By Melina Harris
Hello everybody, welcome to my new weekly column for Tennis Grandstand, where I will be giving my thoughts on the tennis world surrounded by the inevitable warmth and sunshine of both the weather and the British press in England (well, now and again maybe during Wimbledon when Andy wins!).
I write these words on an unusually sunny morning in a coffee bar overlooking a serene and sparkling Ramsgate harbour in the garden of England, Kent, the location and inspiration for such literary greats as Charles Dickens, T.S Eliot and the master painter Turner. On Sunday, the British public held their breath and the world watched eagerly as two great artists walked onto the tennis world stage in the first Grand Slam final of the year in Melbourne, Australia.
Contesting his 22nd career Grand Slam singles final, world number one Roger Federer played the role of the old master, Turner, creating the final in exactly the way he wanted, wowing the crowds with his honed style and grace, while our British hopeful Andy Murray sprayed the court with touches of his potential brilliance like urban graffiti artist Banksy’s iconic and unmistakable political images on randomly selected walls across London.
However, like a Banksy original crudely painted over by a council worker, Murray’s brilliance was eclipsed and wiped out by the majestic beauty of Federer at his best. The 28-year-old Swiss master dispatched of the young Scot in a closely contested straight set victory, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(11) to land his 16th major title, leaving our gutsy boy choking back the tears in his post match interview (mirroring the feelings of our nation, impatient for an end to our ‘150 thousand’ (Federer) years of hurt) as he tried to sum up his performance in front of the Aussie crowd.
I haven’t yet taken a look at the back pages of the numerous British newspapers for fear of reading phrases such as ‘Scottish choker’ and the ominous rhetorical question, ‘Is Murray yet another Henman?” For a majority of the British public who know very little about tennis, let alone the extreme lengths it takes to achieve Murray and Henman’s obvious greatness, they view what these players have achieved thus far as failure. I can’t count the number of times over the years I’ve heard conversations in pubs, restaurants and coffee bars about how Tim Henman was a ‘rubbish’ player, even though he was consistently amongst the top ten players in the world and Murray, now number three in the world, a sour and miserable Scottish loser whom they hated with a passion (his comments about not supporting the English football team will never be forgotten it seems).
As a player myself, I know just how hard it is to progress through the ranks in British tennis and would like to take this opportunity to praise Tim and Andy for their hard work and determination in the face of such negative press (we are notorious as a nation in building sports stars up just for the pleasure in bringing them back down again). I would urge my international readers to just take a look at the recent John Terry debacle (our English football (soccer) captain, who previous to his extra marital affair was hailed as a hero who has now become the new hate figure in sport) let alone the David Beckham red card affair in the World Cup, where pictures of a replica figure of him hung from a tree engulfed in flames like something from the Salem Witchcraft trials was featured regularly in the press, when he had previously been hailed a national hero.
Of course it would genuinely be fantastic for British tennis if Andy were to go on and win a Grand Slam title, especially at Wimbledon, however why can’t the British public celebrate his performance over the last two weeks and look positively to the future, with rising star Laura Robson posing the mouth watering potential of a female Grand Slam champion instead of always publicly pulling our sports stars to shreds in coffee shops, pubs and most lethally in the British press.
For instance, Robson, who unfortunately lost to Russian Karolina Pliskova in the girls singles final in Melbourne, couldn’t escape the damaging British press as she was criticized and labeled a moody teenage loser by a Times journalist, who commented damagingly, ‘I saw a future champion on Saturday. I also saw a loser. I saw someone with exquisite talent and the temperament to go with it. I also saw a player who was error-prone and too flaky to live. Of course, they were the same person. This was Laura Robson in the final of the junior girls’ singles at the Australian Open in Melbourne.’
I only hope that Laura takes the advice of Cheryl Cole (our nation’s pop star sweetheart and omnipresent judge of the X factor) and never ever buy a British newspaper or nonchalantly google herself, because all she will discover are a bunch of sad old journalists picking out the negatives, predicting failure and gloom; a recipe for disaster if the philosophy of ‘The Secret’ is to be believed, that positive thinking attracts positive results, whereas a whole nation of negative thinking will simply mean the continuation of the misery and failure so many Brits seem to revel in. Perhaps this is the point?
So Murray and Robson may have fallen at the final hurdle in Melbourne, but I urge the British public to stay positive, eradicate the negativity and maybe just maybe we might get the champions we so clearly deserve. To be honest, I think Fred Perry is more likely to rise from the dead and win Wimbledon this year than this actually becoming a reality, however I’m one hundred percent sure that Andy and Laura will make them eat their words by the end of the year and I cannot personally wait to applaud them in my new weekly column at tennis grandstand! Bring it on!
Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach from London. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter. She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.