Thursday, August 20, 2015
The Healthy State of Great Britain Tennis
Being British means it can, at times, be difficult to come to terms with success. We excel at belittling our sports people and whilst we hope for success, we expect failure. Something, however, has happened in the last decade. We have become quite good at certain sports. Britain has dominated track cycling, three of the last four Tour de France winners have been British and we exceeding all expectations at the London 2012 Olympics. And now, it seems, we are successful at tennis.
When I last wrote for this website, it was late 2011 and the last British singles winner of a Grand Slam was Virginia Wade when she won Wimbledon in 1977. Fast forward four years and Andy Murray has finally delivered on everything his talent had promised at an early age by winning an Olympic gold medal in 2012, as well as Olympic silver in the mixed doubles with Laura Robson, which was quickly followed by the U.S. Open in the same year. The following year he ended Britain's long wait or a male singles champion at Wimbledon. Now something more remarkable is happening with Great Britain in the semifinals of the Davis Cup.
Yes, Great Britain are the joint third most successful team in Davis Cup history with nine titles but that fact loses some of its glamour when you consider that their last title was in 1936 and they have only reached one final since 1937. Yet, when Great Britain hosts Australia next month they can, once again, reach the final of the competition.
It's not just the Davis Cup run, which has seen them knock out the USA and France, that is seeing British tennis rise again but after a drop in form whilst recovering from a back problem, Andy Murray is heading back in the right direction. He finished 2014 in 6th in the rankings, but this past week he reached the heights he reached back in 2009 as he now occupies the second spot in the rankings.
Last week, he lifted his 11th Masters 1000 title after a grueling final against Novak Djokovic and earlier in the year he won his 10th against all odds on his least favorite surface, clay, against Rafael Nadal in the final. He's just got married and he's expecting a child. Everything seems to be coming together for Murray, who is looking very good again and it took one of the best performances ever by Roger Federer to oust him from Wimbledon. Murray will now be entering the U.S. Open with a great chance to add to his Grand Slam tally.
Elsewhere Aljaz Bedene, a recently naturalized Brit, is ranked just outside the top 50 in the world for the first time and, perhaps most exciting, is the progress 20-year-old Kyle Edmund is making. He has just entered to world's top 100, qualified for the Australian Open and French Open this year, winning his first Grand Slam match in Paris and since playing on the Challenger Tour last year he has been in three finals, lifting the trophy on two occasions. He is improving all the time and looks to be a good prospect for the future.
However, it's not just the en to be getting excited about as Heather Watson appears to be getting better and better having won her second WTA title at the start of the year in Hobart. The most impressive performance from Watson, however, ended in defeat at this year's Wimbledon when she pushed the eventual champion, Serena Williams to three sets and had her on the ropes in the third set before Williams mustered the strength from somewhere to win. On that day, Watson proved she is capable of living with the very best and she will undoubtedly improve and she should be aiming high in the game.
The one big disappointment is Laura Robson, who was making great strides forward a few years ago, but she has been hit by injury and is trying to make her way back after a bad wrist injury. The sad fact is that she may never reach the heights she did before because wrist injuries are difficult to come back from and can problems can always be there, just ask Juan Martin del Potro.
With all of this going on in British tennis, aside from Robson's troubles, there's every reason to be excited and optimistic about the coming months and years, but as a hardened Brit accustomed to expecting the worst, and often times getting it, I'll look to the future with cautious optimism.