Professor Henry FraserArchitecural Historian / Heritage Consultant
Chairman, Sentinel Committee, Barbados National Trust
Writer, TV Presenter, National Orator & Motivational Speaker
Professor Emertius, Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology.
Immediate Past Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences.
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.

 



THINGS THAT MATTER: At Long Last – a British Wimbledon Champion

(Letter from Britain, Part 1)

Henry S. Fraser

Britain is a country where heroes have had hallowed status throughout history ... from King Alfred the Great, Richard the Lion Heart (King Richard the First), Bonnie Prince Hal (Henry the Fifth), Sir Francis Drake, the Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson to Sir Winston Churchill; heroines include the legendary Britannia, Queen Elizabeth the First and Queen Victoria; and of course there’s William Shakespeare and nowadays sportsmen like footballer David Beckham. All have acquired hero status, intense admiration, and the legendary persona that inspires a nation – especially Churchill and Nelson, and in recent years Beckham, perhaps as much for his good looks and charm as his football skill!

Well, the British now appear to have a new hero – Andy Murray – tennis star and the first Wimbledon Men’s Singles Champion since the legendary Fred Perry in 1936. And the media are determined to make the most of him, with unbelievable hype! I confess I almost expected the Queen to take a helicopter to Wimbledon and dub him Sir Andy on the grass at the Wimbledon All England Lawn Tennis Club ... many were disappointed she didn’t, after the splendid spoof at the Olympics Opening Ceremony in which she was portrayed accompanying James Bond to the opening by helicopter!

On Saturday, July 6th, in the words of the Daily Telegraph headline, “Andy Murray wins Wimbledon 2013 men's final with straight-sets victory over Novak Djokovic. (This) is the sentence British tennis has been waiting for ever since a wild-haired 18-year-old from Dunblane won the junior US Open. Andy Murray is the Wimbledon champion.”

In fact, it’s an event Britain has been dreaming and praying for since 1936, and for a seeming eternity of 77 years in the wilderness at Wimbledon – and amazingly, on the 7th of the 7th month!  The enormity of the achievement in the British psyche deserves to be reported in the words of BBC’s Piers Newbury: “Andy Murray won his first Wimbledon title and ended Britain's 77-year wait for a men's champion with a hard-fought victory over world number one Novak Djokovic. The Scot, 26, converted his fourth championship point in a dramatic final game to win 6-4 7-5 6-4 and claim his second major title. In an atmosphere reminiscent of his Olympic final win last summer, Murray was willed on by the majority of the 15,000 spectators on Centre Court, thousands watching on the nearby big screen and millions more around the country.” And the headline in The Week read: “An end to 77 years of hurt.”

Murray has been the hope of the British people for almost a decade ... the hope of regaining glory at Wimbledon, hallowed halls of tennis fame and most famous tournament in the world. In an era of amazing greats – the gigantic sporting figure of Federer – in my humble opinion the greatest of them all – Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal, Andy Murray has come through the toughest psychological barriers to win Wimbledon, after finally winning his first grand slam only last year at the US Open, and winning the Olympic title. He almost made history of another kind, having lost four grand slam finals!

He reached the final after a remarkable semi-final match against the Polish Giant – a real giant – six-feet-eight-inches-tall Jerzy Janowicz. Britain’s sports writers are delightful wordsmiths, and Neil Harman of The Times wrote: “For a long time yesterday, it looked as if the 22-year-old Jerzy Janowicz, the world No. 24, who mixed potency and craft to a staggering degree in only his fifth main draw appearance in a grand slam tournament, might draw the sword from Murray’s hand. He won the first set, was competitive in the second, led 4-1 in the third and found himself two sets to one down ...” Murray had suddenly assumed command and won five points in a row to take the lead.

At that point, Janowicz succeded in persuading the referee that the light was poor. Murray argued, but they stopped play for 20 minutes to close the roof and play under lights. This seemed to inspire Murray, who never looked back, was no longer troubled by Janowicz’s amazing power, and out-aced him.

He went on to a mammoth final with Djokovic, the most athletic, accurate and entertaining of the top four champions. Federer has the grace of a ballet dancer and a deceiving speed that makes the most difficult challenges look like child’s play. Rafa has the speed and agility of a big cat – he resembles a giant leopard more than a human in his extraordinary ability to retrieve anything. Well Andy doesn’t match Federer’s grace or Rafa’s agility (but almost!) but he matched Jokovic’s power, speed and accuracy game for game, with amazing rallies of 25 or 30 points, miraculous retrievals on both sides, and finally won Wimbledon by a hair. And so the trophy and the crown of greatest glory, and it seems, from the hype of the media, he outshines athlete Farah, cyclist Wiggins and all.

The British have been preparing for his “coronation” for years. A biography “Andy Murray – Champion” was published last year, following his US Open victory, and it makes fascinating reading. It describes his childhood and teenage tennis days, his hero worshipping of Agassi, his dedication and overseas training, even his “bad hair”; after all, who ever heard of a Scottish tennis champion? And it explores the burden placed on him by the British public and the British media, seeming to crave success at Wimbledon more than any other sporting victory. Every British paper placed him on the front page on Sunday the 8th, almost all devoting the entire page to him kissing the cup. The Times gave him 15 pages in the main section and 15 more in the Sports section! It was Royal coverage.

So I’m not sure who brought Britain the weeks of extraordinary sunshine that have followed – Andy Murray, in winning, or my wife and I, in our suitcases from Barbados!

Professor Fraser is Past President of the Barbados National Trust, and past Dean of Medical Sciences, UWI.


Henry Fraser Historic Houses Of Barbados Book CoverHistoric Houses of Barbados
Written by Henry Fraser & Ronnie Huges.
Available at all book leading book stores in Barbados.


Henry Fraser Treasures Of Barbados Book CoverTreasures of Barbados
Written by Sir George Alleyne and edited by Henry Fraser.
Available at the UWI Bookshop the publishers.


Henry Fraser Chattle House Book CoverBarbados Chattel Houses
Written by Henry Fraser and Bob Kiss.
Available at all leading book stores.


Henry Fraser A-Z Barbados Book CoverA-Z of Barbados Heritage
Written by Sean Carrington, Henry Fraser, John Gilmore and Addington Forde.
Available at Days Bookstore Barbados and Amazon.com


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