23 Jun 2014

Andy Murray begins Wimbledon defence – stay cool, everyone

Somehow it is Wimbledon fortnight again which means Andy Murray has a large golden cup to defend. But we know about winning now, hey Brits? And we’re going to stay cool.

Andy Murray gets ready to defend his Wimbledon title. (Getty)

For 78 long years we have waited for this day – for a British man to step out onto the green lawns of SW19 and open Wimbledon as defending champion, custodian of the most important trophy in tennis. Except, of course, we haven’t.

For one thing, Fred Perry turned professional after his 1936 triumph which, under the bizarre amateur set-up of the day, ruled him out of a title defence. Secondly, no-one cares about numbers and overbearing record books once the hoodoo is broken. Seventy-seven years, yeah yeah yeah. Wooden racquets, first British player to win in shorts, whevs! Done it, in the bag. Next challenge, please.

Is it reasonable to hope he can do it again?

And we have Andy Murray to thank for these weird and rather un-British feelings as the tennis gets under way: “Relaxed, thanks, just going to enjoy it!” “Nice change from the football, eh?” “Did you hear Judy Murray on Desert Island Discs?”

It certainly makes a change from: “I’m hiding behind the sofa, don’t talk to me!” “I’ve built my Murray shrine, I belieeeeve” and “I saw his face in a cucumber in this pint of Pimms, right here, see? It’s fate!”

Andy Murray win's the men's singles title at Wimbledon 2013. (Reuters)

Don’t stress

Murray’s Wimbledon triumph in 2013 had the same therapeutic effects as the London Olympics the year before: British people stopped being (quite) so stressy about sport.

And, give or take the odd bitten nail over the Premier League, the Murray effect has kept on rolling. Try as they might to jangle our nerves, even the England team didn’t threaten to spoil this rehabilitation. Their swift exit from the World Cup has spared us the usual “hoping, hopeful, HOPE!………… Oh, I’m crying now” slap-down of previous campaigns. We’re all cool, right? Let Roy Hodgson build for the future and all that. Dare I say, in sporting terms at least, the Brits have grown up?

Let’s get back to Andy. It is 348 days since he won the Wimbledon title. Is it reasonable to hope he can do it again?

“I hope I can enjoy it once I settle into the match,” Murray said on the eve of his first round encounter with Belgium’s David Goffin (1pm, Centre Court).

“Chances are he’ll win it again,” said nine-time champion Martina Navratilova, coolly.

Andy Murray with new coach Amelie Mauresmo. (Getty)

But since the glories of last summer the pickings have been slim for the 27-year-old. He reached the semi-finals at the French Open but was then clinically dispatched by friend and rival Rafa Nadal. He gave up his Queen’s title without much of a fight on his return to grass a couple of weeks ago.

In fact the only trophy he’s added to the cabinet since those heady days a year ago is BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Back surgery, a parting of ways with Ivan Lendl and the appointment of 2006 ladies champion Amelie Mauresmo (pictured with Murray) as coach have made it a year of recuperation, consolidation and gentle evolution in the Murray camp; still a place of ice-baths, urine analysis and meticulous preparation, but certainly more relaxed. So chilled in fact that Murray’s weekend preparation involved rescuing a dog on his way to the practice courts.

“He knows how to play on this surface. I’m not going to teach him how to play tennis,” understated Mauresmo.

So everyone is being cool. Ice-bath cool. If he gives us something to cheer about, cool. Semi-finals, we’ll take that. Cool cool cool.

Another rollercoaster ride to the heights of sporting greatness? The chance to cry tears of joy alone during John Inverdale’s Today at Wimbledon analysis? A reason to order in a crate of Pimms and say unwise things about the Murrays and the Scottish referendum on independence? ALL COOL.