ROGER FEDERER’S knees had barely touched the ground in celebration when it started.
The grumbles. The moans. The rolling of eyes. The tuts of disappointment.
And that’s before one self-appointed jester rolled out the tired, inevitable “well, Andy Murray is Scottish again” quip.
Murray’s failure to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since 1936 prompted idle chatter that he isn’t actually very good. That he greeted his final defeat by blubbing live to the nation also put him in danger of being something of a Paul Gascoigne for the generation.
But hang on a minute.
This is a man who has now reached four Grand Slam finals, more than the whole of the British male population put together in the last 70-odd years. A man who last year became only the seventh player in the Open era to reach the semi-finals of all four Grand Slam events. And a man who is widely considered to be in the top four in the world and would win more if he wasn’t in an era that contains Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, all regarded as among the greatest players of all time.
Tim Henman suffered much the same throughout his career on the tennis court.
A perennial Wimbledon semi-finalist, the one year he didn’t make the penultimate stage in 2004 prompted the usual shrugs of shoulders from the ‘what do you expect, he’s British’ brigade.
But that year he reached the last four of both the US Open and French Open. Not bad for someone seen as a grass court specialist.
Murray is better than Henman ever was. And Henman was pretty good.
The finest athletes learn more about themselves in defeat rather than victory, so it will be intriguing to witness how Murray responds to his Wimbledon heartache.
But in any case, isn’t it about time British people stopped being so cynical about sportsmen and sportswomen who, while not the very, very best, are still extremely good at their chosen profession?