Wednesday, 17 October 2007

You read it here first

Three predictions for the weekend.

1 Lewis Hamilton to become F1 world champion (and put the snivelling Spaniard Alonso firmly in his place).

2 England to win the rugby world cup (well, of course).

3 Andy Murray to win the Madrid Masters. The what, you cry? The Madrid Masters, a big cheese tournament being played this week in, well, Madrid.

And of these three, which is the most important. Andy Murray, I reply.

Ho! Ho! you ripost. Have you gone quite mad?

No, I haven't and I will tell you why.

One, in tennis terms the Masters tournaments rank only just behind the Grand Slams in terms of prestige. All the big players are there. There is big money on offer and lots of ranking points. Accordingly, winning one is a pretty big deal.

Two, British men's tennis, despite the valiant efforts of the noble Tim, has been a disaster area for what feels like several millennia (and incidentally I don't count Rusedski, an affable dolt but a dolt nonetheless, as British). But Murray is going to change this. He is, in every sense, the genuine article, a player who I think has the capacity to rank not just with the game's best but the game's very best, the likes of Federer (of course), McEnroe, Sampras, Laver, etc. This is rarified company.

Three, for a British player this is uncharted territory. No British man has won a Grand Slam singles title since Fred Perry in 1936. That's 71 years. But believe me when I say that Murray has what it takes, an almost freakish gift combined increasingly with power.

Four, given that no less than eight British drivers have won the F1 championship, taking 12 titles between them, and that England are still the current rugby world champions, however remarkable it will be for Hamilton and the England rugby team to win this weekend, it won't remotely compare in scale with Murray winning a Grand Slam, which he will and toward which winning the Madrid title this weekend will be a significant stepping stone.


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