“I could have had a hot run here,” Murray, the 2013 and 2016 champion, said after losing 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, to the 36 aces from 6-foot-10 ace-walloper John Isner, No. 24 in the world, a statuesque 37-year-old American in both height and mobility.
“I’ve been asked this question at every press conference,” Raducanu said after losing, 6-3, 6-3, to No.55-ranked Caroline Garcia of France, nine months after Raducanu scored a shock victory at the US Open. She said, “There’s no pressure. Like, why is there pressure? I’m still 19. Like, it’s a joke. I literally won a Slam.”
They spoke at a Wimbledon in which the sports entity that calls itself “Great Britain” sent 10 players to the second round – six men, four women – the most since 1984, when the 10 winners included Virginia Wade, Jo Durie , Anne Hobbs and eventual TV star Sue Barker. They spoke after a sporting nation representing a set of nations in one country has been transformed to the point that its once lovable and satirized relationship with losing is gone.
On Court No. 12 at Wimbledon, it was Ukraine against Ukraine
Gleefully washed away in a decade-long deluge of Murray and Lewis Hamilton and the 2019 Cricket World Cup and the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and the Euro 2020 final and Raducanu at the 2021 US Open and 196 medals in the last three Summer Olympics and enough stuff to occupy a Queen trying to get all the new titles out there.
Wales are in the 2022 Men’s World Cup.
So when Murray lost the final match with great outcry, when he saw a late 30-love break chance shattered with a 134mph ace, a 133mph ace and a 136mph service winner, it all sounded different. ever since, say, a generation ago, Tim Henman used to bravely lose in the final rounds as the only hope there was. And when Raducanu lost right to Murray, well, he won that US Open as an afterthought, even in the midst of his own nationality.
“One person sees someone else doing well, then someone else thinks they can do well, too,” said Harriet Dart, a 94th-ranked player who won her first round.
“For me,” said Liam Broady, the 132nd-ranked player who came through his first round in five sets, “the most exciting thing now is that we have this plethora of talent on the way. All these young people are pushing each other.”
He spoke of Paul Jubb, 22, ranked No. 219, who helped persuade Court No. 3 to roar audibly on the wickets Tuesday during his slim 3-6, 6-1, 7-5, 6-7 (3-7), 7-5 loss to the famous and infamous Aussie Nick Kyrgios. “Normally,” Broady said, “you would see someone taking on a Kyrgios like me in Australia. You think a little of a lamb to sacrifice [and it was a straight-set loss five months ago]. Whereas Paul left and probably leaves the court feeling that he could have won. We have another seven or eight Britons of that kind of age arriving. It’s an exciting time.”
Now they seem to play with hope over fear all over the pitch, and instead of feeling the brunt of the national pressure that remains after football takes the lion’s share, they share that brunt. They’re perfectly capable of taking a 24-year-old with a giant smile, Alastair Gray, who went from 523rd to 288th in the rankings, win a first-round match and say, “We all root for each other,” and “Yeah, maybe it hasn’t been like that in the past,” and “We all go out and play very freely, which is dangerous.”
Go back a generation to Wimbledon 2002, when Henman roamed the grassy land, the outdoor video viewing area was named “Henman Hill” and the Brits had two men in the top 100 and five in the top 200 , zero women in the top 100 and two in the top 200. (Henman was No. 5). Now those numbers are four and seven on the men’s side, two and six on the women’s side (including the two No. 11 players at the moment, Raducanu and Cameron Norrie). They have Murray at No. 52 after he ventured to No. 3 before his physiological ordeal of recent years, saying, “I really want to try to improve my ranking to a level where I’m seeded in Slams.”
Serena Williams’ return to Wimbledon lasts just one torturous match
Being top-seeded would help avoid a top-seeded prop in his 54th major tournament in Isner, even as Isner held 0-8 against Murray going into it. He would help avoid losing to serves close to the lines of an Isner, who would say: “I don’t have too many weapons at my disposal to do something different. I have a big gun, right? I need it to work.” Perhaps it would be a later round before an on-court interviewer asked Isner how he managed to keep his head when the fans around him were losing theirs, to which Isner responded as follows:
The remaining crowd laughed. Nobody cares about a little fun around here.
“Yeah,” Murray said, “it’s one of those games that, if it had happened, who knows what would have happened.” He said, “It definitely, definitely hurts,” and he sounded like a great champion trying to get back in there.
It’s not even really that alarming, at least rationally, that Raducanu has been knocked out in the second round at each of this year’s Grand Slams or that there is a hypothesis going on that players have found out more about her now that there are so many Video tapes. .
“My coach did it,” Garcia said. “I did not do it”.
Then: “Big secrets. I’m not going to tell you.”
“I just didn’t have enough ball speed today,” Raducanu said.
However, those in the crowd had enough mustard, another case of a different tenor than before: less desperate, more confident that they can implore their players to victory. They tried like crazy on Wednesday, but it didn’t quite work, so they cheered Raducanu with a quick wave from him around 5:30 p.m. made, maybe for drinks, even better than they used to have.