Wimbledon is over, but there’s no way it could end here without one last Keeping Tabs for the road. One last, sad, Keeping Tabs for the road. As much as the papers and the general public in Great Britain may rip him, you do get the sense that the nation was behind Andy Murray in his quest, that his win would have been in part their win. That wouldn’t happen in the gigantic and splintered USA; even, I’m guessing, after a 74-year title drought at Flushing Meadows. As big an event as the U.S. Open is, it doesn’t mean what Wimbledon means in the U.K.
The laments for Andy Murray and the praises for Roger Federer in the London press are, as always, conducted with restraint, perspective, and good taste.
Watering the Grass
The Sun, which had been off its game over the fortnight, gets a little of its mojo back for the big moment with this series of headlines, all of which cover the same story. If you have a good headline, you have to use it, right?
NEW BAWLS PLEASE
Andy Murray turned on the waterworks after his Wimbledon dream was shattered
MURRAY IS FED AND BURIED
Murray crashes, but vows he’ll win Slam
CURSE OF THE LIVING FED
Roger Federer has brutally proven why he is one of the greatest sportsmen—let alone tennis players—of all time
Satisfied that Murray is deep enough in the ground, the Sun turns around to praise him, and lets the public in on a little trade secret in the process:
ANDY MURRAY CAN HOLD HIS HEAD HIGH
“We often describe great British sporting defeats as heroic failure. Normally, though, we don’t really mean it. It’s usually just to make the latest, battered Brit feel a bit better about himself. And us, too. But Murray truly was heroic in defeat. The boy from Dunblane gave it everything he had.”
Thankfully, after that strange misstep, the Mirror is there to get things back on track with their main headline:
SO TEAR, SO FAR
Andy takes first set in a Slam final, but ends with another sob story
Three former pros, Brad Gilbert, Virginia Wade, and Tim Henman, weigh in on what went wrong for Muzz in the Mail:
THE EXPERT VIEW: MURRAY MISSED HIS CHANCES
That isn’t exactly a fair headline. The experts do mention the break points that Murray couldn’t convert in the second set, but the consensus is that Federer was too good overall.
Asked whether the roof helped Federer in the last two sets, Gilbert and Henman both say yes—Brad mentions that Federer’s average serve speed was 5 m.p.h. faster with it closed. But Our Ginny, she of the tough love for Murray, disagrees.
“I don’t think the roof changed the match,” says Wade, the only Wimbledon champion of the three. “It’s just an excuse some people use. The momentum of the match had already changed by then.”
It’s true, Federer is probably the world’s best indoor player, but Murray has typically been very good in those conditions himself.
—Elsewhere, the Mail goes in search of new, more glorious ways of describing Federer:
MURRAY LOST TO A MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE, THE TENNIS EQUIVALENT OF PELE OR ALI
“We will tell our grandchildren about him,” Martin Samuel writes. “Maybe Murray will, too. Once he stops crying.”
Golden Era vs. Golden Era
The Telegraph reports that Federer-Murray drew an average of 11.4 million viewers in the U.K., with a peak of 16.9 million. It’s the highest rating for a British tennis player in history, surpassing all of Tim Henman’s many marathons.
Still, even at its peak, Federer-Murray couldn’t match the average viewership—17.3 million—for the record-holder, the 1980 final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.
Area Man Makes Good
You think the Brits lay it on thick, imagine what happens in Switzerland when Federer wins his first major in more than two years. Here’s the Geneva Tribune’s reaction:
FEDERER NEARLY A SAINT
This victory, which seemed improbable a year ago, is a sort of rebirth of a champion, the biggest in tennis history, who can only be worshipped and even venerated. Except Roger Federer is no saint. At least not yet
Not yet? What’s it going to take? How many Grand Slam titles did St. Barnabas win, exactly?
The Telegraph’s Oliver Brown had the queue beat for the day. He wasn't impressed:
BEDRAGGLED ANDY MURRAY FANS LEFT UNBOWED BY WRONG RESULT AND HEAVY RAIN
There is something stunningly masochistic, and ineffably British, about queuing all night in Biblical downpours for a match you are not actually going to see
Brown points up the oddity of waiting to sit in Court 2 and watch the match, not on a big screen, but on a small scoreboard in the corner of the court, where fans “had to crane their necks and squint their eyes just to check whether a ball had hit the line.”
Brown also comes up with a phrase to describe Federer’s play that I had never heard before:
“Federer’s excellence was asphyxiating, eliciting the odd astonished gasp...”
Skunks and Goat-Herders
The Independent deploys Grace Dent to describe the local celebs inside Centre Court on Sunday. She does it with snarky gusto:
WE WERE ALL IN IT TOGETHER (BUT CLIFF RICHARD WAS ON HIS OWN WITH THAT JACKET)
I didn’t see the aforementioned Richard’s outfit, but it must have been something. Dent claims that, “Cliff was dressed as an 18th Century colour-blind Austrian goat-herder.”
Kate and Pippa were “fragrant and inoffensive,” though Dent laments that Pippa didn’t stand up longer and “display her sumptuous behind to all of us.”
“John McEnroe, as always, was an informative, smooth, safe pair of punditry hands, made funnier as his malevolence toward mankind is forever slenderly on a leash.”
Political leaders David Cameron and Nick Clegg, “Took some time out from healing the country to enjoy some of the best seats in the court, not being remotely all in this together with the ticketless oafs outside on Murray Mount suffering from trench foot and a lack of sense to leave.”
“Beckham Inc. arrived; him looking a lot like a cartoon skunk playing a musketeer, her channeling trademark sullen/elegant.”
We could go on. There are enough puns and barbs in today's papers to fill this column for a week. But I’ll cut to the chase, by closing with the columnist of record for this moment, Simon Barnes of the Times. He wraps up the fortnight with the appropriate and expected mix of poetry and bombast:
“Ah, well,” Barnes begins. “Maybe we’ll get another chance in 74 years. And there was a long, lovely moment when it even seemed possible—when the tears fell like rain and the rain fell like tears and on the opposite side of the net there was a man playing in the way that God does when He brings His A-game.”
Thanks to Lana for helping me see the Times over the last two weeks (and no thanks to their malfunctioning website). I’ll be back later today with final grades from a special Wimbledon.