The year of the unique double at SW19

Posted on June 25, 2012

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Once every 76 years, star gazers around the world anxiously wait to catch a glimpse of the Halley’s Comet passing over Earth. The celestial wonder making an appearance could be the biggest event of the year. Sports fans, this year, will become stargazers. Witnessing action at the SW 19 twice in a year will be akin to the passing of the Halley’s Comet.

Thanks to the London Olympics, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Association will have to mow grass, set nets and draw markers for a second time after the Wimbledon Championships.

It was five scores and four years back, in 1908, when this unique ‘double’ took place.

Much before the open era dawned, when gentlemen turned out in trousers, when mini-skirts were still in the making and curtsying to any blue-blooded member of the British monarchy was mandatory.

Two Britons – Josiah Ritchie and Arthur Gore – bagged the top spot at the Olympics and Wimbledon respectively in gentleman’s category.

It is as unlikely that an athlete from the British Isles will get in arm’s reach to either of the crowns. The spoils of the prodigious Fred Perry – who scored a Wimbledon hat trick from 1934 to 1936 – as the last Briton to win the Wimbledon is not yet matched.

Andy Murray, the Scot, is the only one who can come close to both these titles but he has to breach a bastion which is as strong as the Great Wall of China, Guns of Navarone and Fort Knox combined in the form of simmering skirmishes between Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Murray, currently ranked behind the triumvirate, has not yet displayed signs of a big match-winner.

Chances look slim this year too

A semi-final finish at the Australian Open and second place at the Miami Masters, with Djokovic getting the better of him on both occasions, may act as a much needed morale-booster.

Victories against the Serb and Nadal at Dubai and Miami Masters respectively (both semi-finals) also bode well to strengthen his vein of confidence. But he has to overcome the disappointments at Roland Garros (a quarterfinal finish) and the Queens Club (second-round).

Though he was plagued by an ailing back in Paris, Murray was advised to withdraw from the French Open. Jim Courier, the former French Open Champion, said Murray should have withdrawn against Jarkko Nieminen in their second round duel. The same view was shared by Boris Becker and Virginia Wade. But, he went on until till quarterfinals where David Ferrer ended his campaign.

The AEGON Championships at the 125-year-old Queens Club, whose title Murray was defending after two consecutive victories serves as a buffer tournament to allow players to acclimatise to grass after the red-soil rich French Open. Naturally billed as the top-seed, Murray faltered early losing to Frenchman Nicholas Mahut (6-3,6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-1)).

“Being knocked out of Queen’s so early was obviously disappointing as it’s a tournament I love playing. But it’s not the first time we’ve seen a surprise there and won’t be the last,” Murray said in his BBC column.

“I spoke to my coach Ivan Lendl afterwards and he just said, ‘Don’t worry about it, it was your first match on grass, it was close, you had a lot of chances. Let’s get ready for Wimbledon’,” he added, making his priorities clear.

Murray has been working with the former No.1 and two time Wimbledon finalist Ivan Lendl since the beginning of this year.

Given his current physical condition, the odds would be tilted against Murray at the Wimbledon starting later this month and the Olympics in July. His best at the oldest Grand Slam is a Tim Henman-like semi-final finish.

In the Olympics, Murray has, so far, managed to win only one game in the quadrennial extravaganza last held at Beijing, where Taiwan’s Le Yen-hsun beat him in the second round.

It is exactly 76 years since an Englishman last won the Gentlemen’s crown at Wimbledon, just as much as it takes for the Halley’s Comet to appear. If a win is not produced this year, the odds would favour the appearance of the comet ahead of that elusive winner from Great Britain in those pristine green courts.

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Posted in: Olympics, Sports, Tennis