Magnificent Murray can go better still

Andy Murray’s phenomenal victory against Rafael Nadal has delivered the prospect of a first British singles Grand Slam winner since Fred Perry way back when tennis players wore long trousers and smoked cigarettes between games.

But never mind the history stuff. What this victory demonstrates is Murray’s fantastic progress in the last six months. His fitness, speed, reactions, shot locker, serve, everything has improved to the extent that he can match and beat the very best in the world.

Peter Fleming called it a ‘coming of age’ and that’s dead right. Murray out-muscled Nadal. I’ve not seen anyone do that before. His power hitting, his accuracy and his doggedness in defence proved a wining combination and it backs up my belief that he will reach number one in the world. Sooner rather than later. Way back in this blog I said he’d be no1 by the time he was 21. Well, he’s reached no4 and he’s lost almost a season through injury too. So I’m feeling relatively smug about my prediction.

Can he beat Federer? Yes. And if he plays like he did against Nadal (the extremely gracious and sporting Nadal, by the way) he will win. Simple as that. Nadal, world no1, had no consistent answer to Murray and Federer will wilt under the bombardmant. But the Swiss has experience and genius on his side. It should be a great US Open Final.

Oh, and a word on the anti-Murray morons. Fine. Have your opinion, just keep it to yourself. Y’know, I support teams who play Scotland at football but that doesn’t stop me supporting a Scot who is flying Britain’s flag whether he hates English football or not. He should do. He’s Scottish for god’s sake. Any parochial little England armchair sports prat who cannot see what a talent we have and is unable to support it needs to wonder why it is that so many British talents never make it.

People like you, that’s why. Because you can’t wait to find fault. Celebrate the success of this justly proud British Scotsman. Examine why he is on his way to the summmit of men’s tennis. Yes he is arrogant. Thank heavens for that. Yes, he is grumpy and unlikeable at times. He’s 21. Jeez. And you know, he isn’t there to make everyone love him. He’s there to win tennis matches. Bloody good at it he is too.

Come on, Andy.

• September 8th, 2008 • Posted in Tennis • Comments: 0

Forget the spandex goons, hail the real Gladiators

Wimbledon saw a match of true heroic stature today. And, unsually in this circumstance, it was the British player who came out on top.

I remember seeing Ian Wright doing a trail for the new series of the utterly pointless and puerile Gladiators in which he claimed it would be the TV event of the year. How wrong he was. Actually, he was wrong well before today on Centre Court but that’s another story. Don’t get me started about the spangly powder puff big cotton bud TV show he presents. Pathetic, worthless and immensely sad and an insult to the word ‘garbage’.

Anyway… Andy Murray vs Richard Gasquet. Phenomonal and a true match of two halves. Lucky for Murray, only the second half counts. At two sets to love down, Murray was broken to trail 4-5. Gasquet came out to serve for the match. Murray had to break to survive. Something he had shown no signs of doing previously. When it really mattered, he did it. To 15 as well. It wasn’t even close. that remarkable achievement could have been all for nought but that Murray then went on to force a tie break and win it with an astonishing shot from way, wayt out on his left hand side. Queue the roaring and shouting that would have had the English quailing had he been in a Mel Gibson film of a few years back.

We were then treated to two sets of powerful, skilful and relentless match play tennis from Murray in which the crowd were key and to which Gasquet had no answer. A more mature Murray seized the moment when he saw his opponent lose a little belief and he was utterly merciless. I’m not going to go in to boring detail about his array of shots and all that. Nor his fist pumping and magnificent exuberance. It was a joy to watch. Exciting, entertaining and requiring no lame attempts at looking tough into camera one.

What I want to say is this. Here we have a young British player (and I’ve heard all the moronic whining from English people refusing to support him because he said he wanted England to lose at football. Grow up. He has.) with the talent to match his belief. I remember saying he’d be Number 1 by the time he was 21. Well, that won’t happen because of an injury hit last year but he’s heading high right now. He has an all-court game that will test the best. He has fitness, he has power and he has speed. And most of all, he knows he is a potential great and is not embarrassed about it. Hew really can reach the top and go one better than Henman in winning a Grand Slam.

