If, for some reason, someone asked you to draw up a list of things that come to mind when thinking about a British summer, I dare say that Wimbledon would enjoy a fairly prominent position on that list.
Wimbledon always commands a very special place on the British sporting calendar and has somehow managed to remain as an island of civility amidst the sea of commercialisation and greed that makes up much of modern sport.
Yes, it is a sporting event, but as anyone who has actually been to Wimbledon before will testify, it is more than that. It has a special atmosphere that somehow belongs to a bygone era – ivy-clad buildings, strawberries and cream, hushed voices, straw boaters and beautifully manicured grass as far as the eye can see. Oh, and rain of course.
From as far back as I can remember, those first two weeks of July have involved watching a series of greats gracing its hallowed turf – McEnroe, Nastase, Connors, Borg, Becker, Federer, Nadal…not to mention Court, Goolagong, Evert, Navratilova, Graf, Wiliams (x2). The list goes on.
Their names trip easily off the tongue and conjour up memories of magnificent performances and epic victories. But what is noticeable is the complete absence of any Brits among this list.
Indeed, when it comes to the Wimbledon men’s singles, there hasn’t been a single Brit in the final since Bunny Austin in 1938 and no British winner since clothing icon, Fred Perry, two years earlier in 1936.
There have of course been plenty of glorious failures along the way – Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski (who was sort of British, in a Canadian kind of way) in recent years have flattered to deceive, tantalising us as far as the semi-finals on occasions, before cruelly dashing our hopes.
Prior to that names like Roger Taylor, Mark Cox, Buster Mottram, John Lloyd and Jeremy Bates raised the odd flicker of hope (usually in the first few days) before we all settled back to watching the usual big names dominate the business end of the tournament without the need for any one-eyed patriotism to get in the way of enjoying the games.
But that has all changed this year in the glorious British summer of 2012 (well, glorious if you don’t count the weather….or the Euros)
Yes, shout it from the rooftops – Andy Murray has made it through to the Wimbledon men’s final on Sunday. Who would have believed it?
But, despite the magnitude of this performance, Murray remains a somewhat polarising character.
Proudly Scottish, he blotted his early copybook, alienating most English fams by claiming to support anyone who was playing against England in the football World Cup. Silly boy.
Whilst his PR team have knocked off some of those Braveheart rough edges, he still remains a prickly character, prone to sudden outbursts on court, much to the consternation of his generally placid opponents and the gentile Wimbledon crowd alike.
And in an effort to ratchet down his charm rating further, he has recruited moody Ivan Lendl as his coach, hired, it would seem to sit in the players box and look pissed off during Murray’s games.
Those minor quibbles aside, in my books he is still British (until Sunday, at least) and is also a mighty fine tennis player too.
Unsurprisingly, but somewhat worryingly, the media is currently working itself up into a frenzy at the possibility of a Brit finally breaking that 76 year hoodoo and the British public are being swept along on the tide.
But based on my own extensive experience of following British sport over the years, I recognise this dangerous level of hype and can gloomily report that it almost always ends badly.
This time, I really hope I’m wrong. Good luck Andy.