Wimbledon has almost arrived in the slipstream of the World Cup, but it would be fair to say that levels of Murraymania are more furtive than fever pitch. In fact, if the man himself is to be believed, the mute function is something that could be reached for at any time.
After a win over a dysfunctional Stan Wawrinka and a respectable defeat against his old pal and Brit tennis’s new kid on the block Kyle Edmund, Murray’s expectations for SW19 are limited. “I need to play it a little bit by ear, I can’t predict how I will feel in two days,” he said. “If I feel like I do today in a couple of days, then I’ll be playing.”
No wonder. The Scot has only played three competitive matches since the semi-final defeat against Sam Querrey at the AELTC 12 months ago. The din will be good while it lasts, but he is liable to break down more times than Fernando Alonso..
Step forward Edmund, who is a thoroughly likeable chap, now in the world’s top 20 and able to reach the business end of grand slams as he proved in Australia in January. However, it’s not really the same. Kyle is cuddly and a damn good player, but can he whip us all into a frenzy for the best part of two weeks?
Likewise, the home fans haven’t really got a thing going just yet for Johanna Konta. She was brilliant in reaching the semis last year, especially with a wonderful win over Simona Halep in the last eight. Konta hasn’t really built on it in terms of results or public persona. “If she has a routine to follow, she will follow it to the letter. It’s almost robotic, but actually a huge strength,” says Judy Murray. That’s great, Judy, but it’s not interesting.
When Murray cried after losing to Federer at Wimbledon in 2012, it was the breakthrough moment between him and the public. When Konta cried after woman-charmer and Romanian captain Ilie Nastase hurled abuse at the Fed Cup last year, her opponent Sorana Cirstea had no sympathy: “ Why did we stop? Only because Johanna cried? I have never cried on the court because someone told me something. You have to toughen up.”
And then there was that rather horrible John Humphrys interview on Radio 4 where the miserly veteran broadcaster questioned her nationality in a typically provocative manner.: “We talk about you as being British, but you were born in Hungary, Australian citizenship… “So what are you?” She was actually born in Australia, John.
Let’s call it the Greg Rusedski effect where Tim Henman was playing the Andy Murray role and Canadian-Brit Rusedski was the admired but unloved fall-back should nice Tim get knocked out. In that respect, Konta is always fighting against the tide.
Over the next fortnight, expect to hear a few “C’mon Tim” shouts as the home crowd look for a new hero to fill the inevitable void of a virtually Murray-free tournament…