Andy Murray enters Wimbledon 2011 semifinals under fickle gaze of British fans

It’s not only Andy Murray’s tennis strokes that have been put under a microscope here in England during his march to a third consecutive Wimbledon semifinal.

It is his fitness. His mental state. His body language. His grooming habits. But above all, it is Murray’s very Britishness.

Born and reared in Dunblane, Scotland, Murray, 24, represents Britain’s best hope of ending the 75-year wait for a homegrown Wimbledon men’s champion.

But a broad swath of British tennis fans have yet to warm up to the Scot, despite his world No. 4 ranking and the fact that he’s the only British man other than the late Fred Perry to reach three consecutive Wimbledon semifinals.

In the view of many, Murray’s credentials remain suspect. To them, he’s a Brit when he wins or otherwise distinguishes himself on a tennis court, but he’s a truculent Scot when he loses.

In the weeks leading up to Wimbledon, Judith Woods of the London Daily Telegraph wrote an essay entitled, “Can we learn to love Andy Murray?”

As Woods posited: “Andy Murray, the gruff grumpychops of the Centre Court has just triumphantly taken the trophy at Queen’s, but can he ever be taken to our hearts?”

And since the Wimbledon fortnight began, the matter of Murray’s Britishness has been a daily feature in the Telegraph’s sports section, rendered by a graphic titled “Where’s Andy from today?” It pictures a Scottish flag on the left corner and the British Union Jack on the right and an arrow pointing toward one or the other depending on Murray’s performance and decorum the previous day.

No doubt, that arrow will point directly at Britain’s flag in Saturday’s paper if Murray defeats top-seeded Rafael Nadal in their semifinal Friday.

Should he fall short, Murray would not only revert to a Scot but also become just the second man in Wimbledon history to lose in the semifinals three times. The other? Britain’s Tim Henman.

Nadal, a two-time Wimbledon victor, holds an 11-4 record against Murray and has won both previous meetings at Wimbledon (the 2008 quarterfinals and 2010 semifinals).

That said, Murray is a better player this year with a more positive outlook.

“I believe I can win against him,” Murray said earlier this week, asked what gave him hope that he could improve on his straight-sets loss to Nadal last year.

Asked what it would feel like to win Wimbledon as a British man, Murray said: “I don’t know how it would feel. I can only answer that once it’s happened.”

Liz Clarke currently covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post, she has also covered five Olympic Games, two World Cups and written extensively about college sports, tennis and auto racing.
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