Djokovic vs Murray – the turning of the tide

A great Kiwi friend of mine always says the Brits react disproportionately to both success and failure. We chastise those who let us down. We put those who achieve on a pedestal. However, unlike the England rugby team in 2003, who looked so shocked in victory, yesterday gave birth to champion who had found his rightful place in history. Andy Murray is a tennis player who has learned to assert his authority.

Other Brits have similar qualities. Justin Rose, in his US Open win, for example. Jessica Ennis too. Yet golf and athletics are sports seldom played one-on-one. Tennis requires a different mindset – beat the man, on the day, whatever form comes with you to the court. It is the reason ‘unknowns’ cause upsets in Round 1, but seldom win tournaments. Andy Murray’s sheer defiance, both through his refusal to become a poster boy for the press or a pushover for his opponents, is a quality we are not used to, or comfortable with. He is starting to impose it and be fuelled by it. He won by believing he had not only the ability, but the right to do so. Our cheers were of relief, his were of vindication.

I have always been struck by the surprise which crosses the faces of British champions. Perhaps it’s because a win of any kind in sport is tough. Perhaps it’s the constant pressure from the media. Or perhaps it’s the fact that ours is a nation which relies more on stoicism than optimism. Of the millions watching, how many Brits said quietly to themselves ‘Oh no, here we go again’ when Murray gave up his first three championship points? It’s a collective dread of failure endemic in weather reports, newspapers and more worryingly investment strategies and school classrooms. Ours is a nation that, to our collective detriment, anticipates failure to avoid disappointment.

If Andy’s victory achieves anything, I hope it will teach us to expect some good in this tough world we live in, rather than assuming the worst. Murray has now learned to be the player applying the press, not the red faced swollen cranberry that succumbs to it. That can only be a good thing.