COLUMN: British players need to take Andy Murray mantle after years of lauding failure

Saturday, 06 July 2024 at 17:30
For years Andy Murray has anchored British hopes in tennis and in reality those who have been alongside him either on the ATP and WTA tour have floundered and not really produced. The time is now for those who are part of the next generation to step out of the dark and into the light.
Andy Murray embodied that British underdog spirit. As a nation, Brits love to root for the underdog and also of the hope that one day their luck will change and they will win. The football is a prime example. Gareth Southgate isn't exactly the best manager despite the great team and the results haven't been as good as they should be as a result of the latter. But every time a Euros or World Cup comes around, it is go time and English people will literally drop everything to see their team play.
Even Emma Raducanu lamented the fact that she has to play mixed doubles while England are playing. Andy Murray as a proud Scot won't care. But this goes also into the fact that as a country, we celebrate failure a lot. A lot of British tennis players who have one good result live off that for a long time and still get focal press coverage and also TV slots for their matches.
But part of that is also hope that they will recapture their magic. Heather Watson for instance is case and point. Currently just inside the top 200 and a far cry from her exploits in the early 2010's including being in the top 40 at one point, losses are still seen as shocks and there is still the ongoing coverage. Harriet Dart albeit a few years younger has attempted to step out of that.
Herself a victim of being in the shadow of Emma Raducanu and then Katie Boulter in being a rising Brit. She managed to claim in reality the biggest win of her career by defeating the British No.1. Somebody who she is known not to get on with and also a player that she grew up jousting with. Boulter had injury travails and in reality is the best hope from a British perspective aside from Raducanu.
Can Harriet Dart step into the void?
Can Harriet Dart step into the void?
Something likely that annoys Dart given that both were heavily touted as teenagers and into their early 20's as the next talents off the British conveyer belt. Raducanu even has a golden chance over this next week. She is into the latter stages and will face Lulu Sun for a spot in the Quarter-Finals.
But there is accepting failure and there is also expecting too much on her side which is that after winning the US Open as an unheralded teenage qualifier that she would be able to produce that week after week. She is starting to show again what she is all about and at her own pace. She is one of two players who will likely anchor the next Brit boom.
The other being Jack Draper who himself has undoubted talent. He though like Raducanu albeit without the Grand Slam to boot has struggled with injury. He also seemingly struggled with expectation during this year's Wimbledon. Winning in Stuttgart and beating Alcaraz at Queen's did wonders likely for his confidence but also means he gets more column inches in newspapers and more media attention than ever.
But his game is very much suited to join Raducanu and Boulter at the top table of British tennis going forward and usurp what Murray has done for the sport in the past two decades. Now the sport sits at a crossroads with their best hope gone and players who have yet to break the mould waiting in the wings.
In the past, Johanna Konta and Laura Robson have done a good job in anchoring British hopes on a female perspective. But both struggled with knee injuries in the end. Undoubted potential but never quite getting there which kind of sums it up.
Both will now know as focal points of the media for BBC and the latter also for Eurosport and Sky Sports, both the expectation that Brits have mainly from the media but also what happens when that comes crashing down.
Jack Draper has already shown green shoots but will be the heir apparent to the throne.
Jack Draper has already shown green shoots but will be the heir apparent to the throne.
As a nation, we should expect more than accepting failure and still thinking that one day it will all come good. It is now up to Draper, Raducanu, Boulter etc to step up and take the role that Murray has held. Whether that takes one year or five years, it will hopefully stand British tennis in good stead. A country that is revered in other sports but just hasn't quite got it right in tennis, the time is now.
Andy Murray should be celebrated and lauded as the legend that he is. But similar to the London 2012 legacy which never really was, it is up to the next crop to really find their way through and crash the party.
Whether that is also the likes of Jacob Fearnley, Charles Broom and Henry Searle or as we've seen Sonay Kartal, Lily Miyazaki among others. There is talent there but they only get opportunities really once a year through grass court tournaments and Wimbledon. This kind of opens a whole new debate about improvement without the backing and help and also wildcards.
But this goes for most Grand Slams as a whole with French players being case and point. Many though such as Parry, Burel, Fils etc have all ascended into not needing handouts anymore but also don't actually have any warm-up tournaments in France so perhaps is an even bigger talking point about pitching these stars aside from their native countries. Australia similarly albeit they have more opportunities due to geography in playing all of their warm-ups back home but female tennis over there in particular hasn't moved on from Ash Barty.
It is a similar predicament in the UK and now it is time for players to step out and gain their own acclaim. While Murray will dominate the headlines likely until he retires and until next year's Wimbledon, it is a golden opportunity for the next golden generation to take it by the scruff of the neck.

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