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Sport

At Wimbledon, proud Scot is made to atone for England's World Cup failure

Text by Benjamin DODMAN

Latest update : 2010-07-02

He bowed to the Queen alright. Now all that England’s favourite Scotsman, Andy Murray, needs to do is shoulder Britain’s burden of expectation and finally give the country something to cheer about.

With England fans glued to their TV sets watching the World Cup, the only thing required of Andy Murray at the start of this year’s Wimbledon tournament was that he should bow to Queen Elizabeth II when she made her return to the All England Club after a 33-year absence.

The proud Scot duly obliged, the country breathed a sigh of relief and everyone switched back to the football.

As he breezed through the first week of the tournament without dropping a set, a relaxed Murray made no secret of his hope England's World Cup campaign would carry on.

Not that he would support Scotland’s reviled southern neighbours. It was just a matter of keeping the burden of expectation bearing on someone else's shoulders.

Yet as England's typically over-hyped World Cup quest ended with a whimper last Sunday, so did Murray's pressure-free spell abruptly end.

Suddenly, a nation starved of success was looking for another champion to restore its wounded pride.

Murray-mania was back, and so were the ubiquitous headlines about the quest to become the first male Briton to win a Wimbledon title since Fred Perry in 1936.

The Briton’s burden

Playing before a home crowd is generally seen as an advantage for sportsmen of all kinds.

But common knowledge suggests that is not so true of Britain, where local favourites have traditionally struggled to cope with the huge expectation.

Such was the case with the previous flag bearer of British tennis, Tim Henman. Though undoubtedly one of the most gifted grass-court players of his time, time and again he fell achingly short of reaching a Wimbledon final.

Yet, not all would agree with the notion that the crowd’s expectations play against Britain’s athletes. Some argue that home support has in fact spurred Britain’s nearly men, like Henman, to feats greater than their means.

But one thing is certain. Whether right or wrong, the idea of a burden crippling British athletes has worked admirably well for a country struggling to come to terms with its mediocrity at sport.

And should Murray lose to Spain’s Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals on Friday, the country will know what to blame.

Date created : 2010-07-01

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