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September 21, 2017

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Murray's triumph the antithesis of British failure

LONDON -- British tennis was savoring its first male Grand Slam champion for 76 years on Tuesday but Andy Murray's extraordinary feat in New York was actually the antithesis of decades of failure from the nation where the sport was born.

The 25-year-old's refusal to accept second best in Monday's U.S. Open final against Serbian ironman Novak Djokovic, to stare defeat in the face and still find the will to outlast one of sport's greatest warriors are not qualities to be found in any of Britain's Lawn Tennis Association coaching manuals.

If they were, Scot Murray might not be ploughing a lone furrow in the world's top 100 in which he is the only British male.

Thanks to the hugely profitable Wimbledon championships, British tennis enjoys a budget that is the envy of the rest of the world, yet its failure to provide a crop of players capable of competing at the highest echelons of men's tennis has long been a cause for embarrassment and amusement.

Before a scrawny, teenage Murray announced himself as a major talent by winning the U.S. Open juniors in 2004, Wimbledon nearly-man Tim Henman had shouldered the nation's hopes year after year along with Canadian-born Greg Rusedski.

Henman grew up with a tennis court in his back garden and Rusedski on the other side of the Atlantic. Like Murray, they were not products of a failing system.

When Henman and Rusedski, a former U.S. Open runner-up, neared retirement, British tennis was staring at an alarming black hole. However, Murray's mother and coach Judy had the courage and foresight to pack her son off to Barcelona aged 15 to acquire a proper tennis education.

Already blessed with a razor sharp tennis mind and a natural feel for ball on strings, it was at the Sanchez Vicario Academy that Murray honed the metronomic groundstrokes that did for Djokovic with thousands of hours of relentless hitting drills.

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