A Country’s Pressure

Jun 23, 2009

Ironically, at the only tournament where the nation has got bountiful vim and vigour when it comes to their tennis, six Brits go out on the second day. And how does a journalist respond to this sting? Well one of them, at Anne Keothavong’s press conference, asked: “Do you feel like you have let people down?”

Give that journalist a prize for being the most tactless one at Wimbledon so far.

But this is the pitfall of Wimbledon for a British player; it should be a pride, an honour to play in a tournament so deeply embedded in your own country’s history, in something that has long brightened the summers of the UK and made strawberries and cream renowned.

It seems, however, that the British public enjoy heaping on the pressure to such a degree it’s rare to see a British player flourish at Wimbledon.

The six players who were defeated today – Josh Goodall, Katie O’Brien, Anne Keothavong, Georgie Stoop, Alex Bogdanovic and Dan Evans – are under an immense spotlight in the UK. Keothavong’s press conference just proves that.

Tim Henman is another case in point. Every year the country whipped itself into a frenzy of Henman worship, the hopes of the nation built day after day that this year would be the year he won Wimbledon. Not to say that Henman didn’t do well. He reached the semi-finals in Wimbledon in 2001 – losing to Ivanisevic. Henman Hill was – technically – well deserved. But on the other hand, faintly ridiculous. Henman never rose to expectation of the public and that was why every year the Henman disappointment rolled like a cloud over the sports pages.

And this is why I am reluctant to back Andy Murray to do well at all. The British public are a looming presence, a heavy weight to sit on his shoulders. He has done relatively well at coping with that pressure but he has not flourished with it. Wimbledon is especially tricky; he does well because the conditions are right for Murray and he is a highly seeded player, but he is playing in front of the very crowd that pile on the pressure. It’s his home crowd, and it will make or break him.

The journalist simply had tactless nerve to ask such a question to an evidently upset Keothavong, but it’s indicative of a mentality of British tennis fans. Admittedly, I used to be one of them. It’s only when I realised there was a great wide world of other players out there that I stopped worshipping in players of my home nationality and expecting so much of them for the sake of it.

So is it proud patriotism, or paralysing pressure?

- SophieG


Written by: SophieG

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