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.

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