8 Jul 2012

Can Andy Murray make Wimbledon history?

Heard of Fred Perry or Bunny Austin? British tennis success tends to come in black and white, but can Andy Murray give it some 21st century high definition? Channel 4 News takes a look.

Can Andy Murray rewrite Wimbledon history for Britain?

Since 1936 the home nation at the world’s most famous tennis tournament has been forced to play plucky waitress; serving up Pimms and strawberries but rarely trophies.

That year Britain’s Fred Perry won his third Wimbledon title, securing both legend and polo shirt sales.

Two years later Henry “Bunny” Austin (pictured below, holding racquets) came close. In 1938, appearing in his second Wimbledon final, Bunny lost out to America’s Don Budge.

It’s been a little better for Britain’s women. Angela Mortimer triumphed in an all-British final against Christine Truman in 1961, then Ann Jones defeated Billie Jean King to win Wimbledon in 1969, while Virginia Wade ensured a little patriotic fizz for the Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977.

Great Britain has enjoyed a few mixed doubles victories down the years – from Jeremy Bates and Jo Durie in the eighties to Jamie Murray’s win alongside Jelena Jankovic in 2007. Then came Jonny Marray, who on Saturday became Britain’s first men’s doubles champion at Wimbledon for 76 year.

Can Andy Murray rewrite Wimbledon history for Britain?

But for British men in the singles draw at SW19, a thin slice of the action. Roger Taylor appeared in three semi-finals in the late sixties and early seventies. And then there were Tim Henman’s ecstasy-to-agony Wimbledon runs – four semi-finals between 1998 and 2002.

Andy Murray has changed all that, establishing himself as a world class player making regular appearances in the final stages of grand slam tournaments. Still only 25, he has made it to the semis at Wimbledon for the last four years.

And this time he’s gone one step further: a British man in the Wimbledon final.

Since Perry’s 1936 victory, the history books paint a stark picture for Britain and supreme dominance for America and Australia.

Aside from Egypt’s one-off moment on the winner’s board in 1954 (thanks to Czech-born Jaroslav Drobny’s nationality switch), the USA and Australia shared the spoils every year between 1947 and 1965.

Aussie dominance continued into the open era (when the sport went professional in 1968) with the likes of Rod Laver and John Newcombe becoming household names.

A few years later and the most famous Swede in sport – Bjorn Borg – returned the silverware to Europe. The cool dude in the headband won five on the trot between 1976 and 1980. In the eighties America took back control, with Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe bringing with them a touch of Hollywood.

Boris Becker, at 17 the youngest men’s winner in history, blasted Germany onto the scoreboard in 1985. Two more victories followed and Michael Stich made it four in 1991. In 1988 and 1990, Stefan Edberg added a couple of trophies to Borg’s Swedish haul.

The Americans got back on court in the 1990s, largely thanks to seven wins by Pete Sampras. And it is his record Roger Federer will be hoping to now equal. Federer won six Wimbledon trophies between 2003 and 2009, with Spain’s Rafael Nadal spoiling the Swiss party in 2008 and 2010.

Notable nations with just one title since 1936, like Britain, are the Netherlands (Richard Krajicek in 1996), Croatia (unseeded Goran Ivanisevic and his fairytale win in 2001), Serbia (Novak Djokovic last year) and France (Yvon Petra won in 1946, the first tournament after a six year gap for the war). However, France had dominated before Perry thanks to sportswear rival Rene Lacoste in the 1920s.

Don Budge and Henry

(Pictured: Don Budge and Henry “Bunny” Austin following the 1938 Wimbledon final. Getty Images)

Murray v Federer

Sports psychologist and former Great Britain tennis player Amanda Owens told Channel 4 News Andy Murray’s clash with Roger Federer will be a case of “mental gladiators”.

“There’s been a change in Murray’s mentality and the way he’s carrying himself on court – the emotional control he’s shown,” she said.

“There’s a noticeable improvement which shows how far he’s come.

“Positivity is very important at critical points. Now he’s in the Wimbledon final, that positivity will carry him through.

“The stats are very good between Murray and Federer – Andy’s 8-7 up there, although Federer won the last encounter.

“It’s mental gladiators in tennis. Federer is very good under pressure – he’s used to these occasions.

“It will be very exciting from a psychological point of view. It’s going to be close.”

So while Britain’s overall track record may be bleak, there are some statistics which look very good for Murray.

His head-to-head record with Federer gives him the edge – eight victories to seven.

It’s another jubilee year – Virginia Wade did it in 1977, as Cameron flies the flag of Scotland over Downing Street, perhaps 25-year-old Murray can do the honours for the Queen.

And guess how old Fred Perry was in ’36? Lucky 25.