Keeping Tabs: July 4
WIMBLEDON, England—The great ones rise to the occasion, they say, and win without their best. And that’s exactly what happened on Centre Court on Thursday, according to the papers here this morning. Only a star, a grizzled veteran of pressure-packed contests would have known how to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The Sun sums up the tributes to this Scottish hero, whose legend grows with each passing day:
SIR ALEX STARS IN ANOTHER TRIUMPH
Wait, who? Was there a second epic match on Centre Court that I missed?
Elsewhere the paper offers another clue:
Murray’s late win thrills Sir Alex
OK, we have a first name and part of a last name, and we know that someone named “Murray” was involved in this scene as well, though he’s obviously just doing this Alex character’s bidding.
But just when I think I'm getting it straight, the Mirror loses me again with this headline:
SQUEAKY BUM TIME
Relief for Andy—and Fergie—as he seals brave comeback victory from two sets down
I won’t ask what “squeaky bum time” is. And admittedly, as a soccer-illiterate American, I’m not the right person to appreciate the significance of having Sir Alex Ferguson, the former manager of Manchester United and a fellow Scot of Murray's, in the Royal Box. Last year, when he gate-crashed a Murray press conference at the U.S. Open with a certain Scottish movie star, I tweeted, “Sean Connery and some guy are in the press room.”
The papers also mention that Murray won a five-set thriller over Fernando Verdasco to advance to his fifth straight Wimbledon semifinal. But they can’t help doing a little tut-tutting along the way. The Brits want him to win, not revive the all those terrifying memories of tea times past with Tim Henman:
The Mirror blares:
MURRAY SENDS UK INTO NERVOUS MELTDOWN
Roller-coaster five-set victory a nerve-shredding wake-up call
The Telegraph warns:
CONGRATULATIONS ANDY, BUT PLEASE DON’T PUT US THROUGH THAT AGAIN
The Times scolds:
NAUGHTY BOY FINDS HIS FEET JUST IN TIME AFTER HORRENDOUS START TO QUARTERFINAL
The Independent remembers:
ALL OUR YESTERDAYS AS ANDY REPRISES THE HENMAN YEARS
A double fault and two awful errors put Britain back in the emotional mangle
The Mail says what’s on most people’s minds:
THAT WAS SHEER TORTURE, ANDY
While the Guardian strips it down to the rawest emotion:
Dodging Uncle Pedro's Bathtub
Simon Barnes of the Times has the most colorful of the day’s match reviews:
"Reader, you must have had that dream when you find yourself naked on Paddington Station. It looked as if Murray was living that dream out in front of us. 'What me, a Grand Slam champion? Me, the No. 2 seed? Me, many people’s favorite to win the tournament? Och, no. I’m just wee Andy frae Dunblane. I’m not the messiah, I’m just a very naughty boy.'"
Barnes cuts through some of the myth-making about the “heart” that we always say is needed at these moments:
“Murray began to manipulate Verdasco about the court, no longer hoping for errors, but drawing them out as a dentist draws out teeth. We like to think on occasions like this that it’s all about character. But it’s more about the way that hard-won skills hold together. As a match gets longer and ever more intense, it’s about physical fitness and all those mental skills that are worked on as much as forehands and backhands.”
That seems right to me; more than "guts," you rely on practice, on memory, on what you know you can do even when you’re having a nervous breakdown.
Still, Barnes saves his finest poetic flight for his description of Verdasco’s game:
“He has a big lefty serve, and when he plays a forehand, he throws the kitchen sink, the family-reunion-sized paella dish, and your Uncle Pedro’s bathtub at it as well.”
Meanwhile, Over on Robson Ridge...
THE LONELINESS OF BEING LAURA ROBSON
That’s the headline in Sunday’s Telegraph, but it’s not a hatchet job on Poor Brave Laura. It’s a thoughtful column by Tanya Aldred, who makes these observations about the solitude of the tennis player in a crowd:
"Watching Laura Robson play on Monday afternoon reminded you what a ruthlessly lonely game tennis is....Robson was surrounded by people staring at every nose scratch and T-shirt tug, yet was essentially alone.
"Ball boys and girls hand out green and pink official towels on demand, but never communicate. The players sit yards apart, but never look at each other. Even in boxing, you get a trainer in your corner to whisper in your ear or wipe blood from your nose.
“In May, Ernests Gulbis complained that tennis players generally, and especially [the Top 4] were too boring. The more relevant point would seem to be, how do they hold it all together, how have they not gone off the rails?"
The sun is trying its best to come out today, for the women’s semifinals. See my preview of those matches here. To everyone back in the States, I hope you have a good July 4. I assume the BBC is covering the only sporting event that matters today, the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest.