Seventy-six years of hurt, four sets and 24 hours since we all cried with Andy Murray, how are we all doing? Lindsay Taylor writes for Channel 4 News on the loneliness of the long-distance tennis fan.
We don't need Hawkeye for this. I've come off the line. It was a tough call. However, I decided years ago that despite a lifetime of believing in, and hopefully practising, journalistic objectivity, when it came to the home side in sport, the restriction could be lifted. I did it for many a tortuous journey with Henman. I was behind the sofa willing those England penalties to go in. But this is different. I was born in Perth. It's just a few miles down the road from Andy Murray's Dunblane. We're from the same gang. Or is it clan? Today, it's like the whole country's in the same clan.
So, like 17 million others I decide to prepare for history - the first time Andy has been in a Wimbledon final and the first time the sun has appeared in recent memory. In a microcosm of the giant displays around the country, the telly is dragged by its cobwebbed cables, kicking and screaming into the garden. We are both good on grass. I have opened a can of cider. The big question of the day will not be Andy's percentage of first serves, unforced errors, or even his response to the Federer ferocious forehand. It is: How can I manage not to jinx it? Let's be clear. We have form here.
Throughout the tournament there can be no doubt that Andy's progression through the rounds has been indisputably pegged to the strategic geographic position I have taken in relation to the game. Regrettably, the empirical evidence is compelling: When I watch he loses. When I go away, he wins. But if only it were that simple. Other factors seem to come into play. If only I could just figure out what they are. How do I reconcile the formula with my desire to support?
Settled in my chair in front of the sun-bathed screen, it's proving to be a very good start. But already the tension is showing and I feel duty calls. I'm going to have go behind the tree. It's a good few yards away but is still close enough to make out some blurred images and hear the sound. Surely this counts as being away. It seems to be working. There are roars of approval. Murray takes the first set. This calls for a walk around the lawn.
Perhaps, spurred on by belief and misplaced confidence, I return to the sitting area. In my defence I should point out that I choose a different chair. But it's no good. It's starting to unravel. I try to make amends with not only a walk around the lawn but the house as well. It's to no avail. I am beside myself with angst. What is going wrong? There is hope. My brother arrives with a solution. Older and perhaps wiser, he suggests a drive round the block to look at goodness knows what. I'll give it a go. We return. Murray has lost the second set. What do we do now? At times like this a contender has to dig deep and search deep in his resources for an imaginative response to stop the creeping onslaught. The answer is there. It's not the 130 mph serve. It's the hammock.
It's been set up, between the tree and TV. It's far enough away still to be judged out of bounds. If rain comes, it can be dismantled by the single-man team in a fleeting, nimble few minutes. I am precariously positioned. It seems to be working again. I can hear roars of approval. Everything is hanging by a thread. The canvas oscillates, back and forth, to the sound of highly-strung thwacks and gasps. Suddenly, there is a huge chorus of disappointment as the brave Scot tumbles head-over-heels backwards, stuffing his neck into his chest. I pick myself up. Perhaps the hammock was not such a good idea. Now what do we do?
I try to make amends with not only a walk around the lawn but the house as well. It's to no avail. I am beside myself with angst.
My elderly mum walks into frame, wondering what all the fuss is about. I can't explain. Might she jinx it back the other way? I am fixed on Andy's mum, sitting there stoically, match after match, with nowhere to hide. My mum decides to go and look at the goldfish. What?! How can she go and look at goldfish at a time like this? This is the most important tennis match - ever.
The oscillation has started again. Should I make a run for it? It's no good. Like a rabbit, I'm caught as deuce reverts to advantage - back and forth - like it will never end. Murray just must get this. Or it's off to the forest. Federer wins the game. I go and look at the goldfish. They don't seem that bothered. Just swimming about wondering when feeding time is. There is still hope. One of them suddenly swims off in a different direction. I wonder if he's jinxed it.
The rest is a bit of a blur. Various strategic positions are adopted. The fence, the hedge, the shed, the boggy bit, the toilet. Nothing seems to work. What do we do now?
I have crept back to the screen. It seem to be all but but over. But then, unbelievably, Murray saves a championship point. Could this be it? Does the fairytale ending really start here? My brother suddenly appears, having been driving around aimlessly for an interminable time. He knows his duty.
"What's the score?" he says.
"Murray has just saved one championship point," I babble.
"Oh, in that case I'm off again in case I..."
It's over. Life is over. What do we do now? Sue Barker's got her own questions. Andy's struggling to compose himself. Don't Andy. Don't go and... I'm crying. Federer's smiling. His lovely little girls look like they'd like an ice-cream. I suppose we couldn't lose to a nicer guy. It starts to rain.
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I resist the temptation to kick the cider can. But wait! My media colleagues are pronouncing that the real winner is Andy's reputation. Apparently he does "care" and is no longer the "dour Scottish git" that some had thought. Sorry Andy, that title was claimed by thousands of us years ago - perhaps the product of an education system from which emerged reticence and humility over self-love. Perhaps, we are just what we are. Still, I am also told there will be other opportunities for Andy to clinch those trophies. If so, the pressure will be on once again to muster one's courage and watch.
Might. Might not.
From a distance.
09 July 2012
08 July 2012
08 July 2012