A mint goes on Murray at Wimbledon
Published 22/06/2009 | 01:39
As the Wimbledon fortnight begins, one man — Andy Murray — carries the hopes of a nation on his shoulders.
For years it was perennial nearly-man Tim Henman who rallied the crowds.
But the fist-pumping four-time semi-finalist was ever the gallant loser, never the winner.
Murray appears to have broken the British mould, a Scottish bicep-flexing braveheart the bookies believe is ready to put an end to the yearly sporting failure.
He demonstrates an on-court killer instinct which has seen him rise to number three in the world.
And it is not just the media commentators who have been lining up to back the 22-year-old.
Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and “Tiger Tim” himself have all said Murray can win.
Murray will wait until Tuesday to take on American Robert Kendrick in the first round, a man he has beaten in all three of their previous meetings.
The withdrawal of last year's champion Rafael Nadal has opened up a route to the final which could see him taking on Swiss maestro Roger Federer.
Federer will play the opening match on Centre Court, where he is expected to brush aside Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei in his bid for a sixth title.
The four other Brits in the men's singles are all wild card entries and face a tough draw.
Daniel Evans opens against the 12th seed Nikolay Davydenko of Russia, Alex Bogdanovic plays the 20th seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, James Ward plays seventh seed Fernando Verdasco of Spain and Josh Goodall plays the Frenchman Michael Llodra.
Of the five British women players, only Anne Keothavong made it into the draw on merit, with the others entered as wild cards.
The British number one is expected to beat Austria's Patricia Mayr.
Georgie Stoop has the hardest task, coming up against Russian seventh seed Vera Zvonareva.
And Laura Robson, the winner of last year's junior title, will play experienced world number 33 Daniela Hantuchova.
Laura will be aged 15 years and 152 days on Monday — the youngest player in the tournament since Martina Hingis in 1995.
Among the other British women, Mel South will play Mathilde Johansson, Katie O'Brien is up against Iveta Benesova and Elena Baltacha will meet Alona Bondarenko.
The women's singles also sees last year's champion Venus Williams in the same side of the draw as this year's top seed Dinara Safina.
Meanwhile all eyes will be on glamorous Russian Maria Sharapova as she continues her return from injury.
Interestingly, 20 of the 64 women in the draw have names which end in “ova” and a further seven have names ending in “eva”.
Of course, Wimbledon is about more than just champions.
There is also the queuing, the weather and the strawberries and cream.
If there is a possibility the tournament will see the first British men's singles champion since Fred Perry in 1936, there is a high probability it will see the first use of Centre Court's new retractable roof. In the event of rain, the translucent roof will take about eight minutes to concertina outwards to cover the court.
Within another 30 minutes, with atmospheric conditions stabilised, play will be ready to go on.
The roof spells the end of lengthy rain delays and impromptu Cliff Richard singalongs, but organisers have stressed this is an outdoor tournament and will only use it as a last resort.
This year Wimbledon has already sparked the inevitable debate about women's tennis, or more specifically women's grunting and shrieking.
Sharapova is reportedly as loud as a lion. But this year all ears will be on 16-year-old Portuguese player Michelle Larcher de Brito, whose wail is said to have been measured at 109 decibels, just 11 decibels short of the noise a plane makes when taking off.
In all, between 470,000 and 480,000 people are expected to pass through the Wimbledon gates over the fortnight.