Monday, 29 June 2009

A satisfying humiliation for Little Englanders

If Murray is going to win, he really will have had to fight for it. And it is precisely because, unlike Henman, he understands what fighting actually is - and doesn't think, not even in some unthinking mental background, that there is something faintly vulgar about it - that he could fight and win on this most exhausting of nights.

A little bit of Old England died tonight, and all I felt was the drama of sport at its very best, and final elation. Those whose petty little bigotry is infinitely more likely to break the Union than Murray ever will have been definitively defeated. You will never hear Cliff Richard on that ancient turf again. We did get 15 seconds or so of "Sporting Occasion", but we needed no more - and in context it worked, because here was a moment when the worst of the past was put behind us, not - as so often - the best.

I am not saying the Union has to stay together for this reason alone, but those in England outside the southern middle class have - I think - mostly realised that Murray's experiences and attitudes have far more in common with theirs than Henman's ever could have. By Sunday night, something might have happened which could have significance way beyond tennis. Or maybe it's too far gone. But this was a victory to stir even the harshest heart.


  1. Yes - Murray has what I would call guts and determination.

    What do you think of the greater decline of British tennis, if indeed there is one? I don't know that there is - if you mean that the Eastern Europeans have risen up, just because of some of their fighting qualities.

  2. I think a lot more money was put into tennis in Eastern Europe in the 1990s and 2000s, especially in Serbia (where I think it may have been a particular priority under Milosevic). I think British tennis was bound to suffer for a long time for the same reason as a great many other British things (not least English football) - the sheer weight of suffocating, unchangeable history. But it was also underfunded, and was specifically damaged by the cultural fear of competition and of trying hard whose opposition *from within* was one of the few partially good things about Thatcherism. There are many elements, few of which are purely about sport (but then sport, at least on the level I find it most interesting, rarely is).