Keeping Tabs: Murray Miracle Edition

Tuesday, July 09, 2013 /by
Nick Sutton (@suttonnick)
Nick Sutton (@suttonnick)

“Imagine the pressure,” I thought as the last game of the men’s final at Wimbledon wound toward its torturous conclusion. I was thinking of Andy Murray, of course, but I also had another famous London sports figure in mind. There, a few rows in front of me in the press tribune, was the trademark white ponytail and golden vest of Simon Barnes, chief sportswriter for the Times and noted poet of playing fields everywhere. While Murray would try to make history, Barnes would be, in most people’s eyes, the first to write it. Who knows, maybe Murray’s celebration in our direction was really just a pep talk to Sir Simon.

So how did he do? Were the mythic battlefields of yesteryear properly invoked? Did Murray take his place next to Lancelot at the Round Table? Did anyone bestride anything "like a colossus"? Personally, I think Barnes was a little too understated and low key with his opening:

“Arise, Sir Andrew, knight of the Holy Grail. Impossibly, dreamily, unbelievably and yet somehow almost easily, somehow almost inevitably, Andy Murray won the Men’s Singles final at Wimbledon yesterday.”

Yeah, I guess all of that is true, and the Holy Grail is kind of a big deal. But I would have chucked “miraculously, gloriously,” and maybe even “uproariously” into that sentence for good measure. I mean, at moments like this, the editorial rule of thumb is that the sky’s the limit as far as how many “ly” words you can use in a row.

Naturally, unsurprisingly, perhaps inevitably, Barnes the Brit is at his best when he describes the gut-twisting fear that Murray’s final game engendered across the land:

“He held three championship points. Did he wonder again, how awful it would be to lose from there? He was pulled back to deuce, saved three break points, and it degenerated into one of those anguished tests of character that send the nation back to that place behind the sofa, cowering from the television until it’s safe to come out. At one stage Murray turned and I caught an expression so anguished that it was as if some real and dreadful horror were being perpetrated before us.

But no, it was tennis, only sweet mad, impossible tennis.”

Barnes believes that the face Murray made when he looked toward us in the press box was “something heavenly, transcendent, unconfined; this was beyond all earthly concepts of joy.”

There was joy, but as I wrote yesterday, I also caught a tinge of madness in Muzza’s eyes. Click here for a rare close-up photo of the moment, snapped by a fan. See if you don’t agree with me.

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From Holy Grail to Holy Mackerel

Over at the Independent, Barnes’ fellow lyricist of the lawns, Nick Bollettieri, puts his own verbal spin on Murray’s victory. Nick goes big as well:

OH BABY, IN ALL MY TIME IT HAS NEVER BEEN BETTER

Bollettieri does follow Barnes’s Holy Grail theme, in his own way:

“Holy, holy, holy mackerel, and all the fish in all the seas. 60 years and I have never seen a more emotionally draining occasion than the one on Centre Court yesterday. A Wimbledon final below perfect blue skies is a setting that I don’t think can be beaten. Add a Brit winning and there you go.

“Oh baby, it was special.”

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A Frustrating Day on Fleet Street

OK, so the poets were in seventh heaven, or seventy-seventh heaven, as they might put it. And Andy's grandmother, at right, seemed to enjoy reading her daily papers yesterday. But what’s a self-respecting headline writer supposed to do at a moment like this? Where do you find the hate and snark in the Andy Murray-wins-Wimbledon story? The only thing left in the arsenal is old-fashioned bombast:

The Guardian:

MURRAY CONQUERS SPORTING EVEREST AND SETS A NATION’S HEART AGLOW

FROM A CHURCHMOUSE WITH A WEE SCOTTISH VOICE TO THE OWNER OF THE MEN’S SINGLES TITLE

SCOTTISH, BRITISH, WHO CARES? TODAY BELONGS TO US ALL

The Times:

HEAVIEST OF BURDENS IS FINALLY LIFTED TO AN ENTIRE NATION’S RELIEF

IN 77TH HEAVEN AFTER BEATING THE DOUBTERS

NEW BAWLS, PLEASE. NOW HENMAN HILL BELONGS TO SCOTLAND

And you know it's been a special sporting moment when the Times can say this:

EVEN THE PRIME MINISTER COULD NOT PREVENT GLORIOUS END TO LONG JOURNEY

The Telegraph:

MASTERLY MURRAY ENDS BRITAIN’S 77-YEAR-WAIT

The Mail:

ONE LAST SERVE, THEN SHEER JOY

ANDY CASTS OFF WEIGHT OF HISTORY

The Independent:

MIDDLE ENGLAND DELIGHTED AS SCOT CLIMBS THE FINAL EVEREST FOR BRITISH SPORT

The Sun:

GRANDY MURRAY
Brit tennis hero wins Wimbo

The Sun, it must be said, does do a good job of keeping the moment in perspective. This was just one match, after all.

MURRAY’S WIN IS ‘OFF THE SCALE’ IN SPORTING HISTORY

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A Golden Age of Sport in...Great Britain?

Inspired by Murray’s victory, novelist Justin Cartwright pens this bizarre headline in the Telegraph:

AFTER ANDY MURRAY’S WIMBLEDON VICTORY WE ALL FEEL LIKE WINNERS

Linking Murray with last year’s summer Olympics and other recent British sporting triumphs, Cartwright makes this bold claim:

“Something extraordinary has happened to Britain in the last 12 months, the sort of thing that politicians are always dreaming of finding in political life—a national sense of shared pride.”

Hold on, what? But Cartwright isn’t the only one. In the very same paper, columnist Oliver Brown writes:

SUN SHINES ON LAND OF HOPE AND GLORY
Murray’s victory is further proof of just how good we are at sport

The Brits have become so vicious and hardened, it seems, that Tim Lewis, in the Guardian, makes the Wimbledon crowd sound like the fans at a Philadelphia Eagles game on free-Schlitz Sunday:

CENTRE COURT BLUE RINSERS TURN BULLIES WHEN THE MOOD TAKES THEM
Djokovic looked defiant, but the loud home support can make opponents buckle

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Voices (of Disgust) in the Wilderness

Were there any signs of sanity—i.e., negativity—left in tab-land after the Muzza Miracle? Fortunately, all was not triumph and perfection at the Mail, where columnist Jan Moir turned her poison pen on Boris Becker, Tim Henman, and Andrew Castle of the BBC:

FROM THE COMMENTARY BOX, VOLLEY AFTER VOLLEY OF CLICHES

“Watching [the BBC] was a delirious agony,” Moir writes. “No inanity was left unturned.”

I wasn’t forced to listen to much of the Beeb, though I did happen to hear Henman make this comment between games, apropos of I don’t know what:

“Have you ever met anyone who’s had their arm broken by a swan?”

The Mail also trained its eye on the beautiful people at Centre Court, and found them wanting:

POSH FALLS OUT OF HER NIGHTIE IN THE NOT SO ROYAL BOX

While most of the tennis world waited to see if Ivan Lendl would crack a smile on Sunday—answer: yes—the tabs wondered the same about the famously pouty Posh. Answer: Possibly. No teeth appeared, but some reported a fraction of an upturn in her lips at the moment of Murray’s victory. Others disagreed.

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Getting Back to Normal

Will Muzz’s win change things in Great Britain? The Sun gave us the early answer on Tuesday. The paper seemed eager to get back to business as usual with this headline, which ran above much of the Murray coverage:

SUN SPORT PICKS OUR TOP 10 WIMBLEDON BABES YOU’VE PROBABLY NEVER HEARD OF

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