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article imageOp-Ed: The British at Wimbledon — Looking back, and back

By Alexander Baron     Jul 10, 2012 in Sports
London - Wimbledon is over for another year, and yet again the promised British men's singles champion has failed to materialise, but are things really that bad?
Andrew Murray is unquestionably the biggest star in British tennis since the 1930s, and this year it seemed like the Wimbledon title was his for the taking, especially with the shock exit of sometime poker player Rafael Nadal in the second round. At least two of the sport's big names predicted a Murray win over Federer in 5 sets, and with the men's doubles title going the previous day to wildcard Englishman Jonathan Marray and his Danish partner Frederik Nielsen, fate as well as history beckoned. So much for astrology.
Murray started well, winning the first set - his first ever in a Grand Slam final - and he had already made history, but he was playing one of certainly no more than a dozen men who have a genuine claim to be the greatest singles player of all time, and many good judges place Federer at number one ahead of such illustrious names as Sampras, McEnroe and Borg to name but three from recent history. After the final, Murray was gracious in defeat but close to tears, probably not at the thought of the estimated £100,000,000 he would have earned from product endorsements and such had he won the tournament, but hey, he's still only 25!
Although tennis was probably born in France, it is no exaggeration to say that like cricket it is an English game and was exported to the world by England, the British Empire in particular, and the damned foreigners proceeded to teach us how to play it.
But, things were never that bad. Wimbledon was first held in 1877, and the first winner was an Englishman, Spencer Gore (1850-1906); Gore was not only an Englishman but a native of Wimbledon. In 1881, William Renshaw won the first of no less than seven titles, six consecutive, and the seventh in 1889, when he beat his twin brother Ernest in the final for the third time! The first overseas player to win the men's singles title was Australian Norman Brookes in 1907. After that, other nationalities came to the fore, but in 1934, Englishman Fred Perry won the first of a hat trick of titles, and that was as good as it got for British men, although Jamie Murray - Andrew's older brother, won the Wimbledon Mixed Doubles in 2007 partnering Jelena Janković.
The ladies championship followed a similar pattern with Dorothy Round Little winning the second of her two titles in 1937, Angela Mortimer Barrett in 1961, Ann Jones in 1969 and Virginia Wade in Wimbledon centenary year, 1977.
Sadly, one of our potentially greatest champions retired at the age of just 21. In 1984, Annabel Croft won not only the Wimbledon Girls title but the Australian Girls - two Grand Slam titles in one year! After achieving a ranking of number 21 in the world, she decided to pursue a less physically demanding career, and moved seemlessly into television including sports reporting the same way David Icke did after his short career in football - but without the giant blood drinking lizards from outer space!
Although she is known today as a TV presenter  Annabel Croft is the best Wimbledon Champion we never...
Although she is known today as a TV presenter, Annabel Croft is the best Wimbledon Champion we never had. In 1984 she won both Wimbledon and the Australian Girls titles but gave up the sport to pursue a career in the media.
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What of next year? Murray is still the man to watch, and it would be foolish to rule him out, but although he has probably not yet reached his peak, at the top it is now extremely tough, and 12 months from now even Federer and Nadal may find themselves dumped out of the tournament before the final if they are only 99% in form.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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