Wimbledon 2013: Centre Court crowd must raise the roof for Andy Murray - or else
With a misplaced courtesy more commonly associated with those he was hoping to influence, Andy Murray issued a coded appeal to the Centre Court crowd after the Lazarus act against Fernando Verdasco.
“When I went behind, the crowd definitely got right behind me and made a huge, huge difference,” said the Scot after Wednesday’s coronary inducer. “If they can be like that from the first point to the last in all of the matches, it makes a huge difference.”
One need not possess a long service medal from Bletchley Park to decrypt this. “If you want me to win Wimbledon, you effete Centre Court Sassenachs,” he was saying, “ditch the Home Counties reserve, and don’t wait until I’m two sets down to make a noise.”
As Murray’s poetic repetition of the phrase “a huge difference” subtly hinted, the crowd’s impact on his chances cannot be exaggerated. If Friday it communicates its anxiety to him again, Jerzy Janowicz may have the insolence not to freeze in his first major semi, and could power serve him to perdition.
On the large assumptions that Murray does win, and that Novak Djokovic defuses the Exocets fired by Juan Martin del Potro with an accuracy happily beyond his country’s navy in 1982, the 15,000 present will face a grave test when Murray meets the Serb on Sunday.
Were I suddenly, and frankly belatedly, installed as lifetime dictator, it would be absolutely their last chance. Another feckless spectating performance like the one during Wednesday’s first two sets, and that would be that for the conventional Centre Court crowd.
We have tolerated the betrayal of its patriotic duty to support native players with demented passion for far too long. In 2001, to take one poignant example, Tim Henman would have beaten Goran Ivanisevic in the rain-delayed semi under the ticket allocation proposal outlined below.
Instead, at two sets all, the crowd infected him with its fearfulness, and he missed out on a Monday final in front of the sort of football-ish crowd that would have intimidated Pat Rafter and screeched Henman to victory.
Which brings me to the three-point master plan I pledge to introduce, as your benign tyrant, if the Centre Court crowd disgraces itself again:
1) All debenture holders will be interned, in a heavily patrolled Glastonbury-style agricultural setting (luxury yurts for all; no need to be vindictive), for the duration of Wimbledon;
2) Their confiscated tickets will be reapportioned in a lottery;
3) Applicants will be limited to season ticket holders (preferably, though not necessarily, with convictions for violent crime) at Chelsea, Cardiff City, Millwall, Leeds United and the Glasgows, Rangers and Celtic. For all his ungodly mental strength, it would be intriguing to see how Djokovic coped with having his every service fault cheered like an injury time Cup final winner.
If it seems brutal, I make no apology for that. Top level tennis is brutal psychological war, and all is fair. The All England Club takes much of the blame for any confusion with the game played on rectory lawns.
The inscription above the Centre Court entrance is Kipling’s line about treating triumph and disaster just the same. It has no business being there, and should be replaced by the American football coach Vince Lombardi’s apercu that “winning isn’t everything. It is the only thing”.
In fairness to it, the Centre Court crowd has improved a little. It laughs less uproariously at every exhumation of that side-splitter “Come On Tim”, and applauds less lustily when an umpire asks them, as a courtesy to both players, to switch off mobile phones.
It now greets such distractions with about the same enthusiasm as an impossibly brilliant running top-spin forehand down the line from Rafael Nadal. But it still has far to travel to match the passion and decibel levels found on the Arthur Ashe Court in New York, where Murray won his only major title last year.
If he is to add a second, he will need the crowd on Friday, and more so on Sunday. So the advice to those with tickets, if they wish to retain them under any dictatorship of mine, is this: your country expects you to do your deafeningly raucous duty from the warm-up onwards.
Fail Andy Murray again, and this time next year you will be drinking the Pimm’s in a soggy Gloucestershire field surrounded by cattle and military personnel.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/tennis/andymurray/10160623/imbledon-2013-Centre-Court-crowd-must-raise-the-roof-for-Andy-Murray-or-else.html