Gasquet played his part in a fantastic match of tennis and will consider himself very unlucky to lose. But we have seen the emergence of something special today. Win or lose against Nadal on Wednesday (and it may be a match too far this time around) it makes no difference. The progress Murray has made in the last ten days speaks volumes. He is a growing presence on the world stage now and no one will want to face him. He’s got that ethereal thing that all the finest players have… he’s dangerous and you’ve never beaten him until you’ve shaken hands with the umpire.

• June 30th, 2008 • Posted in Tennis • Comments: 0

Henman retires in style

Tim Henman may well have played his last singles match as a professional. His demolition of his replacement Croation opponent, Roko Karanusic, was a fitting reminder of what the tennis-watching public and the British Davis Cup team will be missing from now on. I shan’t bang on about his startling achievements again, you’ve heard it all before. What I will say is that I’m delighted he wants to stay in the game and help nurture new talent.

A great man, a great British sportsman and a great ambassador for tennis. Knight him immediately.

• September 21st, 2007 • Posted in Tennis • Comments: 0

Indian Summer for Henman

Tim Henman’s victory over Dimitri Tursanov late yesterday evening was like stepping back in time. All the touch, all the fluidity and all the sheer determination, balance and world class skill were there for all to see. Impending retirement certainly seems to suit Henman. Tursanov is a man he’s been beaten by five times out of six, often badly. Last night though, he gave the Russian a lesson in all court tennis. Able to aply his serve volley, chip and rush game while removing all Tursanov’s weapons – his power hitting came straight back, the points were short denying him rhythm and his serve was harrassed so badly he served a dozen double faults in four sets.

Let’s not get too excited. This is a renaissance for Henman but it is not a lasting resurgence. He will retire and he is unlikely to get past the third round where he will most likely meet Rafael Nadal. That will be a match to savour nonetheless.

If there’s one regret it is that watching Henman’s demolition of Tursanov last night reminded me of how brilliant he can be but how he has too rarely strung that sort of form together in a Grand Slam. Play like he did last night for seven matches and you win the title. I don’t think anyone believes he can do that but it shows us just what we will miss when he is gone.

• August 30th, 2007 • Posted in Tennis • Comments: 0

Henman confirms retirement

The news of Tim Henman’s impending retirement was by no means a surprise but it is sad news nonetheless. For over a decade, Henman has almost single-handedly carried the torch for British tennis. He has far exceeded the expectations of his coaches, reaching no. 4 in the world and staying in the top ten for over five years on the bounce. An achievement unmatched by any other solo British sporting star in recent years, barring perhaps Colin Montgomerie. He has been a consistent, world class performer.

I’ve always been a huge supporter of Henman. I’ve cheered at his successes and been frustrated at his inexplicable losses. And like many, will lament the fact that he didn’t ever win the Wimbledon title he so richly deserved. He has carried himself with impeccable dignity in the face of often ludicrous and ignorant criticism, mainly by hacks who think tennis begins and ends with Wimbledon fortnight. He has worn the pressure of the British zeal for success and delivered a great deal of simply mesmerising serve-volley tennis. His skills are a dying art in the wham bam game and will be sorely missed.

I’ll say it just one more time. Anyone who brands Henman as a heroic failure is an ignorant pratt. Eleven tour titles including the Paris Masters which is, in effect, the fifth major. More semi finals than you can shake a stick at, often on courts where he should not be able to progress so far (Roland Garros in particular) and a mainstay of any British Davis Cup succcess for more than ten years.

He should look back on his career with massive pride. When he began his pro career, no coach thought he would do so well for so long. That he did is testament to his spirit, will, skill and desire.

Have a great retirement, Tim, you deserve it. And one last thing. Please stay in the game and help the LTA. They really need it.

