Outside of the tennis circle I don't think the general public really realise the enormity of what he's achieved this year.
I really could not agree more. I would also say that there are some who are making a considerable effort to put down what Andy has done. What I mean is, when Andy won the Olympic gold he was the first Brit to do so in singles for 104 years. That's quite an achievement in itself, but the reaction from some quarters was 'Yes, but it's not a major is it? The Olympics isn't the pinnacle in tennis', blah, blah, blah. What people who thought like that forgot to mention is that for Andy to win the gold he had to play a best of five set match, exactly the same as he would in a major final, and against a multi-major winner too, one who had beaten him in a major final just 28 days previously. Well, as we know, Andy didn't just beat him, he wiped the court with him, and don't even get me started on the 'Federer was tired' debate.
Then there is the USO, which in some eyes is invalid because Nadal wasn't there. I'm sure you, like me, didn't realise that a win is only a win if you beat an opponent who isn't even there, and one that even if he had been you would only be able to meet in the final anyway. Seriously, do some people actually put any thought into their attempts to put Andy down? Again, Andy had to beat a multi-slam winner, the defending champion no less, who hadn't lost in a hard court major for two years, but Andy went and did it, and over five sets too. I'm still inclined to agree with Mark Petchey that it was better for Andy to win like that than in straight sets. You can't fluke a win like that no matter what anyone says.
I must mention Wimbledon though, because although it didn't go the way we would have wanted in the final, it was still one heck of an achievement to get there. Andy carries the weight of expectation at Wimbledon, from a nation, who, let's be honest about it, couldn't give a flying fig about the sport at any other time of the year. This year he might have been less pressurised to start with, given that he'd gone out of Queen's so early, but all that changed when Rosol put Nadal out. In some eyes Andy might as well have been given a bye to the final. I'm still glad he didn't see it like that. Still, it put the pressure back on to him, and then some. Facing Tsonga in the semi's doesn't sound as tough as Nadal on the face of it, but in some ways it is worse, surely. Against Nadal Andy would have been the under-dog. Against Tsonga he was the red-hot favourite. Losing to Tsonga would arguably have been a disaster. Just as well Andy didn't lose then, huh? I don't think I'll ever forget Andy coming through that match, the sense that we'd just watched history being made, the crowd going mad, Mark Petchey sounding like he was about to burst a blood vessel, or burst into tears, maybe even both, and having his own little 'they think it's all over' moment. Then there was our Andy, who was almost on the brink of tears, and understandably so. As for the final, I went from wanting to hug the crowd to wanting to strangle every last one of them, and then crying right along with some of them at the end. I wonder in retrospect what Andy would have thought that day if he could have been told what lay just around the corner for him, that history hadn't given up and gone home, but was still beckoning.
The nature of what Andy has done this year is mind-boggling. Wasn't during the USO final that Petch talked about the number of first time major winners there have been in the open era? I can't remember how many he said, but I am sure he said that only 14 of them, 15 if you include Andy now, have beaten multi-major winners. It's wonderful to think that Andy is now on that list, but what I also think is amazing is that Andy has beaten two multi-major winners this year, in finals, for the biggest prizes in the sport, and of course he had to beat Djokovic in the semi of the Olympics too, to get to the final. The fact that he did that after those four major final losses is a remarkable achievement, and one that I think says so much for his character, and also the future that could be ahead for him.