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This might be controversial but…

  • by Dom

Now that the clamour has died down and the sports writers are on to the Ashes – a quick word on our brand new Wimbledon champion.

I say ‘our’ to be deliberately provocative to our cousins north of the border and I will come back to this point shortly.

Not one to carp – but I have long been heralding Murray as Britain’s best sportsman – even when Wiggo mania was sweeping the land.

And I say this for many reasons – but primarily because of how competitive tennis is. Of all the tens of thousands of kids who try tennis and the thousands who turn pro – only a tiny few will prevail.

But also the shear demands on a tennis player. The array of shots and skill that must be mastered. From the explosive serve to the guile and finesse of the drop shot – not to mention the shear physical demands on men tennis players where six hour matches are a reality.

Not just a massive set of lungs and a high pain threshold for the tennis player – as is the case for cyclists, runners and oarsmen.

These sports are often inter-changeable – where an oarsmen can become a competitive cyclist and even win gold medals.

Try getting a rower to take up tennis.

4 years ahead of the London Olympics – British rowing was looking to identify kids of a certain age and above a certain height and weight as potential Olympians.

This would just not be possible for a sport like tennis – or golf – or badminton – or squash.

Not to argue that athletes in these sports are not talented. There can only be one winner – and they are dedicated of course – but my point is, that what they do is much less technical and much more repetitive. There are only so many ways an oar can be pulled or a bike pedalled – but how many shots are there in tennis?

Plus tennis requires great mentally strength as well. Murray can afford the best trainers and medics available but these count for nothing when he is on the tennis court. Becker once said that serving a second serve at break point down is the point where the pressure can be so great, that the server cannot release the ball on the toss. The equivalent of the yips in golf?

And tennis is also completely objective. Murray is currently the second best tennis player on earth. This is irrefutable and he might well become the very best player as well. Time and results will determine this or not.

But who is the best football player in the world? Messi would seem to be the unanimous verdict. But what of Ronaldo and now Naymar? How can a defender be compared with a striker?

Football is the sport where hyperbole rules and players can be heralded out of all recognition of their ability. David Beckham is England’s most famous and celebrated player of all time – and yet he was only the fourth best player in the Manchester United team that made him famous – behind Giggs, Scholes and Keane.

Similarly, Wayne Rooney is over praised and I think would struggle to make the top 20 or 30 in a list of the world’s top players – but this is subjective of course.

But this could not happen in tennis.  A tennis player cannot be over-rated – because his results are all that counts.

How handsome he is – whether he marries a pop star or is a commercial dream boat counts for nothing unless he is winning on the court.

Murray is a magnificent athlete and I think Britain’s best sportsman. I am tired of hearing that he is boring or dour. He is a tennis player and not a comedian. His tennis ability is how he entertains.

And finally on to the thorny issue of his nationality – and on this I am very clear –

I can remember vividly screaming with joy when Archie Gemmill threaded home that goal against Holland – when the whole of England was galvanised behind Ali’s army. My primary school was awash with tartan.

And I don’t think this would happen now. In fact I know it wouldn’t.

And I think that this is real shame.

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