When was that, sir?
“Why, 1314,” he answered, as though it were yesterday.
Andy Murray, the great bright hope of Scotland and Britain, hopes he doesn’t have to wait that long to win a tennis major and acclaim as his land’s most prominent victor since the Scots of Bannockburn.
But as long as Roger Federer hangs out in the world’s tennis parlors it will be very hard going to knock him off his No. 1 perch. At 28 he’s just getting better, more confident and mellow as a rookie father,
It was “Breakfast in Melbourne” for the good folks of Scotland, tied by radio and TV Sunday morning to the far-off steely blue pavement of Rod Laver Arena where the Murray-Federer battle took place.
The balls were yellow, the ball kids garbed in pink, the clouds above the opened roof in puffy orange – and Murray soon felt as blue as the court, ever a step behind, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (13-11).
Bannockburn wasn’t mentioned again although Federer, taking this title for a fourth time – his record 16th singles major – made Murray burn for 2 hours-41 minutes.
Murray is only 22, a terrific shotmaker, superswift on his feet. He had eliminated the defending champion, Rafa Nadal, and performed admirably against the rising Croat, Marin Cilic in the semis. But then Federer stepped into his life and made him cry.
Nadal, taking the championship, had done the same to Federer here 12 months ago. Addressing the home folks via TV, Andy, out of Dunblane, brushed aside tears, saying, I’m sorry I couldn’t win it for you. I can cry as well as Roger, but I can’t play as well.
“I’m getting closer. It was better than Flushing Meadow” – an overpowering defeat in the US Open final by Federer in 2008.
Federer believes that Murray will win a major – a matter of time. “He’s too good not to.”
Murray lamented, “I had my chances tonight.” Three break points early “could have made it different.” But Roger wouldn’t budge, and was ahead to stay at 3-2.
Their stretched-out points, involving more spin than a presidential speech, wowed the full house of 15,000 as the two of them used every inch of the court and the surrounding regions to make balls stay in play.
Federer was a master of keeping a point alive with soft spins and angles – then lashing out to score with a huge forehand along either line. It was like mesmerizing somebody with a lullaby before tipping the bed over. Double-digit rallies were common and Federer was more often the winner. Every time it seemed that Murray might catch him, tantalizing Roger pulled away.
So when will this Britain-paining jinx expire. “Poor Andy. They haven’t won a major in 150,000 years,” Roger needled the Brits. He was a little off. Only Seventy four years have passed since the last major won by a Brit, Englishman Fred Perry seizing the US prior to television, 1936.
Only three more major chances for Andy this year. “Clay isn’t my best surface,” he said, “but I’ll work hard getting ready for the French.”
Roger said the tie-breaker was “a roller coaster. It was over so quick I didn’t realize I’d won the championship. It was a match of high intensity. “ He said he had to blend aggression with patience. Head and legs, obviously, were as important as shotmaking.
Meanwhile, the Scots will always have Bannockburn.
January 31 2010 09:19 am | Australian Open