The 1986 Leinster final came too early for me. In terms of being there, that is. Having watched the tape of that damp day of deliverance often enough and been sufficiently regaled with tales of the occasion, its significance could never be underestimated. Undoubtedly, that victory was the springboard for the greatest era in Meath’s football history. Similar sentiments must be applied to Andy Murray’s annexation of the US Open last September. Every so often, someone emerges in a given sport and is duly declared to be the next big thing. At one time, Tim Henman was the holder of that ‘honour’ as far as the British tennis fraternity. One of the biggest let downs, then, – hyped up as only they can over there – was the fact that Henman never won Wimbledon.
From a very young age, however, Andy Murray seemed to be the one that would end the yearning for a ‘home’ winner. He qualifies as thus, mind you, due to the fanciful way in which at least certain sections of the media proclaim his British-ness when he’s going well but, rather conveniently (for them) remind everyone that he’s actually from Dunblane in Scotland when he’s off form!
They haven’t had the need to call him Scottish too often lately. That in itself is wrong, too, but that’s an argument for a different day. The point is that – to this self proclaimed non expert – the great Scot has been the best player in the game for some time now. It just seems that the vast majority of people took a good while to believe it.
Maybe not without reason to some extent. Remember, similar to AP McCoy’s seemingly endless attempts to win the Aintree Grand National, Murray was left to digest defeat in several Grand Slam finals before eventually nabbing one. Perhaps it was aptly telling that when AP did land his Holy Grail it was on a horse called Don’t Push It.
If these things are meant to happen they generally will. You’d imagine, in that case, that, having got the Grand Slam monkey off his back at Flushing Meadows last autumn, the pressure on Murray would’ve abated a little. If anything in fact, it seemed to intensify. Only outright success in SW19 would suffice.
Thus, pressure management around and by Murray became a bit of a side show during the two weeks every year when almost everybody at least feigns some degree of knowledge of and interest in tennis. Thankfully what at some times was utter madness surrounding Murray was offset somewhat by a bit of McEnroe magic!
John McEnroe’s ability or achievements as a player need no rehashing here. It’d be true to say, though, that some of his ‘extra curricular’ activities were as much of the drawing factor about the great man. You cannot be serious, I hear you say, but it’s true! So, for this bit part tennis fan, to turn on the television and see McEnroe strut and splutter his stuff – albeit in a non too intense doubles event with his brother Pat – was bonus territory. The only disappointment being that the brothers didn’t win it out.
Anyway, it was all a great distraction from everything Andy. That said, he earned all the attention bestowed upon him. The fact that that he has now actually gone and ended the wait for a ‘local’ to succeed Fred Perry means it’s all actually only liable to get worse!
Detractors will, doubtless, point to the fact that, with Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and JW Tsonga out of the equation, his task was handier than it may have been. Such a view is unfair. Murray still had to win a number of matches – some of them extraordinarily epic – to get through.
All of which made for some terrific viewing. The games between Juan Martin Del Potro and David Ferrer and Del Potro against Djokovic were the best this hack has viewed. Maybe that’s not saying a lot, but, enough was seen to convince that a punt on Del Potro to win the US Open might be a worthwhile investment. Bit part tennis fan? Maybe not after all.