british man

Monitoring pre-Wimbledon sentiment about British Tennis

It’s that time of year when many Brits start to become interested in tennis.

But, thanks to the success of Andy Murray, Elena Baltacha and James Ward at the pre-Wimbledon warm-up tournaments, some of us are dusting off our rackets and heading down to the local rec’s courts a little earlier than normal.

It’s interesting to look at how these successes (Ward’s victories were particularly unexpected) have affected sentiment surrounding the phrase ‘British Tennis’.

The phrase has traditionally attracted many negative connotations. Years of heavy investment has led to years of under-achievement. No British man has won Wimbledon since 1936 when champion Fred Perry won in long trousers, wielding a wooden racket.

For the period June 9th to June 15th 2011, social media monitoring tool Brandwatch collected 576 mentions of the phrase across news and social networking sites; it is a sign of how successful the period was that only three per cent of them were negative.

Brits are still hedging their bets though – burned by years of false dawns (remember John Lloyd, Buster Mottram, Jeremy Bates and Tim Henman all falling short at Wimbledon) only five per cent of the mentions were positive!

Mentions of British tennis peaked on Friday June 10th with 88 being collected by Brandwatch. This was the afternoon when Brit newcomer James Ward (ranked 216th in the world) beat defending champion Sam Querrey in the Queen’s Club quarter-finals.

Duanne Jackson on Facebook said what many of us were saying: “Watching a British tennis player that isn’t Murray, Henman or Rusedski. Shocked!”

Better was to come a few hours later in the day when Facebook messages such as “Two British tennis players into the semi-finals of a tournament: isn’t this a sign of the apocalypse?” started clogging up the networks.

On Saturday, 11th June, armchair tennis fans were still trying to figure out their new tennis hero. Was he a baseliner or a serve and volleyer? Single handed or double-handed on the backhand wing? And more importantly who did he look like? Lisa Jane Riley on Twitter commented: “Do you not think he looks a little like a thin Alex Reid (the cage fighter ex-partner of Jordan)?”

Later in the afternoon, he was looking a little less like a winner but he still posted a highly-respectable performance during a 6-3, 7-6 defeat against world number 17 (and Muhammad Ali-look-alike) Jo Wilfried Tsonga.

Murray kept the British flag flying with a demolition job on his nemesis Andy Roddick in the other semi-final and fellow Scot Elena Baltacha reached the Ladies final at the Eastbourne event.

This might explain why The Scotsman was one of the top ten sites mentioning British Tennis during the week studied.

Both players would go on to win their final but mentions of “British tennis” had already peaked the day before: quarter-final day received 88 mentions and semi-final day just 60.

Finals day on June 12th received even fewer mentions; just 57. Perhaps understandable given that Murray’s final was washed out by rain. It was good to see Ms Baltacha receive the lion’s share of the mentions as she won an Eastbourne final which was switched indoors.

Murray’s moment in the sun finally came on Monday June 13th as he played a couple of between-the-leg shots to win his rain-delayed final on a day when British tennis received 65 mentions.

There were several cynical social networkers who pointed out that the win might not be such a good omen for British tennis: people who win rain-delayed Queen’s tournaments are often eliminated early when Wimbledon begins (the springy-haired John McEnroe in 1979 springs to mind).

Mentions of British tennis continued to climb on the Tuesday and the Wednesday as Britain continued to bask in the success of Mr Murray and the Wimbledon qualifying tournament got underway in overcast Roehampton.

Conclusion

So why did mentions of “British tennis” peak on quarter-final day, rather than on finals day when Murray triumphed at Queens?

This might be down to the James Ward effect – his unexpected victories surprisingly might seem to offer more hope for the overall future of British tennis than Murray’s victories do.

We already know how good Murray is but the thought of another Brit breaching the top 50 might suggest a pattern of British success whereas Murray’s position near the top of the tennis summit is just isolated success.

In a way, Murray’s success is the exception to the rule of British tennis – Brits are expected to lose – but Ward might be challenging this rule.

Roll on Wimbledon!

Author: Dominick Soar

Brandwatch is a Social Media Monitoring Tool that measures online buzz and sentiment.

Who was Fred Perry?

With every mention of Andy Murray at Wimbledon, the name Fred Perry soon follows. Fred is the last British man to the singles title at Wimbledon (back in 1936). The clothing line that bears his name just happens to be the clothing line that Andy Murray wears and endorses. This year also marks the 100th year since Perry’s birth. Is this adding up to a fateful conclusion to Wimbledon this year? Bud Collins, the world’s most famous and lovable tennis journalist and historian, features Perry in his famous tennis encyclopedia called THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennistomes.com). Below is Bud’s book excerpt on Perry.

