LONDON – The tears apparently have dried, but unfortunately the streets haven’t. The Sunday Times had a front-page story on something other than the overdone hopes of Andy Murray, and it was about the weather for the upcoming Olympics.
In a word, like England’s results in soccer, grim.
Supposed to continue wet and cold until early August. In other words, nothing unusual. As were the results at Wimbledon, where you know, Serena Williams remade herself and Murray unmade himself. Well, that’s a bit harsh. Roger Federer unmade Murray.
England is a larger version of Cubs Nation, or Red Sox Nation before 2004, thinking things are going to change when they never do. They did in Boston, but as we’re too aware, they haven’t for almost a century at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field or 76 years at the not-so-friendly confines of the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
Even if Steve Bartman didn’t deflect the ball, the Cubs still might have stumbled in the playoffs, albeit they were only a few outs away from the World Series. But then what if they get to the Series and lose, as Murray reached the men’s final and lost?
Nothing about sport is equitable or fair. Phil Mickelson might have dominated golf but along came Tiger Woods. After Andy Roddick won a U.S. Open in 2003, Federer arrived – and how, becoming the one who not only beat Andy three times in the Wimbledon finals but now has 17 Grand Slams and is identified as the greatest tennis player ever.
In Britain, where in true fashion Murray is being called brave and courageous – words which must serve as a poor substitute for “champion’’ – the fashion is to point out again he could have defeated anybody except Roger Federer.
“... On the other side of the net,’’ wrote Simon Barnes in Monday’s Times, “there was a man playing tennis much in the way that God does when he brings his A-game.’’ Sighed Barnes, in print, “Maybe we’ll get another chance in 74 years.’’
At Wimbledon they’ll get another chance in three weeks, except it won’t be Wimbledon, it will be the Olympics. The athletes consider that a wonderful opportunity, but it cheapens the real thing.
Maybe six months later, it would be different. Or holding it at Queens or Roehampton, two other grass court sites in Greater London.
As a comparison, the Yankees and Dodgers play a World Series at Dodger Stadium, and then a few weeks later the World Baseball Classic is held at the same location.
But Wimbledon has a magic name, and so the Olympic tennis, with all the green backstops already draped in various pastels, will be contested there. With any fortune, we get Federer against Murray, a Groundhog Day experience and win or lose Murray keeps his composure.
There may be no crying in baseball, but damn there is in tennis. First the women tear up. Then Federer, for his record-tying seventh victory – after we in the media cogently predicted he never would win another major – sobs a bit. Then Murray weeps openly, explaining you can’t play the sport without emotion.
But there are other ways to express it - aren’t there? - than crying? “New Bawls Please’’ was the headline in Metro, the free paper for Underground riders. That’s the London Underground, also known as The Tube, not some surreptitious new rock group.
In the wake of Federer’s victory, the question was posed whether he belongs amongst Michael Jordan, Pele and Tiger Woods as one of the greatest athletes of the past half-century. Because Wimbledon is played on this side of the Atlantic, there is a tendency for those mentioned to be involved in international sports, as opposed to a Tom Brady or Barry Bonds, steroids or no steroids for Barry.
“He’s up there’’ said Murray of Federer. “Rafa (Nadal) is up there in the conversation as well. Both of them have been unbelievable athletes.’’
Federer, who at times has difficulty restraining his self-appreciation – Didn’t Muhammad Ali say, “It ain’t bragging if it’s true”? – gave us the semi-humble response.
“It’s opinions,’’ Federer said of the praise. “It’s nice, obviously having had a positive effect on the game of tennis. ... Not that I feel obliged to do all the right things or whatever, but it’s nice to be compared to the other sporting greats. ... But I drew a lot of inspirations from other great athletes in other sports, I think like Pete (Sampras) and (Stefan) Edberg and (Boris) Becker. I don’t know, maybe Jordan, Tiger Woods and (Italian motorcycle champion) Valentino Rossi.
“They inspire me to keep on pushing further. You know, just not being happy with world No. 1 or being happy with a Grand Slam title, but maybe to reach for more.”
He’s reaching. The hope is Andy Murray hasn’t reached too far, halting at a place he never may pass. And, oh yes, the hope is the sun shines in Britain, literally. New bawls, please