• August 23rd, 2007 • Posted in Tennis • Comments: 0

Tiger still has claws

Tim Henman’s win over Carlos Moya in the first round of Wimbledon 2007 may not be a signal of a return to the glory years but it demonstrated one thing – that all those who have recently called for him to retire are idiots. I knew that anyway but this really stuffs a few faces in the swill, doesn’t it?

Those who knew me well before I began this blog will know that I’ve been a fan and defender of Henman throughout his career. He has achieved amazing things. No, he hasn’t one a Grand Slam event. But you’d think he was a failure the way press and public dribble on in their ignorance. Number 4 in the world at one time. A multi-millionaire who doesn’t even think tennis is a proper job. It’s a hobby that has made him a rich man and an icon of British tennis for all time. Failure? If so, I would love to fail like he has, I really would.

Henman-Moya was an outstanding match between two wily professionals and which produced tennis that would grace the final itself. Nerve shredding, breathtaking and supreme drama all rolled into four and a bit hours of gripping matchplay tennis. Now we don’t want to get carried away here. This does not signal the beginning of Henman’s march to the championship. That is six games down the line and his opponents will get tougher and faster. And younger, in the main. His chances of winning are slim in the extreme.

Can Henman hope to make the second week? Well, yes but he’ll have to turn it on for three sets every match and that is a tough ask. This was a draining encounter, make no mistake. But he’s still there and without Murray to shout for, the crowds needed a hero. They’ve got the old one back.

• June 26th, 2007 • Posted in Tennis • Comments: 1

Murray sits out the French Open

As expected Andy Murray, British no1 and world no 11 is out of the French Open with the wrist injury that put him out of Hamburg last week. While it’s a great shame, Tim Henman had it right – he cannot risk more injury to such a vital area and missing tournaments now (even, dare I whisper, Wimbledon) is infinitely preferable to long term injury and early retirement. Murray is 20. He has a decade and more at the top to look forward to. And he’ll still be no1 by the time he’s 21. Don’t rush back, be fit first.

• May 23rd, 2007 • Posted in Tennis • Comments: 1

Murray on the rise

Adding fuel to my fire of how well Andy Murray is going to do and how much he is going to achieve, Britain’s No.1 has won the San Jose open every night. And yes, I can call him Britain’s No.1… this is not an Englishman claiming a Scot on some spurious pretext. Henman was always Britain’s No.1 too.

Anyway, enough of that. I’m not going to wax too lyrical but what is important about this victory is the manner in which it was achieved. It began iin the semi final against Andy Roddick, where Murray beat the American using a baseline game, the game at which Roddick, top seed for this tournament, excels.

The final against Karlovich was a triumph of intelligent tennis, determination and supreme shot making. Murray refused to panic as the big aces boomed down, instead watching and learning the rhythm of the Croat’s major weapon. He didn’t crumble when going a set and a break down. His belief in his ability to tun the match around led to him continuing the things he does best and grinding his way to parity and then into a lead, reading the serve and making sublime returns at times. What is so encouraging about Andy Murray is his capacity not just to learn fast but to apply that learning on the instant. He won the tournament with an ace of his own having run Karlovich ragged with an all court game. Extremely impressive.

No1 at 21. I’m still going with that.

• February 19th, 2007 • Posted in Tennis • Comments: 0

You lost this time, kid, but you don’t have to like it.

The treasure hunter who inspired the young Indiana Jones said that at the beginning of the ‘Last Crusade’. I’ve just watched the beginning of what should prove a magnificent tennis rivalry and the same words should be being said to Andy Murray by his coach, Brad Gilbert.

Murray, 15th seed, lost in 5 sets to Rafael Nadal, 2nd seed. It was 6-1 in the decider which was a margin too large given the effort and sheer skill of Murray. People might say he couldn’t live with Nadal in the last set. They’d be wrong. He had break points in two Nadal service games and should have held all his own. What was the difference? Simple really, Nadal isn’t no.2 in the world for nothing. He’s a brilliant tennis player. Murray matched him. Indeed I thought Murray would win in four sets but the Spaniard was able to cut down errors and up his level. That’s why he’s no.2. Murray is still learning and growing. It was a quite fantastic match of tennis. 3hrs 50 minutes of skill and stamina by both men. It was exhausting and breath-taking to watch. And at the end, the respect between the two men and the sheer relief on Nadal’s face said everything about how close the match was. I cannot wait to see them play each other again.