It was the technique of one particular stroke that made Fred Perry into a world champion—and probably the best tennis player Great Britain has ever produced.

The knack of making the stroke baffled the promising Briton for so long that he was on the verge of giving up in despair. He had been advised that to get very far, he would have to learn to take the ball early on his continental forehand, the racket mak­ing impact instantly as the ball rose from the court.

For months he could not master the timing. Then suddenly, like riding a bicycle, it came to him and he was on his way—on his way to the net on a running forehand, going forward with the swing of the racket to gain good volleying position if the drive did not win outright. It took him to three Wimbledon Championships, three U.S. titles, an Australian and a French title and a lucrative pro career.

Born May 18, 1909, in Stockport, England, the right-handed Frederick John Perry did not take up tennis until he was 18 years old. But he had good coaching and took to the game quickly, for he had been playing table tennis for years and winning tourna­ments and international recognition.

Perry developed an undercut backhand that came off with surprising pace. He hit the ball smartly with good length and reg­ularity on the serve, was sharp and sound with his smash, perfect in his footwork and timing, and volleyed with dispatch. None of his strokes was overpowering, but his attack was impetuous and relentless, ever challenging, and he ran like a deer in retrieving.

He was the completely equipped and efficient adversary, jaunty, a bit cocky in his breezy self-assurance, with gallery appeal. He could be sarcastic and some thought him egotistical, but it was a pose and he had an ever-ready grin. He cut a hand­some figure with his regular features, raven black hair, and phy­sique that was perfection for the game. Once he developed the stroke that had eluded him, he was virtually unstoppable.

In 1933, Perry led the British to a 4-1 win over the U.S. in the inter-zone final and to the glorious 3-2 victory over France that brought the Davis Cup back to Britain after a wait of 21 years. As Stade Roland Garros boiled with patriotic fervor, and a seventh straight Cup in the balance for the home side, Fred icily erased a set point in the second to take the last match from rookie Andre Merlin, 4-6, 8-6, 6-2, 7-5. It was the climax of the greatest individual season for a Cup winner: 12-1 in singles, 4-2 in doubles.

Britain retained the Cup through 1936 as Perry won every singles match he played in the four challenge rounds. England had not produced a Wimbledon singles champion for a quarter-century, but Perry took care of that, too. He won three straight Wimbledon finals without loss of a set, defeating defender Jack Crawford in 1934, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5, and Gottfried von Cramm in 1935, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4, and again in 1936, 6-1, 6-1, 6-0.

At Forest Hills in 1933, he was the 6-3, 11-13, 4-6, 6-0, 6-1, stop­per as Crawford reached the U.S. final with an unprecedented Grand Slam within reach. The next year, Fred might have had the first Slam himself but for a quarterfinal defeat at the French by Italy’s Giorgio de Stefani, 6-2, 1-6, 9-7, 6-2.

Perry, a 6-footer, was also impressive elsewhere, winning the U.S. Championship in 1933, 1934 and 1936 (over Don Budge in 1936, 2-6, 6-2, 8-6, 1-6, 10-8, despite two match points), an assault interrupted only in 1935, when he suffered a painful kidney injury in a fall, and lost in the semifinals to Wilmer Allison. In 1934, he won the Australian Championship defeating Crawford 6-3, 7-5, 6-1, and in 1935, he won the French over von Cramm 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3. Fred was the first player to take all four majors, finish­ing with a total of eight major singles tites.

When Perry joined the pro tour, he drew huge crowds to see him play Ellsworth Vines and Tilden. Perry won the U.S. Pro Championship in both 1938, over Bruce Barnes, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, and 1941 over Dick Skeen, 6-4, 6-8, 6-2, 6-3.

After his playing career, he became associated with the man­ufacturer of tennis clothing that bore his name, was a tennis cor­respondent for a London newspaper and took part in radio and television coverage of tennis. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975 and died Feb. 2, 1995, in Melbourne. He ranked in the world’s Top 10 from 1931 through 1936, No. 1 the last three years.

MAJOR TITLES (14)—Australian singles, 1934; French singles, 1935; Wimbledon singles. 1934-35-36; U.S. singles, 1933-34, 36; Australian doubles, 1934; French dou­bles, 1933; French mixed, 1932; Wimbledon mixed 1935-36; U.S. mixed. 1932. DAVIS CUP—1931-32-33-34-35-36, 34-4 singles, 11-3 doubles. SINGLES RECORD IN THE MAJORS—Australian (7-1), French (22-5), Wimbledon (35-5), U.S. (34-4).