When Andy Murray triumphed on a sun-baked Centre Court against Novak Djokovic in the 2013 Wimbledon final, I hoped we’d finally heard the last of ‘Fred Perry’ and ‘1936’ – two words that seemed to hover over British Tennis like a harbinger of doom every summer.
This weekend, as Team GB go for Davis Cup glory, ‘Perry’ and ‘1936’ have resurfaced as commentators discuss 79 years of hurt since Britain last won the biggest team competition in the sport.
For such a monumental achievement for our home country, why does it feel like Team GB’s efforts have gone unheralded in sporting circles?
Casting aside the disappointment of the Home Nations’ performances in the Rugby World Cup, as well as the perennial disappointment of England’s football team in major tournaments, we’ve been pretty spoilt as a Home Nation this decade when it comes to sporting success – a record breaking Olympic medal haul in London, Murray winning Wimbledon, an epic Lions tour, Ashes wins home and away, two home Tour de France winners, Lewis Hamilton becoming the most successful F1 driver in British history… the list could go on.
Amidst all of the headline-grabbers, British Tennis has been quietly resuscitating itself behind-the-scenes under the stewardship of Leon Smith.
Britain has long been seen as a laughing stock in tennis circles – scratch beyond Andy Murray and there’s very little beneath the surface they say. While the individual men’s rankings back up that theory – the ratio of top-100 players to the levels of LTA investment are undeniably poor – we should remember that Davis Cup is about more than one person and few can argue that a genuine team effort has seen Smith’s invigorated squad reach the brink of an unlikely yet entirely achievable success.
Wind the clock back to April 2013 and a Murray-less Great Britain took on Russia in a Euro/Africa Zone Group 1 Play-Off. After going 2-0 down in the best of five match, a series of incredible performances from unheralded players such as James Ward, Dan Evans and the doubles pairing of Colin Fleming and Jonathan Marray (another Wimbledon winner let’s not forget) saw the team bounce back to win 3-2 and provide a platform and genuine impetus for the challenges that lay ahead.
Fast forward and barring a setback away in Italy, Britain’s record has been unblemished, seeing off all of the other Grand Slam nations and so-called tennis powerhouses of USA, France and Australia en route to this weekend’s final against Belgium. Who can forget James Ward’s epic win over John Isner in the final set or the Murray brothers’ marathon five-setter against Hewitt’s Australia.
Yes, Andy Murray is the star of the show and every successful team needs a world-class leader. But the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
Let’s remember that over the next three days and give British Tennis the praise it rightfully deserves.