. We’re watching Andy Murray play Fernando Verdasco and Jean Martin del Potro play David Ferrer. Whatever we’re wearing, you won’t be seeing it because we’re sitting right at the back of Centre Court, twenty rows behind the TV cameras. Mamar sends a frustrated text from Newcastle: “They just keep showing the Royal Box.” Yeah, why aren’t they doing a three-hour panning shot of all our faces?
It sometimes seems like tennis players are also expected to spend all of their time watching the audience – perhaps more so than we’re expected to watch them. “Did it help when the crowd got behind you?” is a common question from BBC commentators like Sue Barker or Gary Richardson. Yes, Andy Murray invariably answers. He likes the crowd, as we discovered when he tearfully thanked us all after losing last year’s Wimbledon final to Roger Federer. In post-match interviews Murray might be more comfortable with a dry step-by-step analysis of his game (“I was serving well in the first set, I lost the second, then I won the third”), but what we really want to know is whether he can hear the applause on Henman Hill.
Tennis, like most things, isn’t really about the logistics of a game; it’s about emotional drama. Hence, the great British hope is always The Underdog, opponents who don’t show emotion are “robots crushing him” and female players have “a lovely personality” unless they’re Serena Williams who is “arrogant” or this year’s Wimbledon women’s champion Marion Bartoli who is “eccentric.”
Murray was criticised in the past for having no personality at all in the same way snooker player Steve Davis was. Now that’s become his personality – a down-to-earth bloke from Dunblane to contrast the gold monogrammed style of Federer. The Evening Standard even claims Murray’s a sex symbol and that TV presenter Tess Daly giving him 7 out of 10 somehow helps prove this.
Like many people, I’ve been waiting for a British winner at Wimbledon for years. Professional tennis players start training at six-years-old. When I was six-years-old I started watching them on TV. My sisters and I used to line up small wooden men (Solitaire pieces) on top of the television and knock one on the floor every time a player got knocked out: Greg Rusedski, Stefan Edberg, Michael Stich – the names you don’t realise have disappeared until they pop up in Invitation Seniors matches. Every year, tiny wooden Tim Henman hit the carpet.
At the 2013 men’s quarter finals there are the familiar shouts. “Come on Tim” has become “Come on Andy” and will no doubt become “Come On Someone Else” in the future. At one point Murray looks to the crowd. He was “asking us to support him” we later hear a commentator explain. Luckily we do, and he goes on to win. “If they [the crowd] can be like that from the first shot to the last it makes a real difference,” Murray says afterwards. Basically, he can’t win unless we help him. Which is great, because that means we can all be sports champions without doing very much – even the woman sitting next to us on her own and half of The Other One’s seat, who says “I can do better than that” every time he misses a shot. If Murray can beat Novak Djokovic in tomorrow’s men’s finals, we can all feel like winners – or, at least, that he couldn’t have done it without our help.
Tagged: Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco, Greg Rusedski, Jean Martin del Potro, Mamar, Marion Bartoli, Michael Stich, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Stefan Edberg, Tess Daly, The Other One, Tim Henman, Wimbledon