WIMBLEDON, England — He has been asked so often about pressure at Wimbledon, where a British man hasn’t won the championship since Fred Perry in 1936, that it’s a wonder Andy Murray doesn’t short-circuit at the mention of the word.
It came up again Monday, question No. 6, to be precise, in a wide-ranging press conference that followed the Scot’s 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 victory over Mikhail Youzhny, which propelled him into the tournament’s quarterfinals.
“How much pressure do you feel right now, coming towards the end?’”
Instead of grimace or groan, Murray simply asked the journalist how he should phrase his answer—whether in words, percentages or numbers on a sliding scale.
The latter, the journalist clarified.
“Seven or eight, probably,” Murray replied, without a trace of peevishness. “I mean, there’s always pressure coming into this event.”
No British man, the great Perry included, has won more Grand Slam matches than the 26-year-old Murray, whose tally stands at 110 after Monday’s victory. (Perry notched 106).
Last August, Murray won the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics with a straight-sets evisceration of grass-court master Roger Federer. The following month he won the U.S. Open, his first Grand Slam title and the first claimed by a British man since Perry’s glory days.
But despite his splendid evolution as a tennis player, rising to a career-high No. 2 in the world and reaching the final of the past three grand slam events he has contested, Murray will never be regarded as having done enough for the British sporting public until he wins Wimbledon.
He wears his burden with grace, mindful to thank the supporters who cheer his efforts from living rooms, pubs and Murray Mound, the hill on the grounds of the All England club where fans without a ticketed seat can perch to watch Wimbledon’s featured matches on a giant screen.
British fans had double-reason to turn out in force Monday, with Murray and compatriot Laura Robson both vying for a spot among the final eight. It was the first time since 1998 that a British man and woman reached the Round of 16 the same year. Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted good-luck tidings from Kazakhstan. And would-be spectators started lining up for grounds passes Saturday.
The 19-year-old Robson was up first, drawn against Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi. As the higher seed, Robson was favored even without the rousing support she received. But she lost a heartbreaker, falling 7-6 (8-6), 7-5, and lamented afterward each serve and stroke she over-hit in an effort to make herself, and British fans, proud.
She, too, was peppered with questions about pressure. How much did she feel? Was it a big factor?
Robson was even asked why she didn’t gesture to her supporters as she trudged off court, offering neither a wave nor an air kiss.
“Because I lost,” Robson replied, “and I was just trying not to cry.”