June 23 (Bloomberg) -- Every year for two weeks in June and July, Britain gets into a frenzy over whether a local man will finally win Wimbledon. This doesn’t faze the nation’s leading contender for the title, Andy Murray.
While British men have won the Wimbledon title 35 times, more than any other nation, it has been 75 years since a local lifted the trophy in southwest London. The last man to do so was Fred Perry in 1936. His statue stands outside of Centre Court as a reminder to players and spectators, some of whom are dressed head-to-toe in the Union Jack.
Playing at Wimbledon, close to his home, is “more relaxing in many ways than a lot of the other tournaments,” Murray, a two-time semifinalist, said in a pre-tournament news conference. He beat Germany’s Tobias Kamke 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 yesterday to reach the third round.
In action today, women’s defending champion Serena Williams plays Simona Halep of Romania, while six-time champion Roger Federer of Switzerland faces France’s Adrian Mannarino. Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia meets South Africa’s Kevin Anderson.
None of the other three tennis Grand Slam events -- the Australian Open, French Open and the U.S. Open -- have gone even half as long without a homegrown champion. Virginia Wade was the last Briton to win the title, in 1977. The last man from Britain to reach the Wimbledon singles final was Henry ‘Bunny’ Austin, who lost to American Don Budge in 1938.
“The buildup to the tournament is different,” Murray, 24, said. “The four, five days are a little bit different than what I’m used to. But once the tournament starts, it isn’t.”
Last One Standing
Just like last year, the Scottish right-hander is the only British man to have come out of the opening round. Murray reached the semifinals at the past two Wimbledons, losing to Andy Roddick of the U.S. in 2009 and to Spain’s Rafael Nadal last year.
British women have been faring better this year. Laura Robson, a former junior Wimbledon champion, yesterday joined British No. 1 Elena Baltacha, the world No. 68, in round two.
In an interview before the start of Wimbledon, Murray said his relaxed demeanor has helped him in his match preparation.
“It makes the day a little bit less stressful,” he said. “You are enjoying yourself throughout the day, you are not going through periods where you are not looking forward to doing things.”
He’s been watching movies -- including the horror film Scream -- with his girlfriend and earlier in the week welcomed his grandparents from Scotland to the championships. They showed him pictures of their dog.
“It’s not easy for him definitely, coping with all the pressure he has,” Djokovic, the second seed who has known Murray since they were juniors, said in an interview last week at an exhibition event outside London. “But he’s a more mature player this year than he was in the previous years.”
At the start of this season, Murray was criticized in the British media for his on-court behavior. During his straight-set loss to Djokovic in the Australian Open final, he frequently shouted at his box where his mother, Judy Murray, and coaches were sitting.
His third defeat in a Grand Slam championship match was followed by a form slump, as Murray lost in the opening round of his next three tournaments. In March, he ended his three-year coaching relationship with Alex Corretja, and is still looking for a permanent coach.
‘Needs to Improve’
His opening-round losing streak ended in April in Monte Carlo, where he was beaten by top seed Nadal in the semifinals.
“It’s something that definitely needs to improve,” Murray said, when asked about his on-court behavior. “A lot of players have faults, and that’s something I am trying to get better at. A lot of time, people think that if I shout something in the direction of the box, that I am shouting at them. But if you actually listen to what I am saying a lot of the time, I am just upset at myself.”
Two weeks ago at Roland Garros, Murray reached his first French Open semifinal, even as he struggled with an ankle injury. After losing to eventual champion Nadal, he went on to win his second title on the grass courts of the Queen’s Club in London.
Murray next plays 33rd-ranked Croatian Ivan Ljubicic for a place in the last 16. Nadal may await in the semifinals.
“I’m sure he’s going to do everything he can do to try and win this tournament,” Djokovic said.
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