17 Jun 2013

Whatever happened to Brits losing?

You cannot be serious! From Justin Rose to Andy Murray, Brits keep winning things. So have we forgotten how to lose?

Andy Murray and Boris Johnson play together at Queens Club, London.

British summertime: ah, how we enjoy a swig of Vimto, the smell of freshly cut grass and the soft thwack of Brits being knocked out in the first round.

In sport, and some might say in political and world influence generally, we Brits have generally relied upon being the characterful, valiant chaps who eventually come a cropper but go down fighting. We entertain, we cry a bit, then we are shot down by a peppering of finely executed penalty kicks – or a sneeze.

And then came the London Olympics. And the rise of Andy Murray (pictured playing a charity match with London Mayor Boris Johnson). Now we win at golf too. And the Ashes? Apparently England are the favourites.

Justin Rose, US Open gold winner - but is he an English champion?

English Rose?

There was a time when hapless British sports fans clung hard to players of not entirely fulsome British heritage.

We were a bit sniffy about Canadian-born tennis star Greg Rusedski in his union jack headband, but we held him dear when “real” Brits belly-flopped out of SW19.

We welcomed South Africa’s delivery to England of Kevin Pietersen and his swashbuckling sixes, until he started texting the opposition.

Poor old Justin Rose has not been afforded even half such an eager welcome. Like KP, his talents took root in South Africa, but, he hopes his US Open triumph at the weekend can inspire more English players to win major championships.

Tony Jacklin was the last Englishman to win the US Open in 1970 – 10 years before Rose was born – while Nick Faldo was the last to claim a major title in the 1996 US Masters.

Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Rose himself had all threatened to win one of the game’s four biggest prizes since then, but it was not until Rose hit a superb final round of 70 at Merion on Sunday that the losing streak came to an end.

Triumph and disaster

Andy Murray’s ability to drive a truck through British tennis expectations over the last few years has seen sports fans evolve from the desperately face-painted variety into a more swaggering breed.

He coolly won his third title at the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club over the weekend (see below), setting up the tantalising prospect of a Wimbledon fortnight (starting on 24 June) featuring Murray, Nadal and Djokovic – all on form.

And these days when Murray wins a grand slam quarter-final, we nod soberly and get back to the crossword. For a semi-final triumph, we may crack a brief grin. In days of yore British tennis fans would more likely reach for the plastic union jack hat, perform a cartwheel and explode in a Pimms supernova. Then cry. We’ll wait for a Wimbledon final victory for that.

Optimism doesn’t mean viewing everything with rose coloured spectacles all the time. Rebecca Symes, sports psychologist

Sports psychologist Rebecca Symes told Channel 4 News: “Justin Rose and Andy Murray are great examples of never giving up and keeping on striving for their dreams, even in the face of setbacks. They without doubt encompass a level of resilience that is crucial in elite sport – that ability to keep bouncing back, keep on believing and whilst recognising when things don’t go so well, staying focused on moving forwards.

“Optimism doesn’t mean viewing everything with rose coloured spectacles all the time, but it does mean thinking about things realistically, focusing on strengths and when appropriate using disappointments to propel you forwards.”

As the Rudyard Kipling poem, adopted by the All England Club, so famously states: “If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same..”

So while you nonchalantly observe Britain’s forthcoming summer successes, spare a thought for England’s young footballers. They recently crashed out of the under-21 European Championship without scoring a single goal in open play.

Andy Murray lifts the trophy at Queen's Club, London, after his 2013 win.