Murray is only 19. A year younger than Nadal. And if the Scot plays at that level consistently over the next 12 months, he’ll be going to the ATP masters series final with a realistic chance of winning it. Make no mistake, Murray was magnificent. He has all the shots to be a champion and he has the fitness level now, as well. But just as importantly, even at three match points down he hit a service return forehand winner. And that was because he believed he could still win the match. Mental toughness will take him anywhere he wants to go.

My prediction… Andy Murray, world no.1 at 21.

You read it here first.

• January 22nd, 2007 • Posted in Tennis • Comments: 1

An opening salvo of sporting issues


Here it is, the first post in a new blog. And it’s just to tell you what’s coming up because if you want to know why I’ve popped up here, then you need to click on ‘About This Blog’.


Christmas and early new year is a perennially busy time in sport. For footie fans, the Christmas and New Year programme is swiftly followed by the FA Cup 3rd Round… surely the best day in the English football calendar (unless you’re Bury and have just been chuckled out, of course. Don’t get me started about excessive punishments for minor administration issues).

Football, though, is in danger of eating itself. Never mind the wages and all that mullarky (though they are plainly obscene) worry much more about the on and off field behaviour of players and managers and begin to wonder when people will start saying ‘enough’ in big numbers and turn away. It would be a tragedy.

Football is a peerless spectacle when played with skill and spirit. But it is nauseating when played with no respect for players or officials; and where the most common sight is an incandescent player practically vomiting his rage at an official despite being guilty, and very often when in no position to have an opinion. Grow up. Be men (in men’s football). Have some dignity. Some pride in your performance. Take responsibility for your actions and those of your team mates.


This year we’ve been treated to why the Aussies are still the world’s number one cricket team and why it is that the job only just begins when you win something big. Like the Ashes.

Still, two tests to come and despite the fact that the urn is lost, pride and revenge are massive motivators. This time, there will be no such thing as a dead rubber, I can assure you. But is it time to be able to appeal desicions as a batsman in the same way you can in some tennis events? Now this wouldn’t necessarily have saved England losing the ashes but Andrew Strauss’s last three dismissals were all not out. I think we’d be looking at 2-0, not 3-0 if he hadn’t been out so early on the last day of the second test.


The PDC World Championship of Darts kicked off this week and it is simply marvellous to watch from the players walking through the crowd to the final dart that is sunk in double top. And to all those who think it merely a pub game. Try it. Really try it. From the right distance away too. See how small that treble twenty bed looks? Now get all three of your darts in it. Regularly. And even if you don’t, get them very, very close. Still laughing?


Early next year we have the start of the tennis season from Australia. Henman is still there and still dangerous (and let me get one thing straight, anyone who gets to number 4 in the world and stays in the top ten for five years plus is a player of extraordinary talent who should be respected utterly) but I do expect great things from Andy Murray. He has the game, the aggression and the coach. It’ll be his head that determines his place among the greats should he attain such status.


Six nations rugby union is coming early in 2007. What can England hope for? Well, with Brian Ashton in charge, perhaps the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned on. He has spoken of the need to get the enjoyment back into the players and that is a laudable if challenging goal. If he can do it, England are up there with the best. And if he can maintain it in the face of top class opposition, if the players still play with freedom and lack of fear, we can yet come close to retaining the world cup. But it’s hard. Remember Sven Goran Eriksson talked about much the same things when he took over England football. Didn’t last did it? We can hope, though, and that is the essence of supporting any sport.

Well, plenty of issues raised there. I’ll tackle them all in the coming weeks. If you want something discussed sooner rather than later, post a comment and I’ll get on to it. But bear with me… baby Barclay is due on 14th January. Let chaos reign.

• December 22nd, 2006 • Posted in All the rest, Cricket, Football, Rugby, Sport Tech, Tennis • Comments